[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refusal to answer federal grand jury questioning on his unpublished work.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It was the second subpoena issued by the FBI demanding unpublished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
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judicial order to surrender unpublished material.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.
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