Sunday, April 08, 2007

Blogger freed after record contempt stint

From CNN

• Freelance journalist cuts deal with prosecutors, walks out of prison
• Joshua Wolf refuses to testify before grand jury about protest
• Under deal, Wolf agreed to provide uncut video.
• His spent 226 days behind bars -- a record for a journalist held in contempt

DUBLIN, Califiornia (AP) -- Video blogger Joshua Wolf, who spent a record-setting stint behind bars for refusing to turn over his footage of a chaotic 2005 street protest, walked out of prison after cutting a deal with prosecutors.

Wolf, 24, said Tuesday he was looking forward to "pizza and a beer" after having spent 226 days in prison -- more than any journalist who's refused to testify.

Under the deal with prosecutors, Wolf agreed to turn over the uncut video, which he also posted on his Web site Tuesday. But he refused to testify before the grand jury about the events at the protest or the identities of participants.

"I will not under any circumstances testify before a grand jury," Wolf said.

His prison time surpassed the previous record set by Vanessa Leggett, a Houston-based freelancer who served 168 days in 2001 and 2002 for declining to reveal unpublished material about a murder case.

Wolf had been found in contempt for refusing to obey a subpoena to turn over his video from a July 2005 protest during the G-8 economic summit where anarchists were suspected of vandalizing a San Francisco police car. One city officer was struck during the rally and his skull was fractured.

Wolf, a freelancer, sold some footage to San Francisco television stations and posted it on his Web site, but refused to turn over unpublished material.

The footage Wolf posted online Tuesday does not capture the alleged crimes authorities are investigating, defense lawyer David Greene said. Wolf's lawyers had argued that the First Amendment gave him the right to refuse the subpoena to turn over the rest of his tape.

"Now that the fences of the law and the tradition that has protected the press are broken down, the people are the victims. The First Amendment, as I read it, was designed precisely to prevent that tragedy," Wolf said in prepared statement he read Tuesday on the steps of San Francisco City Hall.

California's shield law allows reporters to keep sources and unpublished material secret. But there is no federal shield law protecting reporters from federal investigations.

The National Writer's Union, which represents freelance writers, said in a statement that Wolf should never have been jailed.

"The abuses visited on Josh and other journalists are part of an effort by governments at all levels to control the volume, flow and content of the information that reaches the public," the union said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Excerpt: Using the U.S. Patriot Act the FBI had been following Mel Gibson’s illegal terrorist activities for months. [more]


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