Donors To The Damned

A few years back, I got a call from a client who was deeply afraid. He donated money to the defense of a pretty awful guy who was, the client believed, being silenced. The client was a believer in free speech, not the miscreant’s underlying cause or beliefs, and thought that he should support free speech for the worst in order to protect free speech for the rest of us. It was an ACLU kinda thing, back when they defended the Skokie Nazis and backed constitutional rights.

But he later feared that the names of donors would come out and people would mistakenly believe he was a supporter of the guy rather than a supporter of free speech. He wasn’t but, given the climate, would anybody care or believe him? His fear was justified, but what were the chances the names would go public? Today, the chances seem pretty damn good.

Somebody hacked the identities of contributors to Kyle Rittenhouse, and the Guardian published names. Was this newsworthy? It was if one’s idea of news is identifying people who supported someone they’re suppose to hate.

A data breach at a Christian crowdfunding website has revealed that serving police officers and public officials have donated money to fundraisers for accused vigilante murderers, far-right activists, and fellow officers accused of shooting black Americans.

It’s arguable that the donations of some people in positions of public trust would be information that the public should know. But the list included a guy named Craig Shepherd. Who, you ask? You know, that household name, Craig Shepherd, the paramedic from Utah.

The Guardian first reports that Friday morning, Craig Shepherd, a Utah paramedic, donated to a defense fund for Kyle Rittenhouse.

The Guardian reports “This donor gave $10 to Rittenhouse on 30 August.”

That was five days after police say Rittenhouse shot the two protesters.

Did Rittenhouse shoot in self defense? Was he a defender against rioters trying to burn down Kenosha? More to the point, was the donation of $10 to his defense a big story? Apparently so.

ABC4 News Investigator Jason Nguyen knocking on Craig Shepherd’s door.

The story was so big that ABC4 sent out its investigator to Shepherd’s house to get a statement. It was so big that they needed to let his employer know, sought comment and questioned whether he would be terminated from his job, a paramedic, for this donation.

We can confirm that Craig Shepherd is an employee of the West Valley City Fire Department. We have become aware of a donation made using his government email account. We are conducting an investigation into this matter, however, such a donation would be representative of personal actions and not those of West Valley City.

It was so big that the ABC4 report included this critical piece of news.

Shepherd will not be placed on administrative leave during this investigation. It’s not clear how long that will take.

What did ABC4 expect would be done with Shepherd? Probably the same thing that happened to Norfolk, Virginia, Police Lt. William Kelly.

A police lieutenant in Virginia lost his job this week after he contributed $25 to a legal-defense fund and expressed praise for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with killing two people last year during protests in Kenosha, Wis., officials said.

The lieutenant, William Kelly, a member of the Norfolk Police Department for nearly 19 years, was relieved of his duties on Tuesday by city officials, who said his conduct had violated the department’s policies and undermined the public’s faith in law enforcement.

It’s unclear what departmental policy this donation would have violated, just as it’s unclear how any departmental policy about an officer’s personal donations could survive First Amendment scrutiny. It’s a shame the New York Times brings it up without providing any information to support it, blaming it on the department for not elaborating. But did Kelly’s donation undermine public faith in him as a cop?

“God bless,” the message said. “Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong. Every rank and file police officer supports you. Don’t be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership.”

Whether or not he’s right, he’s entitled to his views, and it’s likely his views are shared by many in law enforcement.

“His egregious comments erode the trust between the Norfolk Police Department and those they are sworn to serve,” Mr. Filer said. “The City of Norfolk has a standard of behavior for all employees, and we will hold staff accountable.”

There are a few curious aspects to this, the first being that the information about Kelly wasn’t discovered because of Kelly putting it out publicly to let the community know his views, but was hacked and reported by the media. To the extent any community relations were harmed by his comments, it was caused by the media disclosing them.

But what is this “standard of behavior” of which they speak? To only hold approved political views? To only contribute to the “right” causes? To think only correct thoughts?

Kelly is a cop, a lieutenant, a 19-year veteran, and that carries baggage. He has the authority to exercise extreme discretion, from whom to arrest to the use of his service weapon to take a life. He holds a position of public trust, and the community is entitled to have faith in his exercise of that trust fairly. But his chief made no mention of any issue with Kelly’s performance of his duties, instead blaming Kelly for not sharing the department’s “values.”

Larry D. Boone, the city’s police chief, said in a statement on Tuesday that Lieutenant Kelly’s actions were not consistent with the department’s values.

“A police department cannot do its job when the public loses trust with those whose duty is to serve and protect them,” Chief Boone said. “We do not want perceptions of any individual officer to undermine the relations between the Norfolk Police Department and the community.”

Was the hack of the identities of donors to Rittenhouse designed to shame and punish people who contribute to “bad” people, to cut off the ability to fund the defense through crowdsourcing and to push governmental agencies to fire employees who might cause some citizens to protest or worse if they don’t terminate employees for their unwoke views? While Kelly made his personal views known by his comments, was Shepherd’s $10 really significant enough for an investigative journalist to knock on his door and ask his employer what punishment it imposed?

14 thoughts on “Donors To The Damned

  1. Chris Hundt

    > But what is this “standard of behavior” of which they speak? To only hold approved political views? To only contribute to the “right” causes? To think only correct thoughts?

    Presumably the hook is that he used his norfolk.gov email address, allowing the city to claim that his donation had the appearance of an official act and was therefore improper. Doesn’t sound like a strong argument to me, but I can’t imagine what else it could be.

    I wonder what will happen when he appeals.

  2. Paleo

    Chief Boone apparently gives zero shits about the civil rights of his employees. The same can be said for Mr Filer, the city manager.

    How are the people of Norfolk have any trust that the two of them will have any regard for the citizens of Norfolk? Does Boone believe that the community can be confident in the department with a person in charge who is hostile to civil rights?

    Or does that logic only apply to his subordinates? If I were a resident there, the actions of the city and police department would cause me a lot more concern than those of Kelly.

    1. Scott Jacobs

      Chief Boone apparently gives zero shits about the civil rights of his employees.

      For once the cops are being treated like normal citizens…

  3. Kurt

    This should be a clue for the ignorant: Don’t conduct personal business using your employer’s facilities.

    What happened here was stupid and wrong, but it wouldn’t have happened if he had followed this rule.

    It’s why I carry two phones, among other precautions I take.

  4. B. McLeod

    No doubt they also fire all of the employees that donate to BLM to fu8,snd campaigns that erode the public trust in their departments.

    Really odd in the case of Rittenhouse that the mob is going after donors to his defense. If all these folks are so certain his self-defense claims are no good, why do they want to shut down funding for his defense? It is reminiscent of all the cases where the feds used forfeitures and asset freezes to make sure their targets could not pay to retain counsel. it seems to be motivated by the same sort of concern that if Rittenhouse is allowed an actual fair trial. The “right verdict” might not result.

    1. Rengit

      It’s mostly just rage, rather than any type of strategic attempt to deprive Kyle of decent representation. Remember when Prop 8 opponents got ahold of the pro-Prop 8 donor list after Prop 8 passed, then went through it calling the places of employment of small dollar donors and demanding they be fired, because keeping them on would mean that their restaurant or place of business was hostile to LGBT individuals? It didn’t undo the passage of Prop 8, but it felt good for people enraged by Prop 8.

      Plenty of the people combing through donors to Kyle’s defense fund really believe that he shot peaceful racial justice protestors without any provocation, no different than the Klan bombing a black church, so they’re just angry people looking to take it out on any target they can kinda-sorta justify deserves it.

  5. Hunting Guy

    Epictetus.

    “Keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your own concern, and be clear that what belongs to others is their business and none of yours.”

    Robert Heinlein.

    “ Ninety percent of all human wisdom is the ability to mind your own business.”

  6. Steve White

    To answer your question – Yes, this was done to prevent Rittenhouse’ crowdsourcing legal fees. At least, that is all I can see, nothing else explains all the evidence we have.
    Going further along that line – I have to suspect the people who hacked the donor list did not depend on “the community” to pressure the officials in Norfolk. Maybe I am way off, but I do not see any hot button issues – a white person killed other white people – the other white people were attacking him – one even had a gun and seemed about to use it. And, the most important thing missing from a typical cancellation – there was no Twitter storm preceding it, at least none reported.
    So, if the Chief and City Manager did not respond to public pressure – did they personally believe in punishing the cop? Or did they respond to FEAR of public pressure? This question is important, because if we want to counter these tactics we have to understand them.

  7. Drew Conlin

    “..ABC investigative reporter Jason Nyugen”.. is this poor sap so brainwashed and indoctrinated that he seriously considers himself a reporter? Does he ( or anyone) consider this news that the larger public should know? Am I crazy to think sen McCarthy also had minions that also “ exposed” others for wrong think?
    Is irony the right word to suggest this reporter is really a comrade in spirit to McCarthyism?

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