For the better part of a year, my family and I have have been under contestant siege from a small group of people who have worked together in a relentless attempt to humiliate, embarrass and inflict emotional stress on us in a clear attempt destroy my professional reputation and to silence my voice. Much of this appears to be related to stories I have written about such as Weinergate, Occupy Wall Street, the media’s handling of the Steubenville rape case and projects I’ve launched like Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day.
These attacks, however, have gone far beyond the realm of impassioned debate and into the realm of illegal harassment that serves no legitimate legal purpose.
The tactics employed by this small group of people has included releasing our personal information, threats and intimidation, obscene comments about my wife and children, repeated attempts to get me fired, false reports to the police and child protective services and even vulgar conspiracy theories about the death of our daughter Collette last year. These attacks–often hundreds a day–have been both aimed directly at me as well as my employer, work associates, my family and even strangers I spoke to on Twitter or Facebook.
One of the more consistent attackers has been a man named Bill Schmalfeldt in Maryland. Despite being told my the local police that harassment was a crime and despite my repeated requests to stop direct contact with me and to cease his harassment, Mr. Schmalfeldt continued direct communications with me–including numerous private emails–that were intended to alarm and seriously annoy me and family. The attacks by Mr. Schmalfeldt have intensified recently.
As a first step in combatting this assault on my family and career, earlier this week I began criminal proceedings against Mr. Schmalfeldt, some details of which can be found here by doing a search.
Because of the nature of the charges and my position as a writer on national issues, I anticipate the case will gain some degree of exposure. This is criminal matter pending a hearing, so I plan to make little comment about it publicly. Mr. Schmalfeldt, like any defendant, is innocent until proven guilty and should be treated as such.
As far as my work goes, I do not intend to be silenced by this intimidation. I have a lifelong love of the First Amendment. I believe in free speech and vigorous debate. As such, I believe that harassment and intimidation that are in clear violation of existing law actually has a chilling effect on such debate, creating an atmosphere where people are afraid to discuss issues publicly for fear of becoming the victim of unending, vicious personal attacks that are intended to shut people up.
They say that good fences make for good neighbors. In the era of social media, citizen journalism and digital technology that allows people to communicate with the entire world in real time, I believe the issue of how best to define and deal with harassment is a vital one.
I expect the attacks on me and my family by the people who have been attacking will become even more desperate as a result of this legal action. To everyone who watched these attacks for many months now, I want to tell you that your public and private encouragement and kind words has meant a great deal to Lauren and me. I have had a number of supporters who don’t agree with me on issues but who understand when a line has been crossed and have offered words of support.