Freelance journalist intends to stand firm on videotape

Wolf willing to return to prison in federal grand jury case

On the day of his release from federal prison Friday, freelance journalist Josh Wolf reaffirmed his commitment to not turn over videotape to a federal grand jury even if it means returning to custody.

Wolf, 24, videotaped a San Francisco protest last year in which anarchists were suspected of trying to light a police patrol car on fire. During the protest a San Francisco officer suffered a skull fracture.

A federal grand jury is investigating the allegedvandalism of the patrol car, claiming the crime falls under federal jurisdiction since the San Francisco Police Department receives federal dollars.

The grand jury subpoenaed Wolf, demanding that he turn over the videotape. Wolf refused, saying his rights as a journalist allow him to withhold unpublished material and confidential sources. He was then sentenced to jail until he turned over the videotape.

While California’s shield law would protect Wolf from having to turn over the footage, federal law does not. “Under California shield law Josh could not be subpoenaed by the San Francisco district attorney,” said Dan Siegel, Wolf’s attorney.

Siegel said the federal interest in the incident at the protest is “almost laughable.”

Wolf maintains that his video does not contain any footage of the alleged attempted burning of the patrol car, or of the injured police officer.

On Thursday, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Wolf could be released on bail while the court hears his appeal.

Siegel said the Wolf case would have a significant impact on the rights of journalists.

“If the 9th Circuit rules as we request in this case there will be protections for all journalists that will make it more difficult for the government to force journalists to give up confidential information,” he said.

Wolf has received widespread support from many groups, including the Board of Supervisors, which last month passed a resolution requesting the federal government to cease intervening with the local investigation.

Authored by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the resolution accuses the federal government of “overstepping its limitations” in an attempt to “circumvent the local judicial system.”

Wolf thanked his supporters and said his 30 days in prison were not a bad experience.

He passed the time by reading books, writing letters and playing Scrabble or cards.

If Wolf loses the appeal, he could be sent back to the federal prison in Dublin until the grand jury’s term expires this July.

“It’s an honor that I’ve been given the opportunity to help ignite what I hope will eventually cement the rights of both independent and the established media,” Wolf said.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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