activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: grand jury resistance

year-end wrap-up: updates on 2013 posts

Natan Blanc: After petitions and demonstrations, Natan Blanc was released in June, after spending six months in jail for refusing to be inducted into the Israel Defense Forces.

Food Not Bombs: Although state health officials in New Mexico threatened in June to seek a court order to stop Food Not Bombs from serving free meals without a permit, Keith McHenry reports that “the state never returned and the meals continue without incident.”

Uriel Alberto: After beginning a hunger strike in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Charlotte on July 4, to protest his deportation, Uriel Alberto was approved within two weeks for a one-year stay of removal.

California Prisoner Hunger Strike: Following legislators’ announcement that they would hold joint public hearings on the conditions in California prisons that led to another prisoner hunger strike in July, hunger strikers suspended the strike in September, 60 days after it began.

Washington Ballot Initiative: The GE labeling initiative in Washington, which would have required retail food products and seed stocks that had been genetically engineered to be labeled, was defeated by a small margin in November. Corporations spent $22 million, more than in any prior campaign in the state’s history, to defeat the initiative. Monsanto was the largest single contributor. According to a Grist blog post by Nathanael Johnson, the money made a difference, just like it did in a similar attempt to pass a labeling bill in California last year:

In each case the labeling bills started out with big leads. In each case those leads shrank as the food industry and agribusiness paid for massive amounts of advertising. The moral of the story seems to be that money really can change the outcome of elections.

Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff: On November 6, Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff had their second pretrial conference. Lang accepted a plea deal and was released. Olliff attempted to accept a plea deal, but the judge rejected it; so he remains in Woodford County Jail. He was in court again today in front of a different judge.

Jeremy Hammond: On November 15, anarchist hacker Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. In response to the sentence, WikiLeaks released all of the remaining Stratfor files.

Reverend Billy and Nehemiah Luckett: At a court hearing on December 9, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office reduced the charges against Reverend Billy and Nehemiah Luckett, dropping the more serious charges and reducing the remaining offenses to misdemeanor criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, and unlawful assembly.

Kimberly Rivera: On December 12, Iraq war resister Kimberly Rivera was released early for good behavior and performing extra work. She had been scheduled for release in early January 2014.

Jerry Koch: On December 20, attorneys for Jerry Koch filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge John Keenan to release the 24-year-old philosophy student, because Koch has shown he has no intention of cooperating with the grand jury to which he’s been subpoenaed.

Pussy Riot: On December 23, the two women from Pussy Riot nearing the end of their two-year prison terms were released under a new amnesty law. The law was also expected to bring about the release of many people arrested after an anti-government demonstration in May, and close the cases of the 28 Greenpeace activists and 2 journalists arrested in the Arctic Sea in September while occupying an oil rig to call attention to the threat of oil drilling and climate change. According to a December 19 New York Times editorial,

In pardoning these prisoners, Mr. Putin gave no indication that they may have been wrongfully tried and imprisoned, nor that more people will not be treated similarly in the future.

federal appeals court upholds contempt judgment against brooklyn anarchist jerry koch

Jerry Koch was jailed in May for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury. The grand jury is apparently investigating the explosion of a homemade bomb at an armed-forces recruitment center in the middle of the night in Times Square in 2008, which caused no injuries. Koch is not a suspect, but he was subpoenaed as a witness and granted immunity, meaning he can be jailed for refusing to testify. According to an April 28 New York Times article about the case,

Defense lawyers are not present during grand jury proceedings, which operate secretly and are controlled by prosecutors. After hearing testimony, jurors are asked to determine whether there is enough evidence to return an indictment. Witnesses who are held in contempt after refusing to testify may be jailed until the completion of a grand jury term, often months.

Yesterday a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the contempt judgment against Koch. The panel wrote that the grand jury was investigating a serious crime and the government “has made a convincing showing of its need to ask the questions at issue.” Although the government convinced the appeals court that it has credible evidence that Koch may have information about the crime, Koch has said he does not remember the conversation he allegedly heard in which someone mentioned knowing who was involved in the incident.


government may seek order from court to hold jerry koch in civil contempt

Yesterday Brooklyn anarchist Jerry Koch refused for the second time to testify before a federal grand jury. The grand jury is apparently investigating the explosion of a homemade bomb at an armed-forces recruitment center in the middle of the night in Times Square in 2008, which caused no injuries. According to an April 28 New York Times article,

Surveillance video showed a bicyclist dismounting, approaching the recruitment center, then riding away before the explosion. Police officials said the device used was similar to ones that exploded outside the British Consulate on East 42nd Street in 2005, and outside the Mexican Consulate on East 37th Street in 2007. No one was hurt in those blasts either.

(The bombing of the Mexican Consulate occurred on the anniversary of anarchist-journalist Brad Will’s murder by a Mexican police officer on October 27, 2006.)

Koch is not a suspect, but he has been subpoenaed as a witness and granted immunity, meaning he could be cited for contempt during an appearance next week and held for months for refusing to testify. In 2009, Koch was called before a previous grand jury examining the bombing and did not testify. At that time, the government believed Koch was in a bar in 2008 or 2009 and heard someone mention knowing who was involved in the incident; but Koch has said he does not remember such a conversation.

eugene conference includes panels on grand juries and the tar sands blockade

The Public Interest Environmental Law Conference begins on Thursday in Eugene, Oregon. This year’s conference will include panels on the Tar Sands Blockade and what lawyers and activists should know about grand juries. Both panels are timely in light of recent events in Texas, California, and the Northwest.

In Texas, the Tar Sands Blockade recently settled a lawsuit TransCanada filed against activists by agreeing not to trespass or cause damage to Keystone XL property in either Texas or Oklahoma. According to a Tar Sands Blockade statement dated January 28, 2013,

In order to protect the livelihoods and dependents of brave activists like Tammie Carson, who locked herself to a truck carrying Keystone XL pipe, the activists agreed to settle the lawsuit. The corporation will not seek the $5 million in financial damages, and the named defendants and organizations agree to not trespass on Keystone XL property in Texas and Oklahoma or else face additional charges.

The direct action campaign against the pipeline has continued despite this setback.

In California and the Northwest, activists have been subpoenaed to testify before grand juries. The grand jury in California is investigating animal rights activists. In the Northwest, the grand jury was apparently convened to investigate anarchist organizing, and three people are incarcerated for refusing to cooperate. According to today’s CrimethInc. post,

a large number of people have been subpoenaed to a Washington State grand jury intended to map anarchist activity and relationships. Six of these subpoenas have been served; several more subpoenas are known to exist, but have not been successfully served. The government has very little to show for this effort, as all but one of the subpoenaed have refused to cooperate in any way and the entire operation is proving to be a media debacle.

Let’s hope the people attending next week’s panels in Eugene return to their communities better equipped to support these struggles.

guilt by association: legal trouble for relatives of phoenix and minneapolis activists

Yesterday agents arrested the mother and adult brother of immigrant rights activist Erika Andiola in Phoenix. They were suspected of being in the U.S. illegally, but Andiola and other activists reasonably questioned whether her relatives were in fact arrested due to her high-profile activism. This morning, after countless people called federal officials, signed petitions, and issued statements, the government released them. Andiola posted on Facebook that her mother was on the way to Mexico when the driver received a call and turned around:

They told her that the reason why she was returning was because her daughter was mobilizing the whole country to get her to come back.

Also today, the father of a Minneapolis organizer and writer pled guilty to obstructing a federal officer, a charge brought against him for bumping shoulders with a prosecutor two years ago. His son, Scott DeMuth, had joined activist Carrie Feldman in resisting a grand jury, was jailed for contempt of court in November 2009, was indicted on conspiracy charges under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (related to a 2004 Animal Liberation Front raid at the University of Iowa), and had been released pending trial despite a government motion labeling him a terrorist:

Defendant’s writings, literature, and conduct suggest that he is an anarchist and associated with the ALF movement. Therefore, he is a domestic terrorist.

Scott DeMuth ultimately pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge, unrelated to the University of Iowa raid, and U.S. District Judge John Jarvey sentenced him to six months of incarceration. Judge Jarvey surprised DeMuth’s attorney and family, however, by ordering that he be taken into custody immediately, consistent with prosecutor Cliff Cronk’s recommendation. When DeMuth’s father subsequently bumped into the prosecutor as they left the courtroom, this resulted in the obstruction charge, which was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor as part of today’s plea.