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Free Josh Wolf


My vlogger-friend Josh Wolf is in jail for contempt of court. He is refusing to turn over footage from an anarchist-led political protest to the federal grand jury. Josh has offered to show the footage to the judge to prove nothing unlawful is documented, while preventing the "chilling effect" of the inevitable fed crackdown. The judge refused, and jailed him.


Washington Post: Journalist Jailed Over Protest Footage
NY Times - Blogger Jailed After Defying Court Orders
SanFran Chronicle
Jeff Jarvis for the Guardian UK raises many excellent questions. "Blogging was a helluva lot easier when all we wrote about was our cats."

August 3, 2006 at 10:09 AM in Videoblogging | Permalink


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» This Josh Wolf Thing from lolife
Chuck-o pointed out this whole Josh Wolf thing -- a 24-year old blogger who is in jail for contempt for not surrendering video of a protest he recorded. Apparently he had sold some of this video to local media but the government wants the rest of it to... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 3, 2006 4:24:51 PM


What's interesting to me about this is that it seems almost any act performed by anyone can be called an act of journalism, which can then theoretically be protected by the first ammendment.

And that's what kinda scares me about this. Not revealing your sources is one thing, but not ratting on your friends (and then claim first ammendment rights) is another.

But either way, it seems a classic case of trying to apply old rules to a new system. Something's gotta give.

Posted by: Rex at Aug 3, 2006 1:53:08 PM

I don't get it. Does the state have some right to take any footage or photos they want from any of our cameras or computers whenever they want? Or is it because he sold some of the footage that they have a right to the rest?

I don't see why the state would have any right to any of his pictures or video.

Posted by: Michael at Aug 3, 2006 2:05:05 PM

Because it is evidence. It's no different than if you were subpoenaed because you witnessed a crime or if you had a weapon used in a crime. It's evidence. Actually, the only difference is that this evidence happens to potentially conflict with the first amendment.

Let's say you friend had a videotape of someone killing your mom. Do we honestly expect that "the state" shouldn't pursue that? Maybe there are exceptions to when the state shouldn't pursue it, but I guess I don't really understand why this is one of those exceptions. It seems weird to me that the "exception" is that it's journalism.

Posted by: Rex at Aug 3, 2006 10:03:21 PM

I'm pretty with you on this rex, but he claims that the footage he recorded does not capture any evidence of the crime being prosecuted. Even if the kid is totally in the wrong, I know the law enforcement community is spending billions and billions of homeland security dollars to crack down on this terroristic menace called 'activist youth,' and it comes down to this; a young man in Dublin prison because someone else trashed a police car. I would not say that I'm very prone to be sympathetic to the government on this one.

Posted by: tom at Aug 4, 2006 12:18:20 AM

Chuck, just wanted to say thanks for posting the information regarding the plight of Josh Wolf. I don't always have the time to "dig" for information on particular websites. Gawd forbid, it would show up in a local newspaper!--Which I receive, and have seen zilch about this.

Posted by: Rena at Aug 4, 2006 9:45:34 AM

But Rex, the state does not *know* it is evidence, they suspect it might be evidence and Josh has offered to show the judge the video to disprove the notion that it is evidence. That is my point -- can the state just assume that any photo or video we take is evidence? Don't they have to prove that it is evidence? Isn't a judge a perfect person to figure out if something is material?

Posted by: Michael at Aug 4, 2006 10:33:19 AM

Some legal background on grand jury subpoenas and reporters can be found here

One of the more troubling aspects of this episode is the willingness of the federal government to insert itself into a matter that it should not be involved in. The grand jury is looking into crimes that occurred during the G-8 protest, including vandalism of a police car (which would normally be an offense under California law, rather than federal law). Federal prosecutors have put forth a variety of implausible reasons about why they should be involved, including interference with interstate commerce (since parts of the police car were manufactured in multiple states.)

Since the late 1990s, when some of the first Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) were created, federal prosecutors have been trying to steer criminal cases involving political groups into federal court. This has been particularly true in the Pacific Northwest. I interviewed former King County council member Brian Derdowski about this issue in 2000. At that time, Derdowski was troubled by the creation of the JTTF in the Portland, Oregon area. He feared that it could be used to target political groups by turning low-level offenses by some members (such as vandalism) into federal crimes (such as extortion) which carry much higher penalties. This kind of tactic could then be used to disrupt the entire group, by using broad federal laws like the RICO racketeering statute. A similar approach was used against abortion clinic protesters during the late 80s and early 90s, but parts of that strategy were later rejected by the Supreme Court.

Posted by: Matt Ehling at Aug 4, 2006 3:56:17 PM

i write about my cat!

Posted by: thehoneybunny at Aug 5, 2006 10:24:33 PM

Come one, come all
to the Minnesota Premiere of ...
a comic and cosmic farce

" ... reminiscent of Isaac Asimov composing limericks"
Kansas City Stage Review, KC Fringe Festival

"a piece of inspired lunacy"
Brendan McNally, playwright, Ottawa Fringe Festival

Wednesday 8/9 at 8:30 PM
Friday 8/11 at 10:00 PM

as part of the Minnesota Fringe Festival

Posted by: latif at Aug 9, 2006 1:29:46 PM

Fringe spam?

Posted by: chuck at Aug 9, 2006 3:19:44 PM