Convicted bomber Brett Kimberlin now targets conservatives online.
Michelle Malkin has called Brett Kimberlin an “online terrorist ringleader,” while blogger Jimmie Bise Jr. prefers the phrase “lying felon,” but Kimberlin’s political allies call him a “progressive activist.” During the past week, Kimberlin’s bizarre methods of “activism” have made him the focus of intense scrutiny from conservative bloggers, arousing the interest of major news organizations, so that the convicted felon once notorious as the “Speedway Bomber” is likely to become even more notorious in the near future.
Since 2010, Kimberlin has been suing, smearing, harassing, and otherwise attempting to intimidate bloggers who write about his criminal history. It seemed he was intent on silencing the truth and — although I had never even heard of him until May 17 — within four days of my beginning to report about him on my personal blog, Kimberlin began targeting me with his thug tactics. On Monday, May 21, I left my Maryland home and departed to another state where, for the past week, I’ve continued a series of reports I’ve called “The Kimberlin Files.” These online dispatches have been filed from an undisclosed location, my whereabouts concealed in order to protect myself and others from the menace of a dangerous man who by all rights should still be behind bars.
Kimberlin was convicted in federal court of 22 felony charges in connection with a weeklong bombing spree in September 1978 that terrorized the residents of Speedway, Indiana. Drug smuggling, perjury, forgery, impersonation — Kimberlin’s criminal career began while he was a teenager and continued until Dec. 29, 1981, when he was sentenced to federal prison for the bombings, one of which brutally maimed Vietnam veteran Carl DeLong. Prosecutors had recommended a much longer sentence — 79 years, so that Kimberlin, then 27 years old, could never again “walk the streets to terrorize any other citizen,” as Assistant U.S. Attorney Kennard Foster told the court. U.S. District Court Judge William Steckler was more lenient, imposing a mere 50 years and, because this was before “truth in sentencing” reforms, Kimberlin served a mere 17 years. He was paroled in 1993, returned to prison in 1997 on a parole violation, and finally released in 2001.
Kimberlin became briefly famous in 1988, and for a few years thereafter remained somewhat of a cause célèbre among liberals, because of his claim to have once sold marijuana to a young Indiana University law student named Dan Quayle. Kimberlin has been described as a “top-flight con man,” a skill that has made him quite successful in the world of progressive activism, where left-wing donors are always willing to contribute to cynical hustlers who tell them what they want to hear. Within four years of his release from prison, Kimberlin started a tax-exempt non-profit called the Justice Through Music Project (JTMP) which has raised approximately $1.8 million in the past six years, including grants from the Tides Foundation, the Heinz Family Foundation and the Barbra Streisand Foundation. Kimberlin also partnered with liberal blogger Brad Friedman to create another non-profit group called Velvet Revolution.
Kimberlin endeared himself to left-wing bloggers by claiming that Republicans had stolen the 2004 presidential election through vote fraud, offering a $100,000 reward for evidence — a reward that was never paid, for a claim that was never proven. Failure to prove his allegations of GOP perfidy, however, seemed neither to deter donors to Kimberlin’s projects nor to undermine his credibility among progressives. A 2007 Time magazine article reported that Kimberlin had “found a home in the blogosphere” by “repeatedly asserting as fact things that are not true.”
In 2008, Kimberlin’s JTMP non-profit collected more than $558,543 in contributions, according to the group’s IRS filing, while Velvet Revolution collected $83,560. Crusading on behalf of “election integrity,” Velvet Revolution warned against “Karl Rove’s cyber strategy to illegally manipulate elections,” and demanded that Rove be prosecuted. Velvet Revolution hinted at a vast conspiracy: “In fact, in 2004, the Ohio Secretary of State election servers were suddenly re-routed to the GOP controlled servers at Smartech in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the results flipped from John Kerry to George Bush. Bush’s [information technology] guru Mike Connell was responsible for setting up that manipulation with the assistance of Ken Blackwell, and Connell was later killed in a mysterious plane crash after he indicated he was ready to talk about the matter.”
Serious stuff, if true, but one liberal blogger smelled a rat. Seth Allen, who has used a variety of online pseudonyms including “Socrates” and “Prepostericity,” got himself banned from Democrat Underground and other liberal sites by disputing what he called the “conspiracy theory hoax” claim that Connell’s death was part of a GOP cover-up orchestrated by Rove. Allen was one of a very few progressives who questioned the assertions made by Kimberlin and Friedman, and his persistent criticism got little attention, even as Velvet Revolution expanded its list of targets. Soon, the group was calling for criminal prosecution of Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and conservative New Media entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart, as well as Breitbart’s young protégés James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, who made headlines with their 2009 video exposé of the left-wing community organizing group ACORN.
In October 2010, Breitbart published a 3,600-word article about Kimberlin’s criminal history, written by Mandy Nagy (aka “Liberty Chick”), a former editor for the Lexis-Nexis news-digest service. Nagy’s article relied heavily on contemporaneous coverage of Kimberlin’s “Speedway Bomber” trial by Indianapolis Star reporter Joe Gelarden, as well as Mark Singer’s 1996 book, Citizen K: The Deeply Weird American Journey of Brett Kimberlin. Singer, a liberal reporter for the New Yorker, had originally been sympathetic toward Kimberlin before eventually realizing that the subject of his book was not only fundamentally dishonest, but also in all likelihood guilty of the crimes of which he was convicted. Perhaps the most shocking element of Kimberlin’s 1978 bombing spree was that authorities believed it was an attempt to distract police investigating the murder of a 65-year-old grandmother, Julia Scyphers.
As Gelarden reported in a 1981 article, Scyphers had become concerned about her daughter Sandra Barton’s involvement with Kimberlin, who had shown a “strange affection” for Sandra’s young daughter Debbie. The girl was 10 years old when 20-year-old Kimberlin met her in 1974, and Sandra permitted Debbie to accompany Kimberlin on vacation trips to Disney World, Mexico, and Hawaii. According to Singer’s book, Kimberlin’s acquaintances recalled him introducing the preteen as “my girlfriend,” and the girl’s mother told a co-worker that Kimberlin was “grooming” Debbie to be his wife. Kimberlin’s interest in the little girl alarmed her grandmother. In the summer of 1978, Julia Scyphers arranged to have the girl and her older sister leave their mother’s home and move in with her, and when Kimberlin was unable to see his “girlfriend,” he reportedly threatened suicide. A few weeks later, Scyphers was shot dead in what investigators suspected was a murder-for-hire, and one of Kimberlin’s associates in the drug trade was identified as the shooter by Scyphers’ husband. But Fred Scyphers, the only eyewitness to the crime, died of a stroke shortly thereafter, and prosecutors dropped the murder case, which remains unresolved to this day.
Kimberlin was ultimately convicted in the bombing spree, yet has never admitted his guilt, instead claiming that he was framed by a “corrupt government.” During his time in federal prison, he became a prodigious jailhouse lawyer, filing more than 100 actions on his own behalf, and his litigious habits have continued until this day. When Patrick Frey, the blogger known as Patterico, wrote about Kimberlin’s criminal past in 2010, he was immediately threatened with a libel suit. By then, Kimberlin had already sued Seth Allen, who eventually got legal assistance from Aaron Walker, a Virginia attorney who had blogged under the pseudonym “Aaron Worthing.” This evidently made Walker a target of Kimberlin’s harassment tactics, with the result that Walker says both he and his wife lost their jobs. Walker told his side of the story in a 28,000-word blog post published May 17, which was where I first learned of Kimberlin.
My plan that Thursday had been to travel to Camp David to cover the G8 Summit that was convening just 15 miles from my Maryland home. But when I began reading Walker’s account of his tangle with Kimberlin, I soon spotted the name of a Democrat campaign consultant, Neal Rauhauser, described as an “associate” of Kimberlin. This was clearly newsworthy, and raised the story above the level of a squabble between bloggers. Rauhauser is a self-described “hacker,” and in 2010 was accused by Tea Party activists of organizing a campaign of online harassment known as “TwitterGate.” This apparent connection between a Democrat political operative and Kimberlin, a convicted domestic terrorist, was certainly troubling. The story was convoluted and hard to explain, however, and it took me nine hours to write a 2,400-word synopsis on May 19. In the meantime, I learned that Breitbart had warned less than six months before his death about the connections between Kimberlin, Friedman, and Rauhauser.
Kimberlin’s critics say his litigation against Allen and Walker, and threats of action against others, are a type of “lawfare,” which is defined as “the illegitimate use of domestic or international law with the intention of damaging an opponent, winning a public relations victory, financially crippling an opponent, or tying up the opponent’s time so that they cannot pursue other ventures such as running for public office.” And this is part of what many see as a wide-ranging strategy of intimidation waged against conservatives, including such tactics as “SWATting” — making hoax calls to police, pretending to be a targeted individual and claiming to have committed a domestic shooting. The intended result is that police swoop down on the targeted address with guns drawn, prepared to shoot it out with what they have been told to believe is an armed-and-dangerous suspect but who, in fact, has committed no crime and has no idea why the police are at his house. These dangerous hoaxes have been perpetrated against Mike Stack, who was involved in last year’s exposure of Rep. Anthony Weiner’s sex scandal, and against Frey, who recounted his experience in a frightening article Friday. Then, on Sunday, Red State editor and CNN contributor Erick Erickson said he was also “SWATted.”
Such incidents have drawn widespread attention to the Left’s harassment tactics, and inspired Friday’s “Everybody Blog Brett Kimberlin Day,” an effort by conservative bloggers to stand up in solidarity against intimidation. This morning, Kimberlin is scheduled for a court appearance in Rockville, Maryland, for a hearing in which he is seeking a “peace order” against Walker. That Kimberlin is the plaintiff in such an action — claiming that a law-abiding attorney is somehow threatening the safety of a convicted violent felon — is deeply ironic. Federal prosecutors once hoped that Kimberlin would never again be able to “terrorize any other citizen,” yet he is now terrorizing them just as surely as he ever did during his infamous days as the Speedway Bomber.
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