February 6, 2007 7:00 PM PST

Jailed blogger hits record as supporters rally

SAN FRANCISCO--Dozens of supporters of jailed freelance video blogger Josh Wolf gathered at City Hall here Tuesday to rally for Wolf's release.

Those attending the demonstration held up signs with the words "Free Josh," and speakers were insistent on the unfairness of his imprisonment. Ross Mirkarimi, a San Francisco supervisor, said he was "angry as hell about this" and called for a "serious outcry, and not just only by us." In a statement, California state Assemblyman Mark Leno, who did not attend the rally, called Wolf's plight a "travesty of justice."

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Video: Imprisoned blogger now holds title
Josh Wolf remains in a Dublin, Calif., correctional facility. Supporters held a rally to mark the day.

The afternoon gathering, which ran about an hour on the steps of City Hall, was organized by the Free Josh Wolf Coalition, with Wolf's friend Julian Davis acting as facilitator. "Basically, if Josh isn't released today, he'll be the longest-held journalist under contempt," Davis said. "We wanted to landmark the date by holding this rally."

Wolf, in fact, did on Tuesday become the longest-serving journalist behind bars in U.S. history for contempt.

On August 1, Wolf, 24, was jailed for contempt of court for refusing to cooperate with a federal grand jury seeking unpublished footage he shot during a 2005 protest that turned violent. Wolf was released on bail a month later while his appeal was being considered. But a three-judge panel rejected the appeal and revoked bail.

Wolf might normally be protected by California's Shield Law. But federal prosecutors, who want to see if Wolf's footage shows a San Francisco police car being set on fire at the protest, say they have jurisdiction over the case because the car was paid for in part by federal dollars. While many states have enacted shield laws to protect journalists from revealing confidential sources, notes and unpublished materials, there is no federal shield law to protect Wolf.

Federal officials could not be reached for comment.

The Society of Professional Journalists--which fights for the rights of journalists and has supported Wolf through its Legal Defense Fund--awarded Wolf with the James Madison Award for Online Free Speech Tuesday, his 168th day of incarceration. In November, he was awarded a 2006 journalist of the year award by the same organization.

As Wolf prepared to spend another night at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, Calif., Bruce Brugmann of the San Francisco Bay Guardian said that "Josh Wolf is not just a blogger, Josh Wolf is a hero." Brugmann, editor and publisher of the SFBG, alluded to an incident in which he had to submit bail for three editors writing about South Korea, and thought he would never have to deal with such a situation again.

Of Wolf's case, Brugmann said, "This is much worse than that. This is an independent journalist in San Francisco who's doing nothing but his job, and he's tossed in jail for contempt...Where are we, Bulgaria? Or Korea?"

As the event ended, Andy Blue of the Free Josh Wolf Coalition read aloud a letter written by Wolf from jail. Wolf "never thought this would happen," according to his letter. Wolf went on to say that he "grew up being taught that the United States was the greatest country on earth, that dissent was not only permitted but encouraged, and that we had a free press that was not encumbered by government interference."

CNET News.com's Leslie Katz contributed to this report.

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27 comments

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Good place for him
This is the greatest country on earth, and dissent is protected under our laws, but criminal activity is not. Burning a cop car is not protected, and if he refuses to turn over video evidence that shows people committing the crime, leave him in jail until he dies of old age.
Posted by jsmith1785 (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RE:Good place for him
You obviously have no idea of what the concept of a free press is
all about. It never ceases to amaze me how people who have never
had to fight for their rights are among the first to want to take
them away from someone they disagree with.
Posted by protagonistic (1868 comments )
Link Flag
good to educate yourself
A good place for you to be would be a library. I'm sure you don't know where your local library is so let me make this easier for you.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilling_effect" target="_newWindow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilling_effect</a>

Don't get frightened of the big complicated terms like "First Amendment" and "free speech". Sometimes they hyperlink those terms for fellas just like yourself.
Posted by edge211 (2 comments )
Link Flag
Journalists
One stops being a journalist when they participate in the news. He's not reporting or comenting on anything. He's simply abeting in a crime. This is not a "free press" issue. The issue is whether or not citzens have the responibilty to be open with investigators of crime. They do. Look it up.
Posted by suyts (824 comments )
Link Flag
If the fed accually gave $$ to the local police I'd be surprised
When was the last time you saw the fed give any money to a local police department for a car?They say it was federal dollars that was destroyed,but the car in question was payed for by our tax dollars making it ours.So now the feds have the right to prosecute those who watch your house burn down and do nothing? Right?
Posted by normlguyaz (5 comments )
Link Flag
I'm wondering.....
why Leo Laporte doesn't throw some effort into this rally
Posted by HlLLARY CLTON (382 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Prove it was Federal Dollars?
I haven't seen a lot of coverage of this (East Coaster), so I must
ask, has anyone insisted that the Feds prove that particular
cruiser was paid for with Federal money? Or that the danage
exceeded the claimed payment? Perhaps it was bought when
other vehicles were purchased, but can they show that Federal
dollars went for that particular vehicle? Maybe the money only
actually covered 20 cars, and they bought 25? And if they want
to say that the money is all "mixed" and impossible to separate,
then wouldn't they be able to claim jurisdiction for everything
purchased with City money? Thereby making theft of a
paperclip a federal offense? A judge would laugh them out of
court for such a claim. Simply because it's a big-ticket item
doesn't change the math.

Any info available?
Posted by qprize (237 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RE: Federal
Let's not forget the sheer insanity of the situation - the case is made federal due to the cruiser simply being FILMED on tape? According to the story, they don't even know if the cruiser being destroyed WAS filmed or not!! They are making a basis to say "we want to see the film to see if your video caught this federally funded cruiser being destroyed on tape", so obviously they don't know if it's on the tape or not, but he is losing his state shield protection on an a priori assumption by the prosecutor. ***.
Posted by edge211 (2 comments )
Link Flag
If no one was injured...
then I don't see why he's still in jail. If it's just a matter of
property damage it's rediculous for him to be held this long. I
think this has to be more than just about a burned police car. I
understand that it is a crime to set a fire like that in public (or
even on your own property). I also understand that the owner of
the vehicle is entiitled to compensation. BUT, it's just a car.

Here's something..."Government officials have said they are
interested in the outtakes that could identify some of the
demonstrators."
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.rcfp.org/news/2006/1120-con-freela.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.rcfp.org/news/2006/1120-con-freela.html</a>

That's it in a nutshell. You can also look up the actual subpoena
and other legal files. It's pretty freaky.
Posted by rockstarstatus (70 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How many law enforcement officers....
How many law enforcement officers have you known personally. Not just met, mind you, but spent some time with in a social setting. I've known around 10 personally.

2 were crooked as hell.
6 were on a power trip (3 of which were eventually fired for and 3 of which are, to my knowledge, still serving)
2 were 2 of the best people I've ever known.

Now, my personal experiences could certainly be skewed. It's not exactly a large data set. But this would definitely be typical behavior for the officers I've met that were on a power trip. Any questioning whatsoever of their authority and they went to extreme measures, in the name of the law of course, to "break" those responsible. I suspect the feds could be even worse because they have less oversight.
Posted by drfrost (467 comments )
Link Flag
Jailed Journalist Josh Wolf-correction
HI, I'm Josh's mom. Thank you for covering his story. Josh is incarcerated at Dublin Federal Detention Center, not Santa Rita.
Peace,
Liz
Posted by lizwolfspada (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thanks for noting! Corrected.
We appreciate your feedback and have made the change. Thank you.
Posted by meyersm (51 comments )
Link Flag
Hmmm...
What I'd like to know is what is so important
that he wouldn't just give the footage to the
police. I am a serious supporter of free speech
and of privacy, and of peaceful assembly. But I
guess I'd be hesitant to protect someone who set
a cop car on fire. I mean, come on. I know
we've all wanted to get back at the cops
sometimes, but torching their car? That sounds
like adolescent stupidity that should be
punished, at least sucking the damages out of
them.

But seriously, why wouldn't he share with
law-enforcement for this?
Posted by r4780y (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Have you ever been at a demonstration?
I'm not going to speak for Josh, but I could think of a lot of reasons. And note that tapes rarely tell the whole story.

1) The cops could have incited this violence themselves. I've seen police officers behave in a shameful manner, with absolutely no repercussions on many occasions. On one occasion I witnessed them plant a gun on a man. Do you remember the busts in New Orleans where the police were killing people set to testify against them? They certainly aren't all bad. But many of them are on what I would call a power trip. They don't like to have their authority questioned. And in cases where they are pushed it's not unusual for them to push back with a far greater, and in my opinion, inappropriate amount of force. And a demonstration can... expose these types of officers for what they are. It can be a bad situation all around. Perhaps Josh is trying to protect people he feels were acting out of self defense to some degree.

2) He could be protecting himself. There might be something on the tape that incriminates him. They usually get around this by offering immunity but I have no idea what's gone on in this case. Maybe he destroyed the tapes and if he admits that he'll be charged with destroying evidence....

3) He could be protecting sources.

4) It's the principle. The government is refusing to extend "journalist" status to people who write for the internet. If your words aren't printed on paper, they maintain you have no journalistic rights. This has to stop as any sensible person can see that we're moving towards a paperless society. What the government is doing is not only ridiculous, but it's dangerous. These rights are essential for our society.

In short, I can think of several good reasons why he wouldn't want to share those tapes.
Posted by drfrost (467 comments )
Link Flag
That's not cheatin' fair!
State's rights? Misconstruction of a law? What bothers me as much as this one person's unfair treatment is an increasing tendency of government to use a law for other than it's original stated purpose. Have you ever seen labels on things bought in a store telling us it is illegal to use a product for a purpose other than what it was mannufactured for? Government should treat laws the same way. This tricky action mocks the constitution of our country because powers not claimed by the federal government constitutionally are reserved to the states. Maybe Jay Leno was right. We should give our constitution to Iraq instead of helping them write a new one. Like Jay said, we're not using it anyway.
Posted by davidrowland (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Abuse of power
The federal government claims jurisdiction because the car was paid for "in part" by federal dollars. And they wonder why people are afraid that they will abuse the powers granted by the Patriot Act.
Posted by TiVoJoe (106 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Title
I wonder who's holding the title to the burned police car in that case. I think it's SF police only, not federal government. Then it's not federal property. There may be many things acquired or built partially with federal assistance. Does it make them all federal property? Schools, housing projects, etc?

If your father gives you a gift of money to buy a car, does the car also become your father's property?
Posted by alegr (1590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Right place
Like someone said, dissent is protected under US laws, criminal activity is not. Under US laws you are on the right place. Or is journalism a special job now? Only job I know where you don't have to justify or prove anything to anyone.
Posted by Fil0403 (1303 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What do you mean "don't have to prove"?
Good journalism is getting and verifying facts from various souces.
Case: The Washington Post told us what really happened at
Watergate.
Posted by rockstarstatus (70 comments )
Link Flag
 

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