Posted on | August 17, 2014 | 12 Comments
“Brett Kimberlin is a pedophile.”
— Ali A. Akbar, Aug. 11, 2014
Aaron Walker is transcribing (Part I, Part II, Part III) this past week’s trial in the Maryland case Kimberlin v. Walker, et al., in which John Hoge, Ali Akbar and myself were co-defendants. Of all that he alleged in his original complaint — stalking, harassment, etc. — Brett Kimberlin seems to have decided that his case in court would focus almost exclusively on the use of the word “pedophile” to describe him.
This was rather unwise. Most of his claims had been disallowed in preliminary proceedings, so that the case as it went to court was simply defamation and so-called “false light invasion of privacy.” For Kimberlin to prevail at trial, he would have had to prove that allegations of pedophilia were false. And, as everyone who has read the Indianapolis Star‘s coverage of his Speedway bombing spree knows, the suspicions regarding Kimberlin’s involvement with Debbie Barton — granddaughter of Julia Scyphers, who was the victim of an unsolved murder — were quite disturbing. Nor was this all the available evidence on this subject. In his 1996 biography of Kimberlin, Citizen K, journalist Mark Singer used the pseudonym “Jessica” for Debbie Barton, as he recounted Kimberlin’s relationship with the girl:
From the beginning of his friendship with Sandi [Barton], Kimberlin said, her younger daughter developed an attachment to him. Sandi would come to Eagle Creek, to tend his horses and ride her own; Jessica would tag along, and “she used to hang on me, she didn’t want to let me go.” Jessica was ten years old and Kimberlin was twenty. . . .
For three consecutive summers, 1974 through 1976, they took vacations of a week or longer in Disney World, Mexico, and Hawaii. Sandi couldn’t get time off from work, so on these summer trips it was just the two of them — Brett and Jessica.
Eyebrows levitated. A drug-dealing colleague had memories of conversations with Kimberlin that struck him as odd: “We’d see a girl, who was pubescent or prepubescent, and Brett would get this smile and say, ‘Hey, what do you think? Isn’t she great?’ It made me very uncomfortable.” Another recalled Kimberlin introducing Jessica as “my girlfriend,” and if irony was intended, it was too subtle to register. To a coworker . . . Sandi confided that Kimberlin was “grooming Jessica to be his wife.” . . .
You can buy Citizen K via Amazon and read the whole thing for yourself, and you will find that Debbie Barton was not the only young girl in whom Brett Kimberlin expressed interest. There was another girl — 15 at the time of her “romance” with Kimberlin, then 24 — who figured in Kimberlin’s alibi for his whereabouts on the day in 1978 that Julia Scyphers was shot to death in an apparent contract killing. However, Debbie Barton was very important to the story of Kimberlin’s bombing spree because, as the Indianapolis Star’s Joe Gelarden reported at the time, after bombs began exploding around the Indianapolis suburb of Speedway, police eventually concluded that this was an attempt to distract them from their investigation of the Scyphers murder. Because she had reportedly intervened to prevent Kimberlin from having access to her granddaughter, Debbie Barton, Kimberlin was a suspect, as Gelarden wrote: “Kimberlin seemed to be the only one with a possible motive — to distract police attention from the Scyphers murder and delay or halt their quiet investigation of him.”
It is impossible for any journalist to report accurately on Kimberlin’s criminal career and ignore this aspect of the case, nor can any honest reporter ignore evidence suggesting that Kimberlin’s interest in underage girls was a persistent pattern. Toward the end of Citizen K, Mark Singer describes how, while in federal prison, Kimberlin met a fellow inmate who was a Ukrainian immigrant. This inmate had in his cell a photo of his teenage niece, Juliya. According to Singer, Kimberlin pestered this man for his niece’s mail address and, when he obtained it, Kimberlin then began a three-year pen-pal correspondence with the girl. After he was released from prison in 1994, Kimberlin brought this Ukrainian girl (by then in her early 20s) to America, where they had a relationship that broke up after a few months.
Think about this: Here was a federal convict whose crimes were reportedly believed by investigators to have been related to his interest in a young girl. While serving time in prison, now in his late 30s and early 40s, Kimberlin then begins writing love letters to a teenage girl he’s never met. Indeed, as Mark Singer reported, Kimberlin composed a song for this girl called “Waiting to Meet.” Furthermore, in a 1996 interview with Washington City Paper, when he was futilely pursuing a rock music career, Kimberlin seemed quite unapologetic about his sexual enthusiasm for young girls:
Not all the songs on his album — which Mahern characterizes as minimally produced and “pretty much Brett” — have political overtones, which in some respects may be unfortunate: While tracks like “Life’s a Bitch (For a Government Snitch)” and “Who’s Next” (a song about unfounded sex crime accusations) have a definite edge to them, others, like “Waiting to Meet” and “Teen Dream” (both about having sex with teenage girls) are lacking in subtlety and tend to make one squirm. But this is exactly what Kimberlin wants.
“I say things a lot of people are afraid to say. Yeah, ‘Teen Dream’ is about fucking a teenage girl. Every guy who’s seen a good-looking teenage girl has thought about it. I’m talking about that lecherous quality that every man, though he won’t act on it, has.”
Kimberlin was a 41-year-old recently released federal convict in 1996 when he proclaimed his desire to have sex with teenage girls. Insofar as he sued us for $1 million, claiming among other things that it was defamation to apply the word “pedophile” to him, any juror could have looked at this evidence — had the trial proceeded to the point where the defense presented its case — and decided whether such a label was appropriate. However, the law regarding defamation is quite clear that it is the plaintiff’s burden to show that a statement of fact by defendants is false; the defense need not prove any such statement true. It can be (and probably would have been) argued that someone who said “Brett Kimberlin is a pedophile” was merely expressing an opinion based on available facts. As a matter of law, then, it was impossible for Brett Kimberlin to prevail at trial. Once Kimberlin concluded his two-day courtroom presentation, the defense made a motion for a judgment in their favor, which Judge Johnson was obliged to grant.
— Aaron Worthing (@AaronWorthing) July 30, 2013
Yet during the trial, which concluded before the defense could present the case I have just briefly summarized, the testimony and questioning during Kimberlin’s presentation brought up an important point: Kimberlin presented no evidence that any of the defendants had used the word “pedophile” to describe him prior to July 2013, when his estranged wife filed third-degree sexual assault charges against him.
Kimberlin’s wife told John Hoge and Aaron Walker that Kimberlin met her on a beach in Ukraine when she was 14, shortly after his release from prison. As she later explained, Kimberlin brought her to the United States in September 1996, a few weeks before her 16th birthday. Kimberlin also brought over some of her family members from Ukraine, his wife said. As she said in her sworn affidavit, Kimberlin began having sex with her when she was still 15, before he subsequently married her when she was 16 and he was 42. Because the legal age of consent in Maryland is 16, the claim by Kimberlin’s wife that they had premarital sex when she was still 15 gave grounds for a charge of third-degree sexual assault. His wife also said in her affidavit that she had once seen Kimberlin make sexual advances toward her 12-year-old cousin.
This was made a matter of public record by Kimberlin’s estranged wife a few weeks after her split from him became public when Kimberlin filed for a domestic protective order against her, and also sought to have criminal charges filed against her boyfriend, Jay Elliott. This courtroom battle, which Kimberlin himself initiated, became the basis of my coverage, which was both newsworthy in its own right (given Kimberlin’s notoriety) and relevant to his prior criminal history. Furthermore, Kimberlin’s wife said he had threatened her, and had falsely claimed that she was mentally ill, so this story was a matter of public interest, insofar as the safety of a woman and her children might be at stake.
After an August 2013 hearing in Maryland in the Kimberlin v. Kimberlin proceedings, Mrs. Kimberlin was apparently discouraged. She reportedly decided against pressing the sexual assault charges, which were then dropped by the State’s Attorney. The last I heard — and this was hearsay, which would have been inadmissable at trial — Mrs. Kimberlin and her boyfriend Jay Elliott had left Maryland; some said she went to Illinois; others say she is now in Utah. During the trial, Kimberlin claimed his wife had returned home, although he produced no evidence of this, and even the judge asked why Kimberlin didn’t bring his wife to testify at the trial:
THE COURT: You know the witness you really need?
THE COURT: Is your wife here?
KIMBERLIN: She’s, she’s packing. We’re leaving on vacation tomorrow—
THE COURT: Is she gonna testify? See, that’s — if she were going to testify, that would be one thing, but a 15 year old?
None of the defendants ever expected that Brett Kimberlin would make this the basis of a $1 million lawsuit, and we were all shocked that this lawsuit — which seemed bogus from the start — was allowed to proceed all the way to trial after 11 months of preliminaries. The most shocking thing of all was that, during the trial, Kimberlin insisted on putting his own 15-year-old daughter on the witness stand. Aaron Walker transcribes the courtroom discussion:
Court: You… she’s not a party in this case.
Kimberlin: She’s not a party, she’s a witness.
Court: To what that they did?
Kimberlin: That they harmed me and my family and she’s, you know, I ask you to give me a chance to make that [unintelligible]
Court: But she can’t testify what? Her school and all? That is not relevant.
Kimberlin: She can testify that I’m not a pedophile. She can testify that…
Court: How can…? She can testify that you never did anything to her.
Kimberlin: Or anyone she knows.
Court: Or anyone that she knows.
[Defense attorney Patrick] Ostronic: I will stipulate that he never did anything to her. We’ll stipulate to that.
Kimberlin: No. I want her… I want the harm, there’s harm . . . these people . . . this jury needs to know the harm that this has caused my family.
Every decent person in the courtroom, I believe, was disgusted by Kimberlin’s insistence on compelling his daughter’s testimony. This was his choice, and not ours, and entirely his responsibility.