Image left: William Hoge. Right: Aaron Walker.
One of the key characters in the petty litigation dramas that afflict this website is appealing against the state of Maryland on behalf of those who stalk and harass children online.
Framing his argument as a free speech case, Aaron Walker of Manassas, Virginia appears to have enjoyed the aid of a former partner at a major right wing legal firm in drafting it.
Frighteningly, it is even possible that he might win, and if so the decision will end up derailing both settled harassment law and a new legal tool available to child victims of cyberbullying in Maryland.
Now on his third attempt to re-litigate the case by appealing a lower court ruling, Walker has taken a deeply hypocritical turn, arguing in opposition to all the justifications that he has invented to persecute his enemies for years.
For those of you just joining us, Aaron Walker of Manassas, Virginia had a Yale law degree and an unfulfilling career in health care management when he started blogging ‘cartoons’ (really scrawlings) of Muhammad under a pseudonym to taunt jihadists. It was pretentious behavior, but it drew enough attention that Walker received guest blogging privileges at Breitbart.com and Patterico.com, where he learned about Brett Kimberlin, a former federal prisoner-turned-nonprofit organizer who had excited great interest in the right wing blogosphere. Kimberlin was suing a mentally ill man to get a takedown order for the defendant’s insanely-libelous blog posts. Seth Allen was not a good legal nemesis for Kimberlin, however, so Walker first aided him with legal advice and eventually ditched the patsy to become Kimberlin’s full-time antagonist himself. Doing so cost Walker his job, for his employers did not take kindly to finding the stalker’s shrine in his office after his name was exposed. Walker has assaulted Kimberlin in a courthouse, lied about it, was held in contempt, tried to sue Kimberlin multiple times, attempted more than once to destroy his family, was warned off by a judge, and makes allegations about Kimberlin’s children in court proceedings that are unrepeatable in any decent forum. Finding a partner in William Hoge of Maryland, Walker has pursued criminal charges against both Kimberlin and a former Breitbart Unmasked writer named Bill Schmalfeldt who wrote about their activities. Walker has made false accusations to the FBI and allegedly colluded to perpetrate fraud upon courts in pursuit of his vendetta. He remains unemployed and utterly useless.
Walker is appealing his two defeats by the state of Maryland on this issue, and has in fact detached the Kimberlins from this case, slimming down and focusing his argument for once. Because Walker seems to have no career other than revenge, which does not pay well, he is seeking damages from the Maryland taxpayer to subsidize his activities against the Kimberlins.
Walker is also framing himself once again as the ‘free speech hero.’ In his newest complaint, Walker identifies himself as a “journalist,” by which he refers to his sporadic blog that mainly consists of long screeds about his war with the Kimberlins and pleas for money to help him wage it. On this basis, Walker alleges that his free speech has been violated by the Kimberlins’ attempt to have him charged under ‘Grace’s Law’ last year.
‘Grace’s Law’ is named for a victim of horrifying online abuse that led her to commit suicide. Because Howard County authorities had failed to take seriously the McComas family’s pleas for help against the relentless hazing and online bullying that Grace faced every day, lawmakers decided to amend the state’s harassment law to reduce families’ burden of reporting as they seek the protection of police and courts for their children against online harassment.
So far, the only harm Walker has suffered is to be denounced as a cyberstalking madman. Walker was never arrested, and the state declined to prosecute him, but he still objects to the fact that the statute existed in the first place.
In seeking to overturn it, Walker also wants to re-litigate Galloway v State of Maryland, the case which upheld the constitutionality of the underlying harassment statute. That decision involved a violent prisoner who was convicted of harassing his victim through the mail.
Just like the defendant in Galloway, Walker argues that both statutes are overbroad and unconstitutionally vague — that “harassment” and “annoyance” are not terms which can be invoked by state’s attorneys without trampling the free speech of so-called “journalists” like himself. As in Galloway, the state will probably respond that the statute is deliberately vague so that state officials are free to discriminate between unwanted, abusive contact and frivolous complaints about online speech.
If successful, Walker will enable every asshole and hateful weirdo in Maryland to cyberstalk and bully children — all so that he can continue his lunatic’s crusade to ruin the Kimberlin children’s lives. And it is not impossible for him to win, as some state legislatures have seen their anti-cyberbullying laws struck down on similar First Amendment grounds.
Walker argues that because Kimberlin has sought peace orders (restraining orders) against him in the past, his free speech is being abridged by the possibility that Kimberlin will try to protect his daughters again. This is a tacit admission that Walker simply wishes to continue his demented pursuit of the Kimberlin children forever, without consequence, and have the people of Maryland pay for it.
William Hoge of Maryland, who would have been Walker’s co-defendant under Grace’s Law if the state’s attorney had agreed to press charges, is currently suing Schmalfeldt for a comment he made on this website last year in response to our story about the creepy obsession Hoge and Walker exhibit towards the Kimberlin daughters.
Together, Hoge and Walker have made concerted efforts to criminalize and litigate their enemies’ speech even while demanding absolute immunity for their own. It is their modus operandi. And the hypocrisies pile up quickly as one reads Walker’s complaint. For example, he posits that the state has no legitimate reason to stop internet harassers from driving kids to suicide.
First, “protecting children from emotional distress” does not fall into the traditional categories of speech that can be regulated according to content. […] Further, protecting minors from emotional distress is not a compelling interest. The case law and common sense says it is not, if only because children can be easily distressed for irrational reasons.
One shudders to think what Aaron Walker considers “irrational.” Brett Kimberlin’s older daughter telling a judge that she is creeped out by his weird obsession with her dad and his disgusting smears about her family in his blog? Why, she’s obviously irrational. What teenage girl isn’t better off with a middle-aged man from another state to openly fantasize about ‘saving’ her from her own father?
Walker is unsympathetic with the McComus family. Children should just “avert their eyes” if they are so intimidated:
It is important to note what is criminalized by §3-S05 … This provision applies whenever a person uses an ‘interactive computer service” with the appropriate effect on audiences coupled with the requisite intent. That term, defined in §3-805 … includes directed communication, such as emails, text messages and the like, but also information broadcast to the whole world, such as an article on the New York Times’ website, a book readable on a Kindle or Nook, or a personal webpage. And all of this information can be avoided–often even blocked–by the audience.
That’s very interesting, because when Hoge obtained his peace order against Bill Schmalfeldt with Walker advising, the former BU writer told the judge that the plaintiff was free to block him on Twitter if he didn’t want to read his tweets. Yet Walker and Hoge successfully argued that asking a Twitter user to click the ‘block’ button and quiet a troll is exactly like forcing a victim to change their home telephone number if they receive harassing calls — a ridiculous argument that could only work on a social media illiterate, and which was eventually overturned on jurisdictional grounds.
Acting under Walker’s advice, Hoge claimed back then that he was terrified by Schmalfeldt’s tweets, and needed a court to shut down his enemy’s free speech. Now, Walker argues that if he tweets libelous accusations about a teenager in order to destroy her life, no state court in America should even be able to admonish him — because internet.
No, really, this is Walker’s backup argument: Maryland is trying to regulate the whole internet.
Another way this Court could provide Mr. Walker relief without contradicting Galloway is by relying on the Federal Commerce Clause, which was not addressed in Galloway. Specifically, courts have held repeatedly that the content of the Internet is uniquely a federal domain, and, therefore, the states have no power to regulate it even in the absence of federal preemption.
Which, again, is very interesting, because if Maryland courts are so unfit to regulate speech on the internet, then why is his friend and sort-of-client Hoge always suing people over things they say about him on the internet, trying to have them arrested, and lobbying prosecutors to search their computers?
There are some flourishes in Walker’s complaint that resonate with his most creative side. For instance, he indulges fantasies of greatness by clumsily evoking the founding fathers and the American Revolution. Topping this hyperbole, Walker even decides to class himself among the great civil rights leaders of our time:
Applied to the instant case, what is the fear that justifies silencing Mr’ Walker? That Mr. Walker’s peaceful activity publicizing Mr. Kimberlin’s misconduct might drive Mr. Kimberlin to violence in retaliation? That is a reasonable fear, but the solution is to prevent any criminal conduct from Mr. Kimberlin, not to suppress Mr. Walker’s complaints about it. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, peace is not merely the absence of…tension, but the presence of justice.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter From A Birmingham Jail. Silencing grievances does not lead to justice or true peace.
But for all of that familiar tone, I can tell that Walker didn’t write this complaint all by himself. He had help, and I can guess who gave him the assist:
— (((Aaron Worthing))) (@AaronWorthing) June 10, 2016
According to his LinkedIn profile, Paul Jossey was Senior Counsel at DB Capitol Strategies for eighteen months until November 2013. During that time, he
Assisted writing and editing the merit brief for Supreme Court case McCutcheon v. FEC challenging the aggregate limits individuals and PACs may contribute to political campaigns and party committees
In other words, Jossey is a ‘free speech’ lawyer for the oligarchy who had an important role in a Supreme Court decision which made it possible for the Koch brothers to give federal candidates more money than the median American family income. That’s the business model at DB Capital Strategies, which has repeatedly sued the Federal Elections Commission on behalf of billionaire donors who want to ‘expand their First Amendment rights.’
Perhaps this seems a strangely high-powered firm to have gotten involved in the right wing Kimberlin craze during 2012. Yet the firm’s eponymous founder, Dan Backer, did just that, filing a federal lawsuit against Kimberlin and two other men on behalf of Walker and other right wing bloggers, all of whom claimed to be victims of a conspiracy by the defendants. Backer even called this “the case of a lifetime” until it was dismissed with prejudice. Clearly, Walker has maintained at least one relationship from that era — and I suspect it is still bearing fruit.
Walker no longer enjoys the widespread notoriety and support he had four years ago. This is in part because of Walker’s Byzantine style of writing, but also because his unhealthy obsession with the Kimberlins is self-evident, deterring former allies.
After all, conservatives pretend to love and cherish and defend kids as a basic core value. Republican legislators have put any number of laws on the books in the name of protecting children from harm. But Walker is contrasting himself against the public face of conservative orthodoxy by standing athwart the tide of history yelling “Stop!” as families try to protect their children from people like himself.
I mean, it’s not exactly the stuff of heroes, is it?