Federal Appellate Court grants bail
to imprisoned San Francisco journalist Josh Wolf
Josh Wolf, 24, was jailed August 1 after Federal Judge William
Alsup found Wolf in contempt of court, a charge brought about
by federal investigators, purportedly interested in Wolf's videotape
footage identifying anarchists who may have been involved in torching
a San Francisco police car at a 2005 G-8 protest demonstration.
Wolf, today, was granted release on bail to allow Wolf to appeal
the subpeona that required him to submit his video to federal
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News
August 31, 2006, 6:00 p.m.
A freelance journalist who has spent a month in prison was granted
release on bail by a federal appeals court in San Francisco today
while he appeals a subpoena requiring him to give a videotape
of a demonstration to a U.S. grand jury.
Attorney Dan Siegel said he expects Josh Wolf, 24, to be freed
on his own recognizance from the Federal Correctional Institution
in Dublin either later today or Friday morning.
Wolf has been imprisoned since U.S. District Judge William Alsup
found him in civil contempt of court on Aug. 1 for refusing to
give a grand jury unpublished sections of a videotape he took
of an anarchist demonstration in San Francisco on July 8, 2005.
Chief Judge Mary Schroeder and Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the
9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a one-page order that
the government "has not shown that this appeal is frivolous
or taken for purposes of delay."
The bail release will be in effect until a different three-judge
panel of the appeals court rules on Wolf's appeal of the contempt
Siegel said, "I'm very pleased. I'm optimistic the appeal
will be resolved in his favor."
The grand jury is investigating possible attempted arson to a
police car during the demonstration, which was held to protest
the Group of Eight summit meeting then taking place in Scotland.
While California has a state shield law that generally protects
news reporters from disclosing materials, there is no federal
Wolf contends the federal connection to the case is remote and
that the government's need for the information should be weighed
against the harm to his constitutional First Amendment rights.
Prosecutors say the federal grand jury probe is proper because
the San Francisco Police Department receives some federal funds.
U.S. attorney's office spokesman Luke Macaulay declined to comment
on the bail order, but noted that prosecutors have previously
said, "We have an obligation to the community to investigate
and gather relevant and material evidence of serious crimes."
Wolf is one of four people who have been challenging subpoenas
to testify before federal grand juries in San Francisco in recent
On Monday, Alsup found Greg Anderson, a personal trainer for
San Francisco Giants star Barry Bonds, in contempt of court and
ordered him jailed for refusing to tell a grand jury whether Bonds
used steroid drugs. Anderson, now in prison, is appealing.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White rejected a challenge
by San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada
to a subpoena requiring them to tell a different grand jury their
source of leaked grand jury transcripts in a sports steroids probe
centered about the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO).
The two reporters are appealing that ruling and could be found
in contempt of court and jailed if they lose the appeal.
The Indiana-based Society of Professional Journalists is paying
$31,000 of Wolf's $60,000 legal fees to fight the subpoena in
Society President David Carlson said last week, "This case
is evidence of a disturbing trend in which federal prosecutors
are attempting to turn journalists into arms of law enforcement."
If not granted bail, Wolf could have been kept in prison until
the grand jury's term expires next July. If he loses the appeal,
he could be returned to prison unless he gives up the videotape.
Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication,
Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent
of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.