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How is "Turtleboy" involved in the Karen Read trial?

What to know about the Karen Read murder trial in Massachusetts
What to know about the Karen Read murder trial in Massachusetts 20:11

BOSTON – The high-profile Karen Read trial is underway in Massachusetts as she is charged with second-degree murder in the 2022 death of her boyfriend, Boston police officer John O'Keefe. In a separate case, blogger Aidan Kearney is facing charges for his alleged conduct involving witnesses in the Read trial.

Who is "Turtleboy?"

Kearney runs the website "TB Daily News" and writes under the moniker "Turtleboy." 

For months, he has been covering and writing about Read's trial.

As part of Read's defense, her attorneys have denied that she killed O'Keefe. Instead, they allege she is the victim of an elaborate coverup by several people, including law enforcement. Prosecutors deny the allegations and argue Read is responsible for O'Keefe's death.

Kearney has publicly questioned the investigation and published articles about it. He often filmed himself confronting witnesses in public.

Aidan Kearney, aka Turtleboy, talks to reporters outside the Stoughton District Court after his arraignment on witness intimidation charges in connection with the Karen Read murder case.  Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Why was Aidan Kearney arrested?

In October 2023, Kearney was arrested and charged with witness intimidation in the Karen Read case. Kearney was arraigned in Stoughton District Court the day of his arrest.

Prosecutors read several alleged examples of witness intimidation in court, many of which appeared previously on Kearney's blog or social media channels.

Kearney was also accused of working with an Avon police department dispatcher. Prosecutors said Kearney and the dispatcher illegally accessed motor vehicle data.

A judge ordered Kearney held on $1,000 cash bail with conditions. Among the conditions, the judge ordered Kearney to stay away from all witnesses listed by prosecutors.

Several months before Kearney's arrest, Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey released a video statement condemning the "absolutely baseless" harassment of witnesses in the Read case.

"Conspiracy theories are not evidence," Morrissey said in the statement.

Kearney's response to the charges

Kearney pleaded not guilty. Kearney's attorney Timothy Bradl said the blogger "vehemently denies" the charges. Kearney argues that he is exercising his First Amendment rights to cover the Karen Read trial.

Following the arraignment, Kearney held a press conference and told reporters he will not be silenced.

"They will never shut me up, they will never, ever, ever stop me from reporting the truth about what happened to John O'Keefe," Kearney said. "Reporting the news is not harassment. Asking questions is not harassment."

New indictment against Kearney

In December, a Norfolk County grand jury indicted Kearney on 16 new charges. The charges included eight counts of witness intimidation, three counts of conspiracy to intimidate witnesses, and five counts of picketing a witness.

Special prosecutor Kenneth Mello said at the time that Kearney was allegedly continuing to violate conditions of his bail.

"It's clear that Mr. Kearney is encouraging his minions, his followers, in the context of his blogs and YouTubes, et cetera, to continue to harass witnesses," Mello said.

Mello said Kearney is "hiding behind the guise of a journalist." Bradl reiterated Kearney's stance that he is exercising his First Amendment rights.

"He's allowed to encourage them to speak out against what he sees as corruption, what he sees as mismanagement of the Read case," Bradl said.

Kearney's bail revoked

On December 26, a judge revoked Kearney's bail in the case and he was sent to jail.

According to prosecutors, Kearney went to his ex-girlfriend's home. He allegedly demanded to see the woman's phone, and is accused of shoving her during the confrontation. Kearney's attorney said that was not what happened.

"We're just shocked and disgusted that that's the ruling and we're going to do everything we can to fight it," Bradl said.

Communications with Karen Read

According to an affidavit that was unsealed in January, Kearney and Read had 189 phone calls totaling in excess of 40 hours in 2023. In addition to those phone calls, prosecutors said Read and Kearney also communicated in the Signal app and through an intermediary. 

Prosecutors allege that Read was sharing information about the case that was not yet public.

Bradl called it "an investigation without a crime." Read's attorneys did not comment on the communications when the affidavit was unsealed. 

"It appears to me that there is zero evidence that Karen Read intended or had anything to do with any witness intimidation or interference, and rather is a woman fighting for her life as a target of a murder charge," Bradl said on January 31. "She is entitled to wield inalienable rights under the first, fourth, fifth, and sixth amendments to defend herself."

Kearney released from jail

On February 23, 2024, Kearney was released from jail on personal recognizance.  

As a part of that day's court hearing, Kearney was also indicted on two new charges of harassing a witness and intercepting wire or oral communication. He pleaded not guilty to those new charges.

"It was a really hard 60 days in there. I'm not gonna lie. The longest 60 days of my life, but just knowing I had a world of supporters out here to have our back, and that I'm completely innocent. And you never forgot that, you always stood by me. I can't thank you enough," Kearney said after he was released.

Since being released, Kearney has continued to report on the Karen Read case on his website. 

Read's supporters must be at least 200 feet away from the courthouse after the judge put a "buffer zone" in place in an effort to maintain an unbiased jury.

Aidan Kearney sits in the reserved for media section of the court room during the trial of Karen Read at Norfolk County Superior Court, Friday, May 10, 2024, in Dedham, Mass. AP Photo/Charles Krupa, Pool

Ordered to leave courtroom during some testimony

Read's trial was briefly paused on Friday, May 10 for arguments regarding Kearney's presence inside the courtroom. Kearney was sitting with reporters in the courtroom during testimony for the first time that day.

After hearing from prosecutors, as well as Kearney's lawyer, Judge Beverly Cannone said she found that Kearney's presence will have a "chilling effect" on testimony by certain witnesses. As a result, Kearney will be required to leave the room during testimony by Julie Nagel, Christopher Albert, Colin Albert, Michael Proctor, Yuriy Bukhenik, Jennifer McCabe, Matthew McCabe, Brian Albert and Nicole Albert. 

His spot inside the courtroom will be saved and he can return after each witness steps down from the stand.

Kearney spoke to reporters following the decision. 

"They've used these trumped up charges to smear my name and paint me as some sort of dangerous intimidator," Kearney said. "I've never threatened anyone, I've never hurt anyone, none of those people are scared of me, none of those people are intimidated of me."  

On May 15, Cannone issued an additional ruling. She said that "upon reflection," Kearney will be allowed in the courtroom during testimony from Proctor and Bukhenik. Both are members of the Massachusetts Police department.

"The court finds that unlike civilian witnesses, the troopers will be testifying in their official capacity and the presence of Kearney in the courtroom is not likely to have a chilling effect on their testimony," Cannone wrote.

"Turtleboy" mentioned in Karen Read trial for first time

Several previous witnesses in Read's trial have referenced harassment they've received in the case.

May 22 marked the first time that Kearney was specifically referenced in trial proceedings. 

Jennifer McCabe made a Google search the morning of January 29, 2022 about how long it takes a person to die in the cold. The prosecution says it happened at Read's urging after O'Keefe's body was found. The defense said Jennifer McCabe made the search hours before he was discovered.

Defense attorney Alan Jackson asked Jennifer McCabe if she recalled what she searched for, and she said yes "because you've put it out on social media." Jackson said he did not put the information on social media.

"I'm sorry. Turtleboy did," Jennifer McCabe replied. 

Earlier in her testimony, Jennifer McCabe had referred to Kearney as "some named blogger that I think the defense is very familiar with."

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