This story has been updated
I am going to jail. On June 21, 2016 the Conn. Supreme Court overturned a NOT Guilty breach of peace misdemeanor charge I was convicted of in 2013. The charge relates to speech on a private Facebook page that was written by a group of activist I was following for an investigative story I was working on in 2010 about Wall St. parents in New Canaan, CT who were supporting illegal underage parties where teens were getting date raped and alcohol poisoning and some of the local New Canaan cops were covering it up and refusing to arrest parents.
The legal logic of the Supreme court was so absurd it’s hard to understand how they got their decision without bias and an abuse of justice. You can read one opinion written by a law professor on the court’s decision here. The bottom line is the State Supreme Court has used my breach of peace charge that relates to non-violent, non-threatening, truthful speech to create case law in Connecticut that now makes it illegal to say something vexing or alarming or even mean on a facebook/social media page. Truthful but uncomfortable speech is now criminal in CT. My attorney Steven Seegar has explained the Supreme court is doing this partly because of the lack of cyberbullying criminal laws the CT state legislature (thankfully) won’t pass.
Some state congressional reps have tried to pass laws that relate to how a victim feels when you are charged with harassment or breach of peace for speech instead of the current statute that says to be criminally guilty you have to prove the intent of the defendant to alarm or annoy a person. Can you imagine if every time a citizen blogger or journalist exposed someone for wrong doing and talked about their opinion of the person online that they could be charged criminally because the person talked about felt alarmed that others had figured out their crimes? When did we make what some consider mean speech a criminal action?
I find the legal logic of a breach of peace charge for online speech illogical in the first place. Let’s think about this…the truth can be vexing and alarming at times. Especially the truth in this case that spoke to a teenager named Meagan Brody who wrote a letter about the embarrassing consequences of binge drinking and the illegal underage drinking parties her friend Avery Underwood and her parents were allowing. Meagan’s actions expressed in her letter, which I believe she shared with her friends and was first to make public, were also witnessed by tons of teens at the party including her friend walking in on her making out drunk with a boy she had just met. Meagan had bragged in her letter about giving the boy ‘the best blow job ever’ and then went on to wonder why her friend was mad at her for taking the boy upstairs to have hook-up sex when her friend was just hoping the boy would ask her out on a date. The letter was an eye opening warning to what happens when teens binge drink and the casual sex behavior of our youth generation in wealthy Wall St. bedroom communities. It was also a piece of evidence that adults could be supporting these parties. Meagan for her part made up a story that someone took the letter from a drawer in her bedroom although when she reported the event to the police the letter was still in her drawer. She is claiming part of the letter was uploaded to a private Facebook page that you had to be invited to see and comment on and she wasn’t ever invited to view the page. Meaning no one ever tried to make direct contact with Meagan. She later testified in court, a day or two later she could see parts of the page. I can only assume this is because someone tagged her in one of the Facebook post or she is lying. I know as a fact from speaking with a PR person at Facebook the page was set up as private. The private v. public issue of the Facebook page was important to the court because of the statute of breach of peace that says you have to be making a public disturbance. She has also claimed that letter was a private diary but at trial she testified her real diary is kept on her computer. Meagan Brody turns 24 in August, was graduated from High School, and two months away from her 18th birthday at the time of the Facebook posting. She attended Boston University and it appears she is now trying to model. I never wrote anything on the Facebook page and have continued to say I am not guilty.
The court at least confirmed there was no direct evidence proven at my bench trial in front of Judge Wenzel that linked my home office to the Facebook page – a notion the New Canaan cops had come up with in their request for a warrant report . Instead the Judge used circumstantial evidence, like I admitted to having a copy of a letter that was posted on the Facebook page (which others also had) as proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I have also never been charged with stealing or invasion of privacy in this case or sued for libel by Meagan or her father Paul Brody.(You can read more about how the details of the charges came about in the link on the right of this website title State V. Buhl.)
Many have expressed shock that a first time offender (me) was given jail time for misdemeanor speech. I feel like I am living an episode of Netflix’s ‘Making of a Murder’. At some point you just give up trying to have fair and equitable justice so I am going to do the jail time. If first amendment attorneys want to offer pro bono services to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme court that would be wonderful but I will still start serving jail time on Friday July 8th.
I learned at the York Correctional Facility, where I will be incarcerated, you get to live in dormitory style setting with murderers. You also have to buy everything you might need to care for your personal hygiene yourself – yep you even have to buy your own toilet paper, toothpaste etc… and no one can send you these items. So I am asking for donations to ‘put money on the books’ for me in my jail account. You can do this by donating via Paypal with the button on the top right of the page. I need to raise a few hundred dollars which will help me pay for phone calls and to buy things for other inmates from the jail store to ‘buy protection’. Based on interviews with other women who have been in York prison there will be gangs based on race in jail. I get to somehow try to ‘gain favor’ with ‘leaders’ in jail to help make sure I don’t get beat up or raped. Yep that’s my reality…all for protecting sources and trying to stand up for activist speech about a topic of public interest.
I will be back in August reporting at the trade publication I work for www.growthcapitlist.com and here at www.teribuhl.com. I want to thank my readers in advance for their support! I am proud of my journalism ethics and I hope by now you know I will never stop working to expose the truth and help those who can not speak for themselves.
UPDATE 8.7.16 – I am FREE and back at work. I served the full 30 day sentence. Your donations were life saving. Thank You!!! I gave an exclusive interview to a freelance journalist for Vice Media right before I went to York Correctional Institution. She earned the interview because she was the first journalist who had actually looked through trial/court records to get both sides of the story and didn’t just rewrite a judge’s legal opinion. She is also a good writer – check out the story which ran July 28th here. Stay tuned for more reporting on what I saw and experienced in Connecticut’s only female jail.