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U.S. | Government & Elections

Josh Wolf Freed, Questions About US Attorney Remain
by David Roknich ( roknich (at) electromagnet.us )
Tuesday Apr 3rd, 2007 7:14 PM
Today Josh Wolf was freed from prison after releasing the video that was demanded by a grand jury investigating the aftermath of a protest on July 8th, 2005. The US attorney who eventually gave Josh his leave is distinguished only by his crusade against civil rights under the Bush administration - and his recent appointment in California may be nothing more than a political quid pro quo.
According to Indybay:
Lawyer's for imprisoned vBlogger, Josh Wolf, and the federal prosecutor filed separate motions to release Wolf from coercive custody before U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero, on Monday, fueling speculation that the 24 year old journalist will be freed as soon as today. Though Wolf's representatives are still under a gag order imposed by the magistrate at at the beginning of mediation last month, another clear indication of progress came when Wolf released his unedited video on his blog site this morning.

The unedited video was the target of the federal grand jury subpoena that caused him to be held at the federal holding facility, in Dublin CA, now at 226 days, a record amount of time for any coercive action against a journalist in the United States history.

Josh has uploaded the unedited video to his blog:

http://www.joshwolf.net/blog/?p=324

The original is almost 100 mb. Inybay offers a slightly compressed version at 38 megs as an mp4:

http://indybay.org/newsitems/2007/04/03/18388442.php

The point of today's release is that the video contains nothing that could have justified his coercive incarceration for a record 226 days. A press conference and rally will be held in a few hours on the steps of City Hall in San Fransisco at 5:00 PM, PST for the "culmination of the spectacle"...

Josh spoke to reporters earlier today at the prison gate as he was released:

"Journalists absolutely have to remain independent of law enforcement. Otherwise, people will never trust journalists.''

"A journalist's mission is to provide the truth to the public,'' he said. "I came out to the protest to document it and to provide the truth to the public.''
Comments at Indybay, where his saga began, question whether the case should have ever made it to the federal level at all:
"The only reason he was brought before a federal grand jury was because they tenuously claimed that a police car driven by the officer into the crowd before the officer was struck on the head was 'lit on fire', and that this car was financed with federal funds. In fact, the car only had a broken taillight and nothing was ever set on fire. There was a bit of smoke due to parking on someone's foam sign - which is a substance which can't burn but can emit smoke if raised to high temperature from the car's engine.

The hitting of the officer, or destruction of city police property, is a local crime which would belong in local, non federal courts.

There is a California journalist shield law which would permit a journalist to protect his or her sources under the protection of the first amendment. There are at least 10 ways in which Josh fits the definition of a journalist.

There is no federal shield law. They needed to claim an arson attack on the car to keep this in federal court.

Given the fact that the US Attorney in question is one of the political appointees of George W. Bush from whom aggressive action was expected as an unspoken condition of employment, questions remain whether the entire investigation was brought to federal court merely as a means to harrass and intimidate opponents of Bush's unpopular was in Iraq.

Although anti-war protesters are the usual target of government oppression, statistics indicate the Bush administration has carved from this a broad policy, that is currently under investigation in both houses of congress. At his blog, "1 Boring Old Man" summed up the recent studies by Shields and Cragan so they can be easily comprehended:

Officials Investigated by the Justice Department
2001 thru 2006
Dem. Rep. Ind. Total Dem/Rep [p]

All Public Officials 298 67 10 375 4.4 <0.01
Local Public Officials Only 262 37 10 309 7.1 <0.01
State and Federal Officials 36 30 0 66 1.2 >0.05

The Tables in the article get confusing because the authors get a bit obtuse discussing the null cell issue in a Chi-squared table. But it doesn’t take a Math Degree to see the point. The Justice Department is prosecuting [persecuting] the hell out of Democrats at the local level, while maintaining parity at the State and National level. Sullivan’s conclusion? The Republicans are using the U.S. Attorneys to attack Democrats, but confining it to local officials where it’s "off the radar." Sullivan sees this as Karl Rove’s M.O. - dirty tricks that don’t show.

And this is not the first time that hack attorney wanna-be Scott N. Schools has sought to make himself a hero at the expense of the First Ammendment: it was he who pursued the federal prosecution of Brett Bursey in South Carolina where charges of trespassing were dismissed in local court because Bursey, who was holding a protest sign during a Bush visit, was standing on a public lawn. That story was the original inspiration for Burn the Bill of Rights, and the Bonfire of the Vanities began with DOGSPOT#4.

Could it be that his current job in California is nothing more than a quid pro quo from the Whitehouse in exchange for his continuing attack on civil liberties? I smell something burning.

The man who Scott M. Schools replaced is one of the 8 US Attorneys whose dismissals are currently under investigation, and his has been described as the "most unusual of the bunch" in publications coast to coast, including the Fresno Bee:

Even as he was being fired, former Northern California U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan assured his Justice Department bosses he was a "company man" who wouldn't go public with complaints about his very public sacking.

Described as a loyal Republican and staunch supporter of President Bush, Ryan has kept that vow of silence despite the mounting furor over his dismissal and that of seven other U.S. attorneys. Other prosecutors have protested the firings were politically motivated, and a Congressional inquiry into the housecleaning has touched off a high-profile Constitutional showdown between Democrats and the White House.

Legal experts say Ryan's firing might have been the most unusual of the bunch.

Ryan wasn't particularly well-known outside Northern California, but his cases were: He spearheaded a sweeping probe of steroid use in professional sports, as well as an ongoing investigation into stock-options abuses at some of Silicon Valley's biggest companies.

His office is also investigating the Hewlett-Packard Co. boardroom spying scandal, securing a guilty plea from an investigator in that case who has agreed to testify for the prosecution.

from:
http://www.fresnobee.com/384/story/37105.html

Unlike Ryan, Schools is a hack with an utterly undistinguished record, whose most notable accomplishment was the escalation of a trespassing violation to the federal level - where the cost is higher for everyone, and the buck eventually stops at the check-writing hand of the US taxpayer.

David Roknich
Editor,

DOGSPOT