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Friday, May 25, 2012
The Brett Kimberlin Story

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, there are no second acts in American lives. Mr Fitzgerald, meet Brett Kimberlin:
Brett Kimberlin had quite a first act. In the 1970s, he smuggled tons of pot into the country. When questioned by a grand jury about this, he committed and was convicted of perjury. Before he graduated high school. Okay, a couple tons pot, who cares? But later on, Brett Kimberlin set eight bombs around the town of Speedway, Indiana, the town where the Indy 500 is held every year. One of those bombs blew off a leg and some fingers from a Vietnam veteran. Who committed suicide several years later when the pain from the resulting injuries became too great to bear.

Why did Brett Kimberlin do this? Well, it is argued that he had a girlfriend, whose grandmother did not approve of him. And the girlfriend was underage, so her grandmother's disapproval apparently mattered. So Granny had to go, and a major pot dealer has some friends who can make that happen.

But murder in a small town like Speedway causes a lot of attention to focus on those who might have a motive to kill little old grannies, and what better way to distract folks than to set off a bunch of bombs around the town.

Understand this; Kimberlin was convicted of setting off the bombs, and sentenced to 50 years in prison. Somehow he managed to get paroled, but after he made no attempt to pay restitution to the widow of the Vietnam vet he maimed, he was put back in the joint.

 Oh, and while Brett was in prison, he became a minor celebrity among the Nina Totenbergs and Gary Trudeaus of the glitterati, because he claimed from prison in 1988 to have sold pot to Danforth Quayle back in the 1970s. Quayle was later inaugurated as Vice President of the United States.

Here's one of the Doonesbury strips:
I've read the other strips around this story, and it's pretty goofy.  For one thing, they have Kimberlin talking about the supposed file on Dan Quayle at the DEA, stemming from the time that Quayle was a US Senator.  But how would Kimberlin know about any DEA file to begin with, let alone one that could have been opened at the earliest in 1980, after he was already in prison?  Note as well that Trudeau appears to be having Kimberlin lie there; I doubt whether someone sentenced to 50 years in prison would be elegible for parole in less than 7 years.  In another strip, the reporter claims that Kimberlin was a model prisoner.  But there is reason to doubt that:

On sheets of yellow legal pad, Kimberlin asked another inmate in the Marion County Jail to arrange for the murder of Bernard L. (Buddy) Pylitt, the former first assistant U.S. attorney who coordinated his prosecution. The offer contained a list of 10 names, including a potential prosecution witness, Robert Scott Bixler. Some names had crosses next to them. These indicated those marked for murder, it was learned. . . .

Among the writers to fall for the Dan Quayle pot story was Marc Singer, who published the allegations in the New Yorker. Singer went on to investigate the story further for a book he wrote. Unfortunately for Kimberlin, he was a diligent reporter, and eventually he discovered that Brett was lying. From the Amazon page on Citizen K, Singer's book:
This book relates a journalist's worst nightmare: of getting deeply involved in a "big story" based on information from a single source who turns out to be a world-class liar.
That, basically is Act I. In Act II, Brett Kimberlin, following his final release from prison in 2000, becomes an online liberal activist, specializing in conspiracy theories about electronic voting. He collaborates with famous lefty bloggers like Brad Friedman, and eventually founds a 501(c)3 which garners lots of donations from folks like Barbra Streisand and Teh-RAY-Za Heinz Kerry. Time Magazine wrote a story about his unlikely rise:
In the belly of the voting-reform movement is a man who personifies this paradoxical lack of credibility in the service of a credible cause. Brett Kimberlin was convicted in 1981 of a series of bombings in Indiana. By his own account, he dealt "many, many tons" of marijuana in the 1970s. Most famously, he is the man who from his prison cell alleged that as a law student Dan Quayle bought marijuana from him. Quayle repeatedly denied the charge, and it was never substantiated. In e-mails and Web postings from Kimberlin's two organizations, Justice Through Music and Velvet Revolution, he intersperses occasionally useful pieces of information about the problems of e-voting with a hefty portion of bunk, repeatedly asserting as fact things that are not true. Kimberlin, in short, is an unlikely candidate to affect an important issue of public policy.
As it happens, Kimberlin attracted the attention of several conservative bloggers, who wrote about his notorious past and his sudden rise to prominence. What followed was a nightmare for those bloggers.
At 12:35 a.m. on July 1, 2011, sheriff’s deputies pounded on my front door and rang my doorbell. They shouted for me to open the door and come out with my hands up. When I opened the door, deputies pointed guns at me and ordered me to put my hands in the air. I had a cell phone in my hand. Fortunately, they did not mistake it for a gun.
Kimberlin put Aaron Walker’s home and work address into court documents. The inclusion of the work address contributed to Aaron’s being fired, due to the employer’s fear that a convicted bomber might appear at their workplace.
After reporting on “Speedway Bomber” Brett Kimberlin, Stacy announced to the world that Kimberlin had been in touch with his wife’s employer and that he had moved his family out of their house as a result. Quite naturally, this caught people’s attention — and that was before this article from Patterico came out today credibly alleging that Kimberlin and his allies had engaged in harassment that included having a SWAT team called to his house.
Read the links, particularly the Patterico post. Chilling stuff.
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