Dearborn County Law
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - A four day jury trial ended Thursday afternoon with blogger Dan Brewington being convicted of threatening a Dearborn County judge and others.
"There was nothing on the blog which constituted political discourse. That blog contained the rantings of a man who will not take 'no' for an answer," Dearborn County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard said in closing arguments before a jury of five women and one man convicted Brewington, 37, on five of the six counts he faced.
The closing arguments ended at about 12:15. The jury returned with the verdicts after about two-and-a-half hours. They decided Brewington was guilty of Intimidation of a Judge, two counts of Intimidation, Attempt to Commit Obstruction of Justice, and Perjury. He was acquitted of Unlawful Disclosure of Grand Jury Proceedings.
Observers said the courtroom was silent as the verdict was announced at the order of Special Judge Brian Hill, appointed from Rush County Superior Court.
Brewington, a Norwood, Ohio resident, has made dozens of blog posts about his divorce case which was presided over by Dearborn Circuit Court Judge James Humphrey. The blog criticized Humphrey and child custody evaluator Dr. Edward Conner hired by Brewington and his ex-wife, Melissa Brewington, during their divorce.
Bryan Barrett, Brewington's defense, hammered at his client's First Amendment rights to post his feelings about his court experiences on the blog as eight witnesses - all called by the prosecution - took turns at the stand. Those witnesses included Humphrey, his wife Heidi Humphrey, Dr. Connor, his wife Sara Connor, Melissa Brewington, her divorce attorney Angela Loechel, Anne Jordan, and Dearborn County Sheriff Mike Kreinhop.
Nearly all were the subject of some of Brewington's writings, as well as Negangard.
During closing arguments, Barrett tried to convince the jury of two points: Brewington's blog was protected free speech and that the prosecution did not prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.
"This is a case of Dan Brewington being criminally charged because he expressed opinions," Barrett said. "He believed, in my opinion sometimes wrongly, that things in that case were going wrong and was trying to expose them."
"It is a very scary thing when government starts trying to prosecute people criminally for their free speech," said Barrett.
But Negangard argued that Brewington's blog entries crossed the line, going from political speech - protected by the U.S. Constitution - to lies and "fighting words." He citied various U.S. Supreme Court and lower court cases.
"I want you to imagine a world," Negangard implored the jury, "where witnesses can be subject to daily attacks and ridicule and the person who wrote that cannot be held accountable."
After Brewington posted the Humphrey's home address on his website, the family was placed in fear. They at one point reviewed the security of their home, warned their children of Brewington's allegations, and had police escorts.
Other victims such as Dr. Connor took similar measures.
"Dr. Connor has been dealing with mentally ill people for 20 years and nobody has paced him in fear like that man," Negangard said. "All James Humphrey did was ask Dan Brewington to get a mental health evaluation."
Barrett noted that none of the victims in the case sought protective orders and there was no evidence placing Brewington physically near any of them at any time except in court.
Negangard pointed out other alleged wrongdoings by Brewington. He has paid "not one dime" of the money he has been ordered to pay to Melissa Brewington, who has spent $50,000 in her divorce legal battle according to Negangard.
The divorce case had been appealed to and upheld by the Indiana Court of Appeals. Brewington posted blog entries claiming the court was out to financially harm his family.
"Anyone who doesn't agree with him, he attacks," Negangard told the jury.
During a Dearborn County Grand Jury convened shortly before his arrest, Brewington claimed that he was not aware that Heidi Humphrey was married to Judge Humphrey when he asked readers of his blog to send her letters about the court's conduct.
Barrett argued that Brewington committed no crime by publishing the couple's address on his blog because it was widely available on the internet, including the Dearborn County Assessor's website where Brewington testified to the Grand Jury he had found it. That website listed Humphrey's home as belonging to both James and Heidi Humphrey, which dented Brewington's claim that he did not know the two were married and led to the conviction on the Perjury charge.
As part of the closing arguments, Deputy Prosecutor Joseph Kaiser cited many of Brewington's blog posts.
"He told people over and over 'this is not going to end well.' I hope based on the evidence he's right. It's not," Kaiser said, referring to Brewington's blog as "disgusting."
Sentencing has been scheduled for October 24. Brewington will remain held at the Dearborn County Law Enforcement Center without bond at the order of Judge Hill.
Negangard told Eagle 99.3 after the trial that he is not certain what maximum penalty Brewington would be eligible for. It is likely he would receive credit for almost seven months he has already served since his arrest in March.
"We think this verdict speaks well of the respect this community has for the rule of law," said Negangard.