(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - An internet blogger serving a five-year prison sentence for intimidating a Dearborn County judge is receiving help in his bid to appeal his case to the Indiana Supreme Court.
Dan Brewington is receiving nationwide support as well from free speech advocates.
Eagle 99.3 has chronicled Brewington’s case since his arrest in March 2011. In October of that year, a jury made up of five women and one man agreed with prosecutors that Brewington’s blogging about Dearborn Circuit Court Judge James Humphrey’s handling of his 2008 divorce and child custody case was threatening to the judge. He was sentenced to five years in the Indiana Department of Corrections.
During the divorce case, Humphrey gave sole possession of Brewington’s two daughters to his ex-wife. In a slew of online rants to follow, Brewington made Humphrey, the judge’s wife, and child custody evaluator Dr. Edward Connor the targets of his dissatisfaction. Brewington called the judge corrupt, accused him of engaging in unethical or illegal behavior, and repeatedly referred to the judge as a child abuser.
In January, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld most of the charges Brewington was convicted of. Intimidation charges relating to Humphrey’s wife and Dr. Connor were dismissed. Surprisingly, because Judge Humphrey is an elected public official, a felony charge of Intimidation of a Judge was upheld along with the full prison sentence.
Brewington’s lawyer filed a request earlier this month to the Indiana Supreme Court, asking the justices to hear the case.
Various First Amendment lawyers and publications – both left- and right-wing – from across the country are writing to the court, hoping they will review Brewington’s convictions. Among those getting behind the cause are the Hoosier State Press Association, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, The Indianapolis Star, the Indiana Coalition on Open Government, James Madison Center for Free Speech, and several others.
In an amicus brief he filed with the supreme court, University of California-Los Angeles law professor Eugene Volokh argues that if Brewington’s conviction stands “then much criticism of legislators, executive officials, judges, businesspeople, and others – whether by newspapers, advocacy groups, politicians, or other citizens – would be punishable.”
Submitting a brief for the ACLU of Indiana, Gavin Rose wrote that Brewington’s conviction and the Indiana Court of Appeals’ upholding “cannot be squared with fundamental First Amendment principles.”
“(Brewington’s conviction) is likely to substantially chill protected speech and to silence criticism of our public leaders,” Rose argues.
The ACLU’s brief can be found on the Indiana Law Blog at http://indianalawblog.com/documents/ACLU-Brewington.pdf (PDF). Volhok’s argument is available at http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/brewington.pdf (PDF).
Eagle 99.3 News considered writing the court, but because of our continued reporting on the story we decided to retain our full impartiality.
The Indiana Supreme Court could decide in the next few months whether to take up the Brewington case. If so, the State of Indiana will be represented by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.
According to the Indiana Department of Corrections website, Brewington could be released from prison at the Putnamville Correctional Facility as soon as September 5.