Republican Enemy #1
The tables had turned. Nadia Naffe had been O’Keefe’s closest ally. But now she held in her hands what might be the key to his undoing: several thousand emails that chronicled O’Keefe’s dirty laundry in intimate detail.
During the NYU operation, O’Keefe had used Naffe’s Android phone — and now Naffe had access to O’Keefe’s Gmail account. By going through his emails, she discovered a draft settlement suggesting that Izzy Santa — the estranged O’Keefe crony who blew the Boudreau boat sting — received $20,000 after leaving Project Veritas. Santa had accused O’Keefe of: bringing her “to an adult bookstore to purchase female sexual aids”; forcing her “to allow Mr. O’Keefe to bathe at her apartment”; and exposing her to “numerous incidents of sexually provocative and potentially misogynistic comments.”
The trove of correspondence gave Naffe the evidence to back up what she already knew about Project Veritas, documenting the back-and-forth between O’Keefe and the high-rolling conservative donors who’d given him his marching orders. It also contained email chains involving Breitbart-affiliated bloggers in the throes of sensitive discussions. And of course the emails had the potential to be more than merely embarrassing: there was always the possibility they could be used against O’Keefe, or his allies, in court.
The story of how the emails came to be released publicly is deeply odd, playing out online and in courts from California to New Hampshire. Naffe found herself caught in the crossfire of a vicious tussle between two hardened, litigious in-fighters whose battle — an execrable fracas in the feud between left and right — has long since become far more personal than political. The fate of O’Keefe’s emails was ultimately determined by an obscure case playing out in Maryland. The proceedings involved a convicted bomber turned lefty operative who argued that he needed O’Keefe’s emails to defend himself against a blogger who had threatened to kill him.
This part of the saga began in October of 2010, when right-wing blogger Mandy Nagy, writing under the name LibertyChick on Breitbart’s Big Journalism site, detonated what she deemed a “bombshell.” Her scoop, headlined “Progressives Embrace Convicted Terrorist,” connected the dots between one of O’Keefe’s most persistent critics — a Los Angeles writer and radio host named Brad Friedman — and Brett Kimberlin, an infamous progressive activist with a shady past.
Decades earlier, Kimberlin had been branded the “Speedway Bomber” after being convicted of planting a series of bombs in his hometown of Speedway, Indiana, in the late 1970s. The bombings maimed one victim, who later committed suicide. Kimberlin still maintains his innocence in the Speedway explosions, but concedes to a career in trafficking tons of marijuana in the ’70s. He eventually served 17 years for a dizzying array of charges, and managed to stay in the headlines throughout his incarceration. In the 1990s, from his prison cell, Kimberlin convinced a National Public Radio reporter that he’d once sold weed to vice-presidential GOP candidate Dan Quayle. (Journalist Mark Singer, who printed that allegation in the New Yorker, later realized he’d been hoodwinked, and devoted an entire book — Citizen K: The Deeply Weird American Journey of Brett Kimberlin — to unpacking Kimberlin’s charms as well as his deceptions.) Since his release, Kimberlin had mostly managed to stay out of the spotlight. But that was about to change.
Ever since the name Bill Ayers surfaced in Barack Obama’s past, right-wing bloggers had seemed intent on tying someone on the left — anyone, really — to terrorism. Kimberlin must have seemed like a character delivered straight from central casting. Nagy’s report revealed that Kimberlin is partners with Friedman in the nonprofits Velvet Revolution and the Justice Through Music Project — the latter of which has received funding from liberal bogeymen like George Soros. And she also discovered that Friedman, through Kimberlin, was linked to indictbreitbart.org, a gadfly watchdog site that had proven particularly irksome to Breitbart and his blogger buddies.
Eventually, Kimberlin would become Breitbart’s public-enemy number one. With Glenn Beck leading the way, conservatives would even dedicate an entire news cycle to a coordinated effort called “Everyone Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day.”
But in the immediate aftermath of Nagy’s report, one conservative troll stood out: John Patrick Frey, a close affiliate of Breitbart’s and a Big Journalism contributor, ran three nasty posts in one day about Kimberlin on his own site, Patterico’s Pontifications. Healso followed up with a steady stream of Twitter jabs. Kimberlin was outraged, and not just because Frey rehashed dirt from Kimberlin’s Speedway trials, including allegations in the Indianapolis Star that Kimberlin was suspected of murder and of being involved with an underage girl. What really set Kimberlin off was learning that Frey was not your average wing-nut — he’s a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney in the Hardcore Gang Division. Outside the courtroom, the Cornell-educated Frey chews glass and spits nails as a dailyblogger and as @Patterico on Twitter.
Kimberlin had learned his way around case law as a jailhouse barrister, and he knew how to counter-attack foes through the court system. He filed a complaint to the State Bar of California accusing Frey of profiting from ads on his blog for illegal offshore gambling outfits, and of violating state bar rules by publishing “hateful, bigoted, racist, and anti-Semitic” screeds. As a court memorandum would later reveal, Frey’s boss — Republican District Attorney Steve Cooley — saw no conflict of interest with deputy Frey’s double life as a polemicist and prosecutor.
If you wanted to identify the moment when the spat between Frey and Kimberlin went nuclear, you’d probably settle on July 1, 2011. That night, as the Atlantic reported, Frey was“home after midnight when someone started pounding on his front door. When he opened it, he found several police officers with guns drawn ordering him out of the house. . . . They were at the house because someone had called 911, spoofed Frey’s home phone number, impersonated him, and spoke as if he was confessing to having shot and killed his wife. Police arrived on scene poised to confront an armed killer. Frey was cuffed in front of his neighbors. His wife was awoken, taken outside, and frisked. His children were awoken by police going into their bedrooms to make sure that they were okay. It was a nightmare.”
Nobody was ever caught or charged for the SWATting. That didn’t prevent Frey from blaming Kimberlin and other rivals. His anger only grew as he came to believe that onlookers saw him as having brought the attack on himself. Six months after the incident, in an email that defies both tact and logic, he wrote to Nagy and others, confiding: “I felt a little like a rape victim.”
In August 2011, Kimberlin had expanded his counter-attack by filing suit for defamation against an obscure blogger from Massachusetts named Seth Allen, who claimed to have fed the Speedway “bombshell” to Nagy a year earlier. Kimberlin also sought a protective order and an injunction against Allen, who he alleged was stalking him. Kimberlin’s concern was bolstered when, on August 23, in an email to Breitbart, Nagy, and Frey, Allen suggested that he “murder” Kimberlin. “Maybe that will finally get me some justice,” wrote Allen. “This life sucks anyway.” Nagy contacted the police. Weeks later, at a hearing for Kimberlin’s defamation case against him, Allen was arrested at the Montgomery County courthouse in Maryland. Ultimately authorities did not charge Allen. But on November 16, Kimberlin was granted an injunction to prevent Allen from further smearing. Allen ignored the injunction, and on November 21 — the same day that Naffe officially accused O’Keefe of criminal harassment in New Jersey — Kimberlin filed a motion against Allen for contempt.
NEXT: Breitbart fires off his final tweet - at Naffe . . .