A judge in Massachusetts has ruled that a blogger named Turtleboy, who is accused of witness intimidation for his coverage of the Karen Read murder case, can attend court hearings but otherwise stay away from or contact the witnesses he is accused of harassing.
Blogger Aidan Kearney is charged with witness intimidation, unlawful picketing to influence a witness and conspiracy to intimidate a witness. Kearney, 41, has advocated for the release of Read, who is accused of running over her husband, Boston police officer John O’Keefe, and leaving her dead outside a Canton home in January 2022. Authorities allege that Read and O’Keefe, 46, had been drinking for a night when they went to a co-worker’s house. In the middle of a snowstorm, Read is accused of running over O’Keefe after she dropped him off at home. Hours later he was found unresponsive and taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
She is charged with second-degree murder and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and is awaiting trial. Kearney has argued in blog posts and YouTube videos that Read is innocent and that the people in the officer’s home were responsible for his death with law enforcement covering it up, a theory also supported by Read’s defense team. He says the people police say are witnesses are actually suspects.
During the course of his coverage of the case, Kearney reportedly organized caravans of 100 cars to drive past the homes of witnesses, calling them “cop killers” over loudspeakers and urging people to call a restaurant owned by one of the witnesses and order food but don’t pay. Kearney also appeared at a high school sporting event for one of the witnesses’ children. He proudly wrote about the incident on his blog and said he was kicked out because he kept calling the witness a cop-killer.
Kearney’s lawyers asked the Norfolk Supreme Court to overturn the no-contact and stay-away orders, saying they violated his First Amendment right to report on the case as a journalist. But Judge Peter B. Krupp in his 22-page judgment denied that request, writing that Kearney’s actions went far beyond what is protected by the First Amendment.
“Journalism is generally about interviewing sources who might be witnesses in a case, not trying to get witnesses to change their statements or inciting others to pressure witnesses to change their statements change,” Krupp wrote. “The defendant has no license to intimidate or harass witnesses and jeopardize the integrity of the judicial process in the name of journalism. For another citizen, such actions would not be tolerated.”
Krupp wrote that claiming that Kearney took a pro-Read position would “understate the extent of his partisanship and advocacy.” Kearney in one piece Boston Magazine said Read is “completely innocent” and described the people he believes are responsible for O’Keefe’s death as “useless maggots.”
“However, the constitutional guarantees of free speech and the free press do not protect ‘advocacy’ that is ‘aimed at inciting or bringing about imminent unlawful acts and is capable of inciting or bringing about such acts,” Krupp wrote.
As Law&Crime previously reported, special prosecutor Kenneth Morro alleged in a court hearing on October 11 after his arrest that Kearney attempted to tamper with the jury and subjected witnesses to “constant harassment, intimidation and public attacks.”
Morro said Kearney began covering the case in April 2023. But Kearney’s reporting went far beyond what a typical reporter would do when covering a story, Morro claimed. For example in one Video posted on YouTube Titled “Turtleboy Returns to Canton: Knocking on Doors, Denouncing Public Officials and Calling Cops,” Kearney delivered a message to witnesses involved in the case.
“This is not my last trip to Canton, I will come again. Get used to it. These people think I’m close. These people haven’t seen the last of me,” Kearney said, according to Morro.
Kearney also helped raise funds for “Free Karen Read” billboards outside Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots play. He wrote that “half the population of Norfolk County,” where the case is being heard, had never heard of the case before, but the billboards would help change that.
“Essentially, judge, it’s an admission that he’s trying to taint the jury in this case,” Morro said in court.
Morro also said that Kearney gave away the cell phone number of the Massachusetts State Police officer who was investigating the case.
But Kearney’s lawyers said in court that he was a “newsperson using his First Amendment rights to report a story.”
Section 13B of Chapter 268 of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts law addresses witness intimidation. Witness intimidation is defined as “anyone who intentionally threatens, attempts to cause, or causes physical, mental, or economic injury or property damage to a person testifying in a case.”
Canton Police Chief Helena Rafferty and District Attorney Michael Morrissey have criticized Kearney’s tactics but did not mention him by name. Kearney addressed the statements in one blog entry. Rafferty told a Canton Select Board meeting that intimidation tactics could deter witnesses from coming forward in future cases.
“I welcome the fact that we live in a country where people can have different points of view,” she said. “I accept the right of every individual to express these viewpoints in accordance with the First Amendment. I understand that some people have questions about the O’Keefe case due to the limited amount of information they have seen so far. What I cannot accept, however, are witnesses – I would like to repeat this – witnesses. These are residents who are not accused of a crime: bullying in their homes, at their children’s school, or on vacation, all under the guise of the First Amendment.”
Kearney argued that neither he nor his supporters, known as the “Turtle Riders,” tried to influence or discourage anyone from testifying.
Morrisey said in a video released Aug. 25 that intimidation of witnesses in the case was unacceptable and must stop. He said there was a “false narrative” that O’Keefe entered the house where a fight broke out and he was killed. But O’Keefe never entered the house and was found dead outside, Morrissey said. According to Morrissey, those associated with the home were not involved in a cover-up.
“To accuse them of murder is outrageous,” he said. “It is wrong to allow them to be bullied and intimidated based on false narratives and accusations.”
Kearney wrote that he was following the facts.
“I will never stop doing what I do until Karen Read is free and the people who killed John O’Keefe and covered up his murder are held accountable,” he wrote.
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