File photos.




After a two-year, nonstop barrage of hateful Facebook messages from Eureka citizen Cornelius Loewenstein, Councilwoman Kim Bergel is terrified.

“He called me a cunt! He called me a fucking bitch! He called me a corrupt whore!” Bergel told Judge Kelly Neel Monday during a hearing on whether the judge will issue a restraining order. Bergel said Loewenstein has “threatened to ruin my life, threatened to ruin my career.”

But is Loewenstein simply exercising his right to free speech?

Loewenstein apparently has targeted Bergel because she supports a needle-exchange for addicts, a policy he virulently opposes. As a result, he has sent her vitriolic messages on a daily basis, sometimes four or five times a day.

Neel’s courtroom was packed Monday with supporters of both the councilwoman and her antagonizer. Among the spectators were other council members and EPD Chief Steve Watson. Loewenstein was there with his Sacramento-based attorney Arlie Capps.

Bergel called two witnesses: her former husband Eric Bergel and Councilman Austin Allison. Judge Neel did most of the questioning, and Capps cross-examined.

“It’s my feeling that Mr. Loewenstein has a vendetta against my wife,” Eric Bergel testified. “I think it probably started out political and became personal.”     

He said he’s seen “countless” Facebook messages to his former wife and also watched live stream videos Loewenstein posts on Facebook. Asked if Loewenstein made threats, Eric Bergel said Loewenstein threatened that “Kim would get hers one way or another and he would get to me later.”

What finally prompted Kim Bergel to file for a restraining order was a comment about their daughter, who had recently been injured. At the end of a typical angry rant, Loewenstein added “By the way, I hope your daughter is recovering well.’’

“It was totally out of context with anything he was talking about,” Eric Bergel said. “The subtext was ’She’s vulnerable.’ ”

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Capps, Eric Bergel acknowledged Loewenstein has never made threats of violence or threatened to come to his home.

At the beginning of the hearing, Judge Neel advised that restraining orders are meant to prevent “future harm” and are only granted if the petitioner has suffered violence, the specific threat of violence or has been subjected to speech that is not considered free speech.

Councilman Allison testified that over the years he’s seen Kim Bergel become “more and more worn down. I believe it’s because of Mr. Loewenstein’s obsessive behavior.”

In person Loewenstein is loud and “very animated,” Allison said, adding he could understand Loewenstein being perceived as threatening. Loewenstein attends nearly every council meeting, pointing his finger at Bergel and making rude comments “to the point where it’s obsessive.”

Capps told the judge all Loewenstein’s comments have been political, not personal. He pointed out that Bergel had even told The Outpost she understands she is a public figure and expects vitriol.

“Everything (Loewenstein) posted related to drug-related activities,” Capp said. …”These are political statements, not personal statements. When he says her career will be destroyed, he means her political career.”

Because testimony could not be completed Monday, the hearing will resume Thursday afternoon.

Bergel, sounding frantic, asked the judge if she could have some protection in the meantime.

Neel responded by telling Capps he should speak to his client.

“It would not be in Mr. Loewenstein’s best interests to provide more evidence for Ms. Bergel,” she said.