December 4, 2023


A lawyer for Aidan Kearney accused prosecutors of a “multi-front censorship battle on the general public’s entitlement to good authorities and our right-to-know.”

“Turtleboy” blogger Aidan Kearney talks to reporters outdoors Stoughton District Courtroom after his arraignment on witness intimidation fees in connection along with his protection of the Karen Learn homicide case. Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe Employees, File

“Turtleboy” blogger Aidan Kearney’s prison proceedings have change into a First Modification battleground because the Holden man faces witness intimidation fees tied to his controversial protection of the homicide case towards Karen Learn.

He appeared in Norfolk Superior Courtroom on Wednesday looking for to overturn the bail situations set throughout his district courtroom arraignment earlier this month, which included orders to avoid and don’t have any contact with a number of witnesses in Learn’s case.

Decide Peter B. Krupp didn’t difficulty a ruling and took the matter underneath advisement, noting that the shortage of a specified distance in Kearney’s stay-away orders “appears to be an ambiguity that does restrict what he can do.”

  • Right here’s what ‘Turtleboy’ blogger Aidan Kearney needed to say about these witness intimidation fees

  • ‘Turtleboy’ blogger Aidan Kearney charged with witness intimidation in reference to Karen Learn case

Kearney has up to now revealed 200 installments of his sequence on Learn, who’s accused of backing into her boyfriend — Boston police officer John O’Keefe — along with her SUV and leaving him to die outdoors a fellow Boston officer’s dwelling in Canton final yr. 

The sensational homicide case is rife with hypothesis as Learn’s attorneys argue that she’s being framed and that different company on the dwelling are responsible for O’Keefe’s loss of life, a principle prosecutors have repeatedly denied. 

Kearney, in the meantime, has used his social media platforms and web site, TB Each day Information, to advertise the protection staff’s allegations of a cover-up. His blogs, social media posts, and livestream movies concerning the case are marked by provocative rhetoric and in-your-face reporting ways that usually immediate tense interactions along with his topics.

On his web site, Kearney sells a slew of Karen Learn-themed merchandise, in addition to T-shirts and different objects branded along with his personal mugshot and slogans like “Free Turtleboy” and “Journalism is Not a Crime.”

A matter of free speech? 

In a movement final week, Boston-based protection legal professional Tim Bradl described Kearney as a “skilled member of the press” and referred to as on the courtroom to vacate his prior bail situations “on First Modification and overbreadth grounds.” 

The eight witnesses he’s accused of intimidating — together with the lead Massachusetts State Police investigator on Learn’s case — are honest topics of inquiry for Kearney’s reporting, his lawyer argued.

The place prosecutors mentioned Kearney’s rolling rallies outdoors witnesses’ houses and noisy scenes at their kids’s sporting occasions have been intimidation, the blogger’s lawyer referred to as them “time-honored journalistic ways for newsgathering.”

Whereas setting the situations of his launch on private recognizance, district courtroom Decide Daniel O’Malley warned Kearney that he may very well be incarcerated for as much as 90 days with out bail if he didn’t keep away from the named witnesses.

In an affidavit accompanying his movement for bail evaluate, Kearney asserted that the stay-away orders act as prior restraint on his reporting, including, “It has created a chilling impact the place I’m afraid to report information and examine leads as a result of worry of being incarcerated for 90 days.”

Bradl additional laid the muse for a First Modification protection in a press launch final week.

“They’ve trampled on Turtleboy’s civil rights, stolen his capability to earn a residing, and upped the ante to new ranges within the multi-front censorship battle on the general public’s entitlement to good authorities and our right-to-know,” he wrote. “This won’t stand.”

‘They’re not defending journalism’

In a response, nonetheless, particular prosecutor Ken Mello contended that the First Modification “isn’t a license to violate state or federal legislation and doesn’t confer any particular dispensation to journalists, so referred to as, ought to they violate prison statutes.”

He denied claims that Kearney’s bail orders limit his reporting on the Learn case, declaring that the courtroom particularly famous that Kearney isn’t prohibited from attending hearings the place witnesses are current — solely from contacting or harassing them. 

In keeping with Mello’s submitting, the Massachusetts legislation relating to witness intimidation doesn’t require an motion to be overtly threatening for it to rely as intimidating.

Alleging that Kearney revealed some witnesses’ private data and addresses on-line, Mello additionally asserted that doxxing — the act of sharing somebody’s personal data with out their permission — isn’t thought-about protected free speech, as its “sole objective and intent … is to incite others to commit harassing, intimidating and unlawful acts.” 

At one level throughout Wednesday’s listening to, Krupp likewise appeared skeptical of the protection staff’s declare, studying aloud an announcement Kearney allegedly made whereas calling one of many witnesses throughout a July 8 YouTube livestream: “It’s Turtleboy from them benefit boys. Bang, bang, bang, bang. Yo, we’ll f— any of you canine up.”

“You assume any journalist can name up a witness and say that and never have or not it’s construed as witness intimidation or a menace?” Krupp requested Bradl, who replied within the affirmative and later clarified that Kearney was satirizing one thing the witness had beforehand mentioned.

“Well mannered society won’t prefer it,” Bradl acknowledged, however he maintained that Kearney isn’t “somebody who’s spewing hate.”

“It is a journalist doing good work exposing corruption, exposing the federal government,” Bradl mentioned. 

Mello, against this, asserted that Kearney’s isn’t a First Modification case. 

“They’re not defending journalism,” he mentioned, later including, “You may’t conceal behind the protect of a journalist to interrupt the legislation.”