Personal Freedoms

published : 2023-10-15

Massachusetts Blogger Faces Criminal Charges in First Amendment Fight

Aidan Kearney, known as 'Turtleboy,' argues for his right to express opinions in Karen Read murder case

Aidan Kearney, known as 'Turtleboy', leaving the courthouse after pleading not guilty to witness intimidation charges. [Taken with Canon EOS R6]

A controversial Massachusetts writer, Aidan Kearney, who goes by the alias 'Turtleboy,' is facing several criminal charges, including witness intimidation. Kearney has been defending Karen Read, a woman on trial for allegedly killing her boyfriend. Prosecutors claim that Kearney sent threatening and intimidating messages to witnesses and investigators in the criminal case against Read, crossing the line from activism to harassment.

Kearney runs a blog where he covers the case and other local news like a reporter. He has also participated in protests supporting Read. At his court appearance, Kearney pleaded not guilty, asserting that his opinions are protected under the First Amendment.

The prosecutor detailed numerous allegations against Kearney, including showing up at sporting events of witnesses' children, harassing and photographing witnesses at their homes and jobs, and instructing followers of his blog to do the same. The prosecution read excerpts from Kearney's blog posts that referenced the alleged coverup in Read's murder trial, as well as profanity-laced segments from YouTube videos and messages that included threats to witnesses and their friends.

Karen Read appearing at Norfolk County Superior Court for a pretrial hearing. [Taken with Nikon Z7 II]

Despite the prosecutor's arguments, Kearney's lawyer defended his client, highlighting that the statements made were opinions and not threats. The lawyer also pointed out that if any of Kearney's statements violated YouTube policy, they could have been taken down. Kearney was released on personal recognizance under the condition that he has no contact with anyone connected to Read's murder case, including the police investigators.

This case has become a side circus to the murder trial against Karen Read, which has garnered national attention. In January 2022, Read allegedly ran over her boyfriend, leaving him unconscious on a lawn in Canton, Massachusetts. She was charged with second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter while impaired, and leaving the scene of an accident, pleading not guilty to all charges. However, Read's defense team argues that her boyfriend was beaten in the basement of a home owned by another Boston Police officer and claims a cover-up that involves law enforcement framing Read for the death.

The defense further asserts that evidence has been withheld, causing a delay of 22 months without going to trial. The Norfolk County District Attorney refutes these allegations, stating that evidence is continually being tested at a state crime lab and will be provided to the defense once completed. The judge has ordered DNA testing to be completed by November 3 and expects information on police searches of the Canton home to be submitted within two weeks.

Protesters supporting Karen Read's defense outside the courthouse. [Taken with Sony A7 III]

The case continues to provoke controversy and speculation, with both sides presenting their narratives. As the trial unfolds, the fate of Karen Read hangs in the balance, while Aidan Kearney's actions are closely scrutinized in the context of free speech and the limits of activism.