Friday, November 17, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO Nov. 16 A federal appeals court has denied a request for a rehearing from a freelance video journalist and blogger who has been jailed for three months for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury investigation of a violent anticapitalist protest. The decision Wednesday by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals means that the blogger, Josh Wolf, could be kept in jail until July, when the term of the grand jury expires, said his lawyer, Martin Garbus. If that happens, Mr. Wolf, who has served 88 days, will be the longest-incarcerated journalist in recent American history, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Vanessa Leggett, a freelance journalist from Houston, served 168 days in 2001 and 2002 for refusing to surrender information about a murder case. Federal prosecutors have sought to force Mr. Wolf, 24, to testify about a July 2005 protest in San Francisco timed to correspond with a Group of Eight conference of world economic leaders in Scotland. Mr. Wolf videotaped the protest, following anarchists who eventually clashed with police officers. An officer was injured and some property was damaged when a smoke bomb or a firework was put under a police car. Mr. Wolf was subpoenaed this year by federal prosecutors considering charges of attempted arson in the case. They asked him to testify and turn over all of his video, but he refused, saying he had to protect the identities of those on the tape. He was jailed in August. In September, Mr. Wolf was granted bail but returned to jail when bail was revoked by a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court. In October, Mr. Garbus petitioned for a hearing of the full court, arguing that “the right of a reporter to conduct legal newsgathering activities without fear” was at issue. On Wednesday, the court denied that petition. Mr. Wolf has attracted some high-profile supporters, including the Society of Professional Journalists, which has contributed to his defense fund. On Thursday, Lucie Morillon, a spokeswoman for Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom organization, called the decision to hold Mr. Wolf “absurd and unjust.” “Even if he’s not an experienced journalist with 20 years behind him, he wants to protect his sources, and it’s a decision we respect and support,” Mr. Morillon said. Mr. Wolf did sell some of the video of the protest to local television and posted other parts on his Web site, joshwolf.net. Mr. Garbus said he had offered prosecutors the full tape in exchange for his client’s release and exclusion from grand jury testimony. Luke Macaulay, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, said his office had been consistent in asking for both the tape and the testimony. Mr. Wolf’s mother, Liz Wolf-Spada, said in an e-mail message, “Every hope that is destroyed leaves me feeling like a deflated balloon.” Mr. Garbus said his client, held in a federal prison in Dublin, Calif., would serve as long as he had to. “He’s not going to give up,” he said.
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