NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · NINTH CIRCUIT · Confidentiality/Privilege · Jan. 25, 2007
Attorneys for jailed blogger file motion for his release
Jan. 25, 2007 · Attorneys for Josh Wolf, the California video blogger and self-proclaimed anarchist who has spent more than 150 days in federal prison for contempt of court, have filed a new motion for his release at the trial court level.
The motion asserts that Wolf, who was held in contempt of court last year for refusing to respond to federal grand jury subpoena, should no longer be held in prison since “further incarceration will not compel him to comply with the subpoena.”
Wolf was first jailed for contempt of court Aug. 1 after refusing to testify and declining to turn over a videotape federal officials think might contain footage of crimes committed at a July 2005 anarchist rally. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Wolf.
Wolf’s lawyers appealed the order of contempt and he was granted bail Aug. 31 pending a decision by a panel of appeals court judges. The panel affirmed the contempt order Sept. 8, and Wolf returned to prison later that month. A motion for a hearing in front of the full appeals court was denied.
If Wolf remains behind bars until Feb. 6, he will have spent more time in prison for contempt of court than Vanessa Leggett, the author/journalist who currently holds the dubious record of being the longest-jailed journalist for contempt of court in recent years.
“Despite his tenure in jail, his resolve is stronger than ever,” his attorneys wrote in this most recent motion. “Wolf continues to believe, just as he did six months ago, and indeed a year and a half ago, that journalists should not serve as investigative tools for criminal investigations.”
Since Wolf has refused to testify after more than five months in prison, his attorneys argue, it is clear that further confinement will not convince him to do otherwise.
In the filing, the attorneys also emphasize that all since all underlying criminal charges relating to the rally in question have been dismissed, “the need for Wolf’s testimony has diminished.”
According to James Wheaton, one of Wolf’s attorneys and senior counsel at the First Amendment Project, U.S. District Judge William Alsup could choose to release Wolf based only on these filings. However, Wolf’s attorneys have requested an evidentiary hearing and an oral argument on the issues as well.
Although it is unclear when any hearing might take place, Wheaton said that Alsup has “issued an order requesting any response to our motions be filed by the government by Monday,” he said. “We take this as a sign that judge is viewing this seriously.”
(In re Grand Jury Subpoena; Media Counsel: Martin Garbus, Davis & Gilbert, New York; Amicus Counsel: Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Los Angeles) — ES