NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · NINTH CIRCUIT · Confidentiality/Privilege · Jan. 31, 2007
Court denies video blogger’s motion for release
Jan. 31, 2007 · A federal trial court judge in California has denied video blogger Josh Wolf’s motion for release from prison.
In a one-paragraph order issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco denied the self-proclaimed anarchist’s motion for release and his motions for an evidentiary hearing, oral argument and discovery.
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.
Wolf’s attorneys filed the new motion for his release last week. They asserted 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.”
Prosecutors disagreed and said the “possibility that continued confinement might cause [Wolf] to comply with the subpoena” because Wolf showed a “willingness to at least partially comply with the subpoena” when he previously offered to compromise with investigators. According to the government, Wolf’s argument was “devoid of any supporting legal authority.”
Following Alsup’s order, James Wheaton, one of Wolf’s attorneys, said he was “disappointed that the judge didn’t take the opportunity to see that holding Josh Wolf in jail will not coerce him into cooperating with a bogus federal investigation.”
If Wolf continues to refuse to comply with the subpoena, Wheaton said that another, similar motion for Wolf’s release could be filed at some point in the future.
Wolf could remain in prison until the grand jury’s term expires in July or even until January 2008 if the term is extended. Under federal law, the maximum term of confinement for a person cited for civil contempt is 18 months.
Wheaton said that despite the judge’s order, “Josh remains as resolute today as he was on August 1 of last year when he first went to jail.”
“He continues to stand on the principle, as all journalists do, that the journalist works for the people as their eyes and ears and cannot be forced to be an investigator for law enforcement,” Wheaton said.
By Tuesday, Wolf 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.
(In re Grand Jury Subpoena; Media Counsel: Martin Garbus, Davis & Gilbert, New York) — ES