The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press applauds the long-overdue release of journalist Josh Wolf from government confinement. Wolf’s lawyers report that a judge has signed the release order and he is expected to be free later today.
Wolf, who refused to comply with a grand jury subpoena for his testimony and video outtakes, spent 226 days in a federal prison in California for civil contempt of court. The 24-year-old video blogger spent more time behind bars for contempt than any other American journalist in recent history.
Federal officials wanted Wolf to testify and to turn over a videotape they alleged might contain footage of crimes committed at a July 2005 anarchist rally.
Following a second mediation attempt Monday, Wolf published the footage in full on his Web site and said in a sworn statement that he did not have any information regarding the crimes that were being investigated by the grand jury.
Prosecutors then filed a motion Tuesday requesting Wolf’s release, although they requested that he be dismissed from custody “without prejudice,” which means that Wolf could theoretically be served with another subpoena.
David Greene, one of Wolf’s attorneys, said that another subpoena is unlikely. Greene also said that there was little possibility of Wolf being charged with criminal contempt.
Wolf was first jailed on Aug. 1 when he refused to comply with the subpoena but was granted bail Aug. 31 pending a decision by a panel of appeals court judges. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a friend-of-the-court brief and prepared an affidavit on behalf of Wolf.
The panel affirmed the contempt order Sept. 8, and Wolf returned to prison later that month. The full appeals court declined to hear the case, and a new motion for Wolf’s release was denied by the trial court in January.