September 01, 2006

JOSH WOLF Updates! Free On Bail!

Aug 26
Jailed freelancer gets $30,000 for legal aid
The Society of Professional Journalists put up $30,000 on Friday to defray the legal expenses of Josh Wolf, the San Francisco freelance journalist who has been in jail since Aug. 1 for refusing to turn over videos of a political demonstration to a federal grand jury.

Wolf, 24, was held in contempt of court by U.S. District Judge William Alsup for defying a grand jury subpoena for videotapes of a July 2005 anarchist protest in the city's Mission District against an economic summit meeting in Scotland.

Some of his footage was shown on local television, but federal prosecutors want the outtakes for their investigation of an alleged arson attempt on a police car, a potential federal crime because the Police Department receives federal funds. Wolf said he has no such evidence and claimed a constitutional right to withhold unpublished material, an argument Alsup rejected. He faces possible imprisonment until next July, when the grand jury's term expires, and has asked a federal appeals court to free him.

The journalists' group had previously granted Wolf $1,000 and said Friday's $30,000 appropriation, enough for half of his legal bills, is the largest award ever from the group's legal defense fund.
Bail granted for journalist Josh Wolf
SAN FRANCISCO -- Josh Wolf, a freelance journalist who has been jailed since Aug. 1 for refusing to turn over videos of a political protest to a federal grand jury, was granted bail today by a federal appeals court.

In a brief order, two judges of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wolf was entitled to bail because the government had not shown his appeal of a judge's contempt-of-court ruling was frivolous or intended solely to delay the proceedings.

The court said another panel would rule on Wolf's appeal of the contempt order while he is free on bail. If he loses the appeal, he could be sent back to federal prison until the grand jury's term expires next July.

Wolf's attorney said he would be released on his own recognizance, possibly later today.

Wolf, 24, took videos of a July 2005 anarchist demonstration in San Francisco's Mission District against an economic summit that was taking place in Scotland. During the protest, a policeman was hit on the head and suffered a fractured skull. A federal grand jury is investigating the alleged attempted burning of a police car, which federal prosecutors say would be a federal crime because the police department receives federal funds.

Some of Wolf's footage was shown on local television, but he refused to surrender his outtakes, claiming a journalist's right to withhold unpublished material as well as confidential sources. Those rights are protected by California's shield law, but it does not apply in federal court. U.S. District Judge William Alsup rejected Wolf's constitutional defenses, denied bail and ordered him jailed until he agreed to turn over the videos.

His appeal was endorsed by numerous news organizations and by the Society of Professional Journalists, which contributed $31,000 to defray his legal expenses.

The international group Reporters Without Borders issued a statement today, before the appeals court decision, criticizing court rulings against Wolf and Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. Another federal judge ruled Aug. 15 that the Chronicle reporters must disclose their sources for grand jury testimony by Barry Bonds and other prominent athletes about steroid use. The reporters are appealing that ruling.
San Jose Mercury News Story


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