As Dan Brewington's case gets more and more national attention, there are a couple of issues to clear up about talk of arson and beatings. On 6/25/12, I posted a blog titled The Indiana Attorney General's office is misrepresenting facts in a brief to the Indiana Court of Appeals. I am re-publishing excerpts from that post in order to show how a prosecutor, judges, and the Indiana Attorney General's office can create and then use misinformation in order to imprison a citizen for criticizing his government.
First, the topic of "beatings":
[....The first untrue statement from the State is seen on page 11 when they claim “Brewington also wrote that he wanted to beat Dr. Connor, and Dr. Jones-Connor senseless (Exh. 198; Tr. 158)” and on page 24 when they stated “Brewington called Dr. Connor a “son of a b---h” and said he would like to beat him senseless.” These statements are from a blog post entitled You wouldn’t lose your children because you criticized a plumber would you? This post was a commentary about how differently criticisms of a plumber vs. a child custody evaluator are perceived. In the hypothetical scenario Dan criticizes a generic plumber and a generic custody evaluator in the same fashion, pointing out that you wouldn’t have your kids taken away for criticizing a horrible plumber like you might if you criticized a horrible child custody evaluator. The Attorney General’s office tries to manipulate the Indiana Court of Appeals by simply replacing him/her with Dr. Connor and Dr. Sarah Jones-Connor. The attempts to replace a fictional character in a hypothetical scenario with actual real people for the purpose of trying to prove a threat of battery is nothing short of reckless on the part of Deputy Attorney General James Whitehead. In context, the blog post is completely understandable and even ends with this paragraph:
“No one has ever lost the ability to see their own children because they wrote an angry review of a plumbing company. Why should someone’s parenting abilities be questioned if they write an angry review of a custody evaluator? That’s what happened to me; except I have never written about any thoughts of causing physical harm to anyone.”]
Another excerpt on the topic of arson:
[The Office of the Attorney General took the State’s conspiracy against the first amendment rights of Dan Brewington to new heights when they claimed Dan threatened Judge Humphrey with injury or damage to Humphrey’s personal property by committing arson. In a private facebook post Dan referenced that taking on the family court system was like “playing with gas and fire and anyone who has seen me with gas and fire knows that I am quite the accomplished pyromaniac”. The pyromaniac comment was no more than a joke between friends who had seen Dan build camp fires in the past. But to the State of Indiana it apparently was a threat to commit arson by burning down the home of Judge Humphrey. This is where the State’s case loses legal credibility. Not only is it ridiculous to claim that this statement was a threat against Judge Humphrey’s life or property, the State misrepresents the timing of the statement in order to try and make it fit into the intimidation statute. The detailed piece of the statute that they would like the appellate court to focus on is that Dan threatened Judge Humphrey “with the intent that the other person be placed in fear of retaliation for a prior lawful act.” The State claims that Dan retaliated against Judge Humphrey for his order in the divorce decree. On page 31 of the State’s brief, the State contends “it was after the final order that Brewington’s internet activities escalated. (Tr.80) He wrote the court’s findings were like playing with gasoline and fire, adding that anyone who has seen [Brewington] with gas and fire knows that [Brewington] is quite the accomplished pyromaniac (Tr. 241).” There’s only one problem… That statement was made well before the final order. Even worse, Judge Humphrey quoted that statement in the final order. This piece of evidence only validates Dan’s claim of Judge Humphrey’s unethical behavior. If the State is claiming that the pyromaniac statement was a threat in order to intimidate the Judge, then Humphrey sat in judgment of a father in a civil divorce case, ruling on child custody, visitation, and property division while feeling criminally threatened/intimidated.]
The average person can certainly understand the danger to free expression when a county prosecutor has the power to decide what is "meant" by someone's published words. Dearborn County Prosecutor F. Aaron Negangard said it best in this quote from the associated press: "But Negangard said Brewington used careful language to disguise actual threats."
The timing of the charges are also of great concern when discussing Dan's case. The two posts of "arson" and "beatings" that are the basis for the State's case were made well over a year before charges were brought. There is another post that Dan made that makes the State's case a little fishy... In late January of 2011 Dan posted a comment on Prosecutor Negangard's Facebook page asking the prosecutor who he (Negangard) had to know to make a complaint go away (a complaint Dan had filed against the prosecutor over six months prior). Shortly thereafter, on February 10, 2011, Dan received a letter from The Chief Justice of The Indiana Supreme Court (at the time Randell T. Shepard), stating that Dan's complaint against Negangard had been dismissed. FIVE DAYS LATER, Dan was notified by prosecutor Negangard that Dan was the target of a grand jury investigation. Then, a six count indictment was handed down by a grand jury in a process that can only be described as a fear-mongering witch hunt, in which the county prosecutor paraded the county sheriff and a county judge in front of county residents to describe how "dangerous" a person with no criminal history and absolutely no history of violence was to the community. They made the same argument to another county judge who then set bond at $600,000. Dan has been imprisoned ever since. The case continues with a special judge appointed by the same chief justice who dismissed Dan's complaint against prosecutor Negangard. That special judge, Judge Brian D. Hill of Rush County, then appointed a public defender, Bryan Barrett also of Rush County, who took no depositions, called no witnesses, and entered no evidence. Then an ANONYMOUS six person jury convicted Dan and the judge sentenced him to five years in state prison.
There are even more examples of how shady this entire legal process has been including the prosecutor using fabricated stories of drive-by shootings from a career criminal/jailhouse informant, as well as "missing" transcripts from hearings that the county courthouse said never happened, only to be "found" when citizens signed affidavits saying they were present at the hearings.
Unfortunately The Indiana Appellate Court has upheld three felony convictions including intimidation of a judge, which has legal scholars in the state and around the country shaking their heads. I will leave the details of the legal arguments up to the legal scholars while pointing out the obvious; the judicial system in Indiana seems to be more concerned with silencing criticisms of itself than upholding every citizens right to express criticisms of their government.
"The truthfulness of the threatened disclosure is not necessarily relevant to prosecution because the harm, placing a victim in fear, occurs whether the publicized conduct is true or false."
"Substantially"?... I guess in Indiana you should be able to enslave a person for just a few minutes a day because it wouldn't "substantially" violate that person's 13th amendment rights...