For Immediate Release
March 30, 2006
Lawyers Group Attempts To Halt Federal Grand Jury
Contact Carlos Villarreal at 415-285-5067 x 10 or Jose Luis Fuentes at 510-839-1200 x 207 for more information.
The National Lawyers Guild and attorneys with Oakland-based Siegel & Yee have filed a motion to quash a federal grand jury convened earlier this year. A press conference will take place at 9 a.m. on the steps of the San Francisco Federal Building (450 Golden Gate) to be followed by the hearing on the matter at 10 a.m. in Federal District Court. The Grand Jury has attempted to subpoena an independent journalist’s videotape of a Mission District protest that occurred on July 8th of 2005.
The motion, filed in response to the subpoena, states that the grand jury should be quashed because the target, independent journalist and educator Josh Wolf, is a member of the media and because the federal government is abusing its grand jury powers to benefit a local San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) investigation.
Records revealed in the motion to quash show that the SFPD, led by Inspector Lea W. Militello, solicited the help of the FBI, and that FBI Agent Scott A. Merriam agreed that his agency would be “assisting.”
“There are already criminal investigations and prosecutions in state court arising from last summer’s protest and there are no charges pending relating to federal crimes,” said Attorney Jose Luis Fuentes. “The federal government appears to be using the broad powers of a grand jury to gather information for the SFPD in violation of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. This grand jury has nothing to do with legitimate, federal, criminal investigations.”
The July 8th protest was in response to the G-8 Summit held in Scotland that spurred protests across the globe. A handful of activists were arrested and later charged with minor offenses. The protest garnered media attention at the time because a San Francisco Police Officer was injured on the scene, though no one was ever charged with assaulting that Officer.
Information compiled by the Grand Jury Resistance Project (GJRP), a coalition which provides support and education on politically motivated attacks by government, shows that grand juries are currently being used against environmental and animal rights activists, as well as groups that have historically struggled for self-determination, like the Black Panther Party, frequently based on information from years, and in some cases decades, ago. GJRP reports that in the past year, at least 54 individuals have been subpoenaed and/or indicted in Denver, Eugene, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, Tampa, FL, and Trenton, NJ.
“We believe that there is a political agenda at play here and we are concerned first that the FBI is involved, again, in such matters, and second that the San Francisco Police Department may be working with them,” said Carlos Villarreal, Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area chapter.
Mr. Wolf and his attorneys will be commenting at the press conference Thursday morning. The motion to quash and other information can be found at http://joshwolf.net/grandjury/ or http://www.nlgsf.org.