The Brett Kimberlin Saga: A Story Of Wacko Vexatious Lawsuits

from the legal-system-run-amuck dept

For years we’ve been paying somewhat loose attention to the saga involving Brett Kimberlin and his ongoing lawsuits against bloggers. The story was complex and convoluted from the beginning, and only got more so over time. In fact, it got so confusing that it almost became too difficult to jump into the story mid-stream. On top of that, the “partisan” overtones of many of the folks debating the story (on both sides) made it even more of a farce. When Kimberlin lost one of his lawsuits against some bloggers a few weeks ago, we debated writing a story, but there was so much back story to cover (and so many other things going on) that we let it slide. Thankfully, Dave Weigel, writing for the Daily Beast has a giant story about last month’s trial, including much of the background. If you’re unfamiliar with the Kimberlin saga (or even if you’re very familiar with it), it’s a worthwhile read.

The short version is that Kimberlin is a guy who had some significant legal problems back in the 70s, including being convicted of the so-called Speedway bombings. In the 1980s, he got lots of attention for claiming to have sold marijuana to Dan Quayle. In the 1990s, a book was written about him by Mark Singer called Citizen K: The Deeply Weird American Journey of Brett Kimberlin, but that “deeply weird American journey” was far from over. In the 2000s, he got attention warning about e-voting machines and the possibility of fraud (something we wrote about extensively at the time as well). But in the 2010s, it appears his “deeply weird” journey has moved onto suing people who say things he doesn’t like.

Weigel’s writeup of the trial is well worth reading, highlighting just how ridiculous the charges were, and how it was pretty clear that Kimberlin was suing these bloggers simply because he didn’t like what they said about him, rather than on the basis of anything that was actually defamatory. The end result was that Kimberlin lost spectacularly. It didn’t even go through a full trial. Kimberlin presented his evidence, and the judge ruled against him on the spot (i.e., without the other side having to go through its whole argument). As Ken “Popehat” White explains:

After the close of Kimberlin’s day of “evidence,” the judge granted a motion for a directed verdict against him. Under Maryland law, that means the judge necessary found “a total failure of legally sufficient evidence to prove” Kimberlin’s remaining defamation claim. The judge didn’t just find Kimberlin’s evidence unpersuasive; he effectively found it irrelevant

Reading Weigel’s account of the trial, you can quickly see why the judge ruled that way. So many of the points raised by Kimberlin clearly had nothing to do with anything coming anywhere near defamation, but rather were focused on “people said mean things online.” For example, Kimberlin questioned one of the defendants, Robert Stacy McCain, about a blog post supposedly making fun of Kimberlin’s daughter’s singing career (in reality, that’s only mentioned in passing — most of the post is about Brett Kimberlin himself). Kimberlin then calls his own daughter, Kelsie, to the stand to testify (I’m not making this up) about how Taylor Swift tweeted some of her videos, leading Kimberlin to ask her, “So, are you considered a child prodigy?”

After the ruling, Kimberlin made it clear to Weigel that he wasn’t done, and he intended to keep bringing new legal actions to tie everyone up in court (Kimberlin, in the past has allegedly made similar threats, saying, “I have filed over a hundred lawsuits and another one will be no sweat for me. On the other hand, it will cost you a lot of time and money and for what,” in an email to another blogger (who posted the email). Here’s what Kimberlin told Weigel:

?These guys are going to come out today and say I?m a pedophile,? said Kimberlin. ?And tomorrow, I can file another lawsuit against them. And now I know what I need to do. It?s going to be endless lawsuits for the rest of their lives. And that?s what it ends up being. I sue them. They sue me. They come into court. I sue them. They come into court. That?s the way it is.?

A shortened (tweeted) version of this quote led Ken White to suggest crowdsourcing an effort to get Kimberlin declared a vexatious litigant. Apparently, Kimberlin has already “filed a motion for issuance of judgment,” basically a precursor to asking for a new trial on the basis that the judge got it wrong. Another defendant claims that Kimberlin is also threatening to have his daughter sue them as well.

For years we’ve written about various attempts by people to get others to shut up when they say or write unkind things. Our legal system isn’t supposed to allow that sort of thing. Kimberlin’s actions are, once again, a (strong) reminder why we really need a federal anti-SLAPP law that will help get bogus lawsuits designed to stifle constitutionally-protected speech tossed out quickly.

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Comments on “The Brett Kimberlin Saga: A Story Of Wacko Vexatious Lawsuits”

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Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, let’s see. He set off several bombs that severely injured multiple people, including requiring at least one leg amputation, and evidence points to it having been done to distract police from their investigation of a woman who was murdered shortly after raising strong objections to Kimberlin’s relationship with her preteen daughter.

So yeah. “Pedophile”, “terrorist”, and (at the very least) “accessory to murder” all seem to fit the known facts rather solidly, without coming anywhere near defamation territory!

sarahW says:

personal remarks

A minor point (since it would remain irrelevant in any case ): RS McCain did not make any blog post including any evaluation or mention of the singing chops of the girl.

A single *tweet* that did not mention her by name and which was not directed to her, did. FWIW, tt was not a tweet that would get picked up by herslef, or anyone following her social media accounts or, indeed, her career. It @mentioned two users who were dicussing kimberlin, and was focused on BKs creepiness, not the kid, really.

KinseyHolley (profile) says:

Yeah, I thought that was a glaring omission in Weigel’s story – the whole purpose of the Speedway bombings, it is alleged (and given all of Kimberlin’s history, easily believed) was to distract from Julia Scypher’s murder. Scypher believed Kimberlin was dating her daughter – a grown woman – in order to get close to her preteen granddaughter.

Kimberlin’s Ukrainian ex wife has alleged they first had sex when she was 15. And he wrote a song about the joys of sex with teenagers.

So, yeah, some bloggers felt they were on solid ground when making the pedophile allegations. Remember, for libel the plaintiff has to prove not just that whatever the defendants wrote was wrong, but that they KNEW it was wrong and wrote it anyway.

Marshal (profile) says:

Re: BAH!

Except he’s not drowning. He’s been able to make himself a very nice living by championing far left policial causes. Further he lost a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the relatives of the man he permanently disabled (who later committed suicide) and he’s sheltering his assets inside a charity to keep from paying that judgement.

And two more tidbits to other’s comments on his ties to the Scypher murder:

(1) She suspected him after she learned he took an unsupervised “vacation” with her preteen granddaughter and other suspicious actions. It wasn’t just that she didn’t like him.

(2) The husband of the murder victim identified his wife’s killer from a photo lineup before he died. The person he identified was a known associate of Kimberlins through his drug smuggling business.

Kimberlin likely got way with murder. Weigel’s story demonstrates if you leave out enough facts anything can seem hard to judge.

Rudyard Holmbast says:

That article reinforced the one thing most people already know: Weigel is a pompous dick utterly incapable of keeping his snide smugness out of an article if the subjects happen to be on the right of the political spectrum. If the political leanings of the individuals discussed in the article were switched, we would have been treated to every last detail about Kimberlin’s criminal career. Instead we get nonsense about six witnesses being hypnotized at Kimberlin’s trial and repeated insinuations that conservatives started all of this in order to make a quick buck.

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