(UNDATED) - The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a man who made threats to a judge on a blog after the judge ruled against him in a divorce case.
The unanimous ruling upheld the 2011 convictions of Dan Brewington, 40, of intimidating a judge and attempted obstruction of justice, and it comes despite support for Brewington from First Amendment advocates from across the U.S.
The dispute began in 2008 when Dearborn County Circuit Court Judge James Humphrey ruled in favor of Brewington's ex-wife in their divorce case, taking custody of Brewington's daughters away from him. Soon afterward, Brewington began venting on two blogs. His posts included one in which he called the judge a "child abuser" for transferring custody, one in which he posted the judge's home address and a post on how he would like to punch the custody evaluator.
Brewington had claimed he was exercising his right to criticize a public official, but he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison, a sentence he recently completed with time reduced for good behavior. The Indiana Court of Appeals threw out Brewington's convictions for threatening the judge's wife and perjury, leaving the other convictions in place. Justice Loretta Rush wrote in her opinion that "true threats" are never protected free speech. Brewington also claimed he received bad advice from his attorney in the case, something also disputed by Rush.
An unusual mix of conservative and liberal groups, from the Eagle Forum to the ACLU of Indiana, filed briefs supporting Brewington, arguing that his conviction could chill free speech against elected judges. But Rush said it was clear to her that Judge Humphrey could have been in danger. "Fear for one's reputation is often the price of being a public figure, or of involvement in public issues. But fear for one's safety is not," Rush wrote in her opinion.
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