Today, the grand jury is being used to conduct a witch hunt against anarchists and political radicals. In refusing to testify, Jerry risks being held in contempt of court and faces incarceration in a federal prison for the duration of the grand jury, which could be up to 18 months.
Under the guise of an exploratory legal investigation, the grand jury is a secretive tool of repression that aims to intimidate and punish those who refuse to collaborate with the State.
Thursday, our friend and long time anarchist activist, Gerald “Jerry” Koch finally made his appearance before the Federal Grand Jury that subpoenaed him. Around 10:30 AM, at 40 Foley Square, Jerry entered the courthouse to cheers from some 80 gathered supporters chanting “our passion for freedom is stronger than their prisons!”
For the second time in four years, he stood before the impaneled jury and the prosecutor, without legal representation by his side or the comfort of loved ones in the courtroom pews, and refused to capitulate to state intimidation and announced his intention to remain silent.
From what we understand, Jerry answered only the three pedigree questions which were his name, address, and date of birth. For all of the following questions he invoked his First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth amendment rights and offered nothing further. After receiving each question he exited the courtroom to consult with his lawyer, before proceeding to return and invoke his rights. When it became clear he would not be answering any of the prepared questions he was permitted to leave the grand jury room.
At this time he emerged to hugs and cheers from the assembled supporters. The word had been spread around that he would not be taken in that day, since there wasn’t enough time for a contempt hearing (we would later find out this was not exactly true*). A ring of media formed to hear a very brief statement from Jerry, which was simply that he had answered only the control questions and invoked for all others. Immediately following his subpoena appearance he was given a second meeting with the judge at 12:30 at the other Federal Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street. Those gathered were told that this would be a procedural and routine admonishment, advising Jerry of the potential consequences of his resistance and ostensibly ensuring that his counsel had made him aware of the legal mechanisms at work.
The tension among Jerry’s supporters subsided giving way to exhausted calm upon hearing that the second appearance was moved to 3:30 – it seemed impossible that time would be made in the busy court schedule for a contempt hearing. Media of every stripe continued to arrive and be fielded by members of the Support Committee. At 3:30, Jerry and his partner Amanda climbed up for their second time the set of Federal Courthouse steps to another round of cheers and camera flashes. In minutes the relative peace was broken by the news that this procedural admonishment could turn into a contempt hearing at any moment without delay. That is to say, the doors would simply be flung open, and the process of throwing Jerry into prison would begin without notice. Those of us outside immediately streamed into the courthouse, into a long and anxious line to present photo ID and be searched before being allowed up to his part on the 20th floor.
* We give this detail to underline that legal proceedings are always shrouded with a degree of ambiguity and uncertainty. Those of you who can make it on Tuesday, May 21st, should be prepared to enter the courthouse early (we are asking 3 PM) and, if possible, wait until the very conclusion of the session to make sure you don’t miss an important moment.
After queuing, the group consisting of Jerry’s supporters and family eager to hear the news of their friend, along with a slew of reporters impatient for the dramatic resolution, had been moved into the hallway of the 20th floor for even more waiting. About an hour later Jerry emerged again and it was made clear that the proceedings were adjourned until Tuesday. His lawyer, Susan Tippograph, gave a brief press statement. When asked what she expected to happen on Tuesday she stated, “I anticipate that the government will seek an order from the court holding Jerry in civil contempt.” A reporter who asked if he had any plans to amend his decision before the next hearing was rightly told, “This is a long-held position. This is not a flirtation. Jerry is a very thoughtful and serious young man.”
*Original text from Jerry Resists,
Photographs by Diego Enrique Flores