[Ppnews] San Francisco reporter asserts right to remain silent before federal grand jury

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jun 16 18:55:20 EDT 2006

San Francisco reporter asserts right to remain silent before federal grand jury


<mailto:SanFranciscoSentinel at yahoo.com>By Pat Murphy
June 16, 2006

A San Francisco journalist avoided jail time yesterday despite 
refusal to answer federal grand jury questioning on his unpublished work.

Hours earlier U.S. District Judge William ordered freelance video 
journalist Josh Wolf to answer prosecutor questions based on an FBI subpoena.

Prosecutors told Wolf he was free to go after Wolf maintained his 
right to remain silent and to discuss posed questions with legal 
counsel, according to his attorney.

It was the second subpoena issued by the FBI demanding unpublished 
footage of a January 8, 2005, anarchist demonstration be surrendered 
to investigators.

A San Francisco police officer was hit over the head by a 
demonstrator at the protest, Wolf's attorney concedes. Portions of 
video were televised locally.

Attorney Ben Rosenfield described the incident as "deplorable" but 
charged federal authorities with ongoing efforts to override reporter 
shield acts provided by 33 states. Rosenfield is the lead attorney of 
legal defense provided by the National Lawyers Guild (NLG).

In California, reporters shielded by statute and constitution from 
judicial order to surrender unpublished material.

"So it is a sad day when the federal government can render these 
state protections irrelevant and when local police and prosecutors 
cooperate or are at least complicit," added Carlos Villarreal, 
director of the NLG San Francisco.

Villarreal described federal intervention as an attack on free speech.

"So this is an all out assault on free speech - the freedom to gather 
information and disseminate that information to the public and the 
freedom to organize politically.

"The public benefits tremendously from a free press and the media 
serves a critical purpose in our democracy.

"Journalists must not feel that the government is over their shoulder 
when they do their work and their subjects, whether whistleblowers or 
political activists taking on an unpopular stand, should not feel the 
media is just an arm of government.

"That is why we have a shield law for journalists in California - to 
protect the public and preserve the benefits of a free press.

Journalist not forced to give up video
- <mailto:begelko at sfchronicle.com>Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, June 16, 2006

A freelance journalist who faced a possible jail sentence for 
refusing to surrender video footage of a July 2005 clash between San 
Francisco police and anarchist demonstrators was abruptly released 
from a subpoena by federal prosecutors Thursday, his lawyer said.

Josh Wolf, 24, was ordered by U.S. District Judge William Alsup in a 
closed-door hearing earlier in the day to turn over the video and 
answer questions before a federal grand jury investigating the 
alleged vandalism of a police car, said attorney Ben Rosenfeld. 
Rosenfeld said Wolf was then questioned before the grand jury, and he 
insisted that he had a constitutional right to remain silent and to 
discuss the questions with his lawyers, and finally was told by a 
prosecutor, without explanation, that he was free to go.

There was no comment from the U.S. attorney's office.

A band of anarchists fought with police during a protest last year in 
the Mission District against an international economic summit in 
Scotland. One officer was hit in the head and suffered a fractured 
skull. Part of Wolf's video of the demonstration was shown on local 
television. He said federal prosecutors want the rest of the footage, 
which he has refused to give up.

Rosenfeld said federal prosecutors have contended that the damaging 
of a police car during the protest could be a federal crime because 
the Police Department receives federal funds. Federal law, unlike 
California law, contains no protections for reporters who refuse to 
reveal confidential sources or unpublished material.

Page B - 2

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