NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · NINTH CIRCUIT
Video blogger Josh Wolf, who spent more time behind bars for contempt of court than any other American journalist, was released Tuesday after 226 days in prison.
At a mediation session Monday, prosecutors finally agreed to disclose the questions that they wanted to ask Wolf on the stand, according to Wolf’s attorney, David Greene.
“Every other time we asked, [prosecutors] always say they wanted to put him on the stand in front of the grand jury,” Greene said. “This time, they told us what they wanted to ask and we were able to convince them that Josh couldn’t answer. We were finally given assurances that he would not be called to testify under the current subpoena.”
According to court filings, prosecutors wanted to know whether Wolf witnessed or had any knowledge of two separate incidents – the injury of a police officer and damage to a police car – that occurred at a 2005 rally that he videotaped.
In a sworn statement issued on Tuesday, Wolf, said that his response to both questions was no.
Additionally, investigators wanted all of Wolf’s video footage from the rally, including the outtakes. Wolf, a 24-year-old self-proclaimed anarchist, posted all of the footage of the rally on his blog Tuesday and wrote that during his “saga,” he “repeatedly offered to allow a judge to be the arbiter over whether or not my video material has any evidentiary value. Today, you the public have the opportunity to be the judge and I am confident you will see, as I do, that there is nothing of value in this unpublished footage.”
After he was released, Wolf said in a prepared statement that the agreement “not only leaves my ethics intact but actively serves the role of a free press in our so-called free society.”
Wolf sold some of his footage to local television stations and posted an edited version of the footage on his blog.
Wolf first went to prison on Aug. 1 for contempt, but was released on bail in Aug. 31 pending an appeal. A panel of appeals court judges 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.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Wolf.
Attorneys for Wolf filed a new motion for his release in late January and argued that he should no longer be held in prison since “further incarceration will not compel him to comply with the subpoena.” The court disagreed and refused to grant the motion Jan. 30.
Wolf’s release from custody Wednesday was “without prejudice,” which means that the government could theoretically issue a new subpoena. However, Greene said that this is very unlikely. Greene also said that it is improbable Wolf will be held in criminal contempt, which carries separate penalties, although it is possible.
(In re Grand Jury Subpoena; Media Counsel: Martin Garbus, Davis & Gilbert, New York)