Jailed Blogger Wins Part Of Appeal, Still Serving 5 Yrs.
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – An Internet blogger convicted of intimidating a Dearborn County judge has seen part of his conviction overturned, but it won’t affect his time behind bars.
Dan Brewington took to the Internet to voice his displeasure with how Dearborn Circuit Court Judge James D. Humphrey handled his 2008 divorce and child custody case. He also partly blamed court appointed custody evaluator Dr. Edward Connor in the events chronicled at his Blogger site and www.DanHelpsKids.com.
Brewington was eventually charged and arrested for some of the jabs he wrote. During a 2011 jury trial presided over by Judge Brian Hill from Rush County, the Cincinnati Ohio resident was convicted of Intimidation of a Judge, Attempt to Commit Obstruction of Justice, Perjury, and two lesser counts of Intimidation. Dearborn-Ohio County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard had convinced jurors that Brewington’s criticism went beyond political speech and crossed the line to “fighting words.”
Following the conviction, Brewington appealed his conviction to the Indiana Court of Appeals, arguing five points: the court allegedly abused its discretion by impaneling an anonymous jury, that Hill erred by admitting a custody evaluation and a divorce decree into evidence, the intimidation and obstruction of justice convictions were double jeopardy, whether the evidence was sufficient for convictions, and that the court’s final jury instructions were erroneous.
Oral arguments were held last November. On Thursday, January 17, the Court of Appeals issued a ruling vacating Brewington’s convictions for the two lesser intimidation charges. Those related to Judge Humphrey’s wife, Heidi, and Dr. Connor. The Connor intimidation conviction violated the double jeopardy rule, Judge Carr L. Darden wrote in the decision.
READ THE INDIANA COURT OF APPEALS DECISION HERE (PDF).
“The jury instructions directed the jury to consider the same evidentiary facts to support both convictions). Consequently, both convictions cannot stand. When two convictions contravene double jeopardy principles, ‘we vacate the conviction with less severe penal consequences,’” Darden wrote.
The court also agreed with Brewington that his urging blog readers to send letters about his case to Heidi Humphrey, who serves as an Indiana Supreme Court Ethics and Professionalism Advisor, did not cross the line to intimidation.
“He did not describe her in a negative light or encourage anyone to do anything other than write letters to her, as a purported public official, about his divorce case,” believed Darden. “Although we do not condone Brewington’s unjustifiable and bad faith attempt to drag Mrs. Humphrey into his divorce litigation, his actions in relation to Mrs. Humphrey do not meet the definition of a threat for purposes of the intimidation statute.”
Despite two of the five convictions being thrown out, Prosecutor Negangard says he’s still pleased with the appeals court decision that doesn’t alter the bottom line: Brewington’s time in prison.
“The Court of Appeals has affirmed the decisions of the trial court. The only part that was reversed is of no significance since the sentence has been upheld. It involves some complexities that are unique to Indiana… …This is a victory for justice and our criminal justice system,” Negangard said of the ruling.
With the help of his family, Brewington has continued to blog from prison. He has entries on his blog site as recent as January 6.