Freelance Journalist Josh Wolf to Remain Jailed for Contempt

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A freelance videographer who’s been imprisoned for five months for refusing to turn over his footage of a 2005 protest lost another bid for release.

Joshua Wolf, 24, was held in contempt of court after being subpoenaed by a San Francisco federal grand jury investigating a G-8 summit protest where anarchists were suspected of vandalizing a police car and one city officer suffered a fractured skull. Wolf refused to hand over 30 minutes of footage of the protest and was ordered jailed in August.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. District Judge William Alsup have ruled that a 1972 Supreme Court precedent requires everyone, including journalists, to appear before grand juries if they have been summoned.

He could remain jailed until July, when the grand jury that subpoenaed him expires.

Wolf recently asked Alsup again to release him, arguing that imprisonment would never have its intended effect of coercing him into relinquishing the tape and that it had crossed the line into criminal punishment. He also noted that authorities dropped charges this month against the only suspect in the police car vandalism.

The judge, however, denied his release Tuesday, citing a prosecutor’s statement that Wolf’s lawyer, Martin Garbus, had offered to turn over the tape in exchange for a promise that Wolf would not have to identify anyone who appeared on it.

“This reveals a realistic possibility that Mr. Wolf’s confinement may be having its coercive effect,” Alsup said.

But Garbus said in a court filing Tuesday that prosecutors misrepresented his proposal, which was only made to gauge their interest in such a deal. Garbus said that Wolf never agreed to it and that Wolf has remained unwilling to testify or release the tape.

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