SF Bay Area Indymedia indymedia
About Contact Subscribe Calendar Publish Print Donate

San Francisco | Police State and Prisons

Video journalist seeks to block federal grand jury subpoena
by Resist Grand Juries
Friday Mar 31st, 2006 9:56 AM
A freelance journalist asked a federal magistrate in San Francisco today to block a grand jury subpoena for his videotapes and notes on a clash between protesters and police last year.
March 31, 2006
Bay City News

Video journalist seeks to block federal grand jury subpoena
By Julia Cheever

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A freelance journalist asked a federal magistrate in San Francisco today to block a grand jury subpoena for his videotapes and notes on a clash between protesters and police last year.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James, after holding a hearing, said she will issue a written ruling later on the request by Josh Wolf for quashing of a federal grand jury subpoena.

The protest in the Mission District of San Francisco on July 8, 2005, concerned the Group of Eight summit meeting then being held in Scotland.

A police officer, Peter Shields, was injured when he was hit on the back of the head during the clash. Charges against three people are pending in San Francisco Superior Court in connection with the incident.

The subpoena served by the FBI requires Wolf to provide "all documents, writings and recordings related to protest activities conducted in San Francisco" between 6:30 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. on July 8 as well any cameras and recording devices that he used.

Wolf contends the demand violates his constitutional First Amendment right of free expression and goes beyond federal court doctrines on when journalists can be required to testify in a criminal investigation.

Dan Siegel, a lawyer for Wolf, argued before James that the FBI was on an illegal "fishing expedition" aimed at aiding the separate local investigation by San Francisco police and prosecutors.

Federal prosecutors have argued in court papers that federal investigators are entitled to look into a possible federal crime of attempting to damage Shields' patrol car with
fire or explosives, because the San Francisco Police Department receives some funding
from the federal government.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Finigan told James, "There is potential for a federal crime here and that's all that needs to be shown."

Siegel contended that any federal connection was "a thin thread" and said a smoke bomb and firecrackers used in the protest were not intended to set the patrol car on fire.

Outside of court, Wolf, 23, of San Francisco, said he believes that if the subpoena is allowed to stand, "that means that any journalist who covers anything related to a crime is essentially working as an investigator for the state."