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Josh Wolf is in Jail

Page history last edited by Bernard (ben) Tremblay 17 years, 11 months ago

Josh Wolf is in jail

Richard Koman

SiliconValleyWatcher.com

 

Josh Wolf is in jail.

 

The 24-year-old freelance videographer and blogger (JoshWolf.net was not responding to repeated attempts as I write this) [working now - ed.] went to jail yesterday for refusing to turn over to a federal grand jury unpublished video of a 2005 clash between demonstrators and SF police. Prosecutors were investigating the arson of a police car, they said.

 

At first glance, the case seemed to me as "slam dunk" as the judge, US District Judge William Alsup, said it was. According to the Chronicle, he said:

"Every person, from the president of the United States down to you and me, has to give information to the grand jury if the grand jury wants it."

High-flown words and an accurate statement of law, but then one wonders, isn't the burning of a SF cop car a local matter? It is - and it's one that apparently the SF DA didn't bother to investigate. So how did Josh Wolf wind up in federal court?

 

The government's argument is that the SFPD receives federal terrorism dollars from Washington, therefore crimes against the police are crimes against the United States

 

That's a very shaky argument. It essentially says that the Justice Dept. can step in at any time and say that any crime against any local agency that receives any federal funds - and the Dept. of Homeland Security has been littering the country with antiterrorism funds (there are, for instance, over 8,000 target sites in Indiana, 40% more than in New York).

 

But since the case is in federal court, Wolf has to make the case that he qualifies as a journalist and that federal law would protect him if he is. "We're not going to have Mr. Wolf or any reporters covering protests. Confidential sources are not going to come forward. They (journalists) are going to be viewed as investigative arms of the government," his lawyer said.

 

But this is mostly nonsense. The video is of events on public streets. No confidential sources were involved. As much as Wolf might wish for a federal shield law it doesn't exist.

 

Even so, there is a big problem with the jailing of Josh Wolf. The Justice Dept. shouldn't be permitted to make local crimes federal issues. Conservatives should be screaming states' rights over this.

 

Here's Ted Rheingold's take:

"This is a very scary premise that is being used all over the country by the feds. Did the event happen on a highway, well that’s Federal Land? Did it happen in a library that gets federal funding? Under this math, where aren’t federal dollars spent? I really don’t like this abuse of jurisdiction, especailly when the definition of terrorist is very different that what the average American would say.

Josh Wolf is in prison because he has violated the law as it stands. Laws that he thinks are unjust. So much so that he’s willing to screw up his whole life just to say in the loudest voice that he can that our federal law enforcement has gotten off track. What would I do in the situation, I don’t know. But Josh has made his decision and I respect it immensely."

Wolf will surely appeal the case - indeed he asked the judge to delay his incarceration until it could be brought to the Ninth Circuit - but the judge declined.

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