Bloggers Arrested for Exposing Public Corruption
Dr. Elsebeth Baumgartner and Bryan DuBois run a blog called Erie Voices that focuses on local issues in northern Ohio, especially those that are underreported by local newspapers. Many of their posts deal with judicial and governmental corruption in northern Ohio.
The bloggers were arrested in July on charges of intimidation, retaliation, and possession of criminal tools (a computer). Their trial began yesterday. The charges originated from a complaint made by retired visiting Judge Richard Markus, who alleges that Baumgartner and DuBois intimidated and threatened him in 2004 prior to a civil trial in which Baumgartner was the defendant, as reported by the North County Gazette.
The bloggers believe the indictments against them were for “publishing about judicial corruption.” Daniel Kasaris, the Cuyahoga County assistant prosecutor who filed the charges against Baumgartner and DuBois, had been the subject of criticism on the Erie Voices blog. Baumgartner and DuBois accused Kasaris of submitting a forged indictment the day before a pre-trial hearing. More specifically, the bloggers claim on their site, Erie Voices, that the grand foreman’s signature was forged, contains numerous misspellings and does not resemble other Cuyahoga County indictments.
Baumgartner was sent to Cuyahoga County jail, where she spent 10 days in solitary confinement until the presiding judge in the case, Judge Shirley Saffold reduced her bond from $360,000 to $25,000, as reported in the North County Gazette. The request for solitary confinement and the large bail bond was made by Daniel Kasaris. DuBois’s bail was originally set at $150,000 at the request of Kasaris but was later reduced. This unusually high bond amount was especially outrageous considering DuBois’s lack of a criminal record and served in the Marines for eight years.
The Ohio Libertarian Party is helping defend Baumgartner and DuBois. Robert Butler, the Executive Director of the Ohio Libertarian Party, stated, “We are very concerned about the plight of Internet activists.” Butler is looking to draw more attention to their case, noting the importance of protecting bloggers’ rights. He added, “Where would we be without society’s muckrakers? The Internet is a leveler. A single person can challenge a corrupt system if they have the freedom to speak online.”