Criminal Justice

Man May Be Jailed For Remaining Silent Before a Grand Jury

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Jerry Koch
Jerry Resists

Courtesy of the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project comes word of Jerry Koch, a New York anarchist who may be jailed for doing what most people assume you have a right to do: remaining silent in court. Federal prosecutors want him to testify in the matter of a midnight bombing of a military recruitment center in Manhattan in which nobody was injured. Koch is not a target, but the feds still want to hear from him.

From the New York Times:

A 24-year-old self-described Brooklyn anarchist may be headed to jail after refusing on Thursday for the second time to testify before a grand jury believed to be examining the explosion of a homemade bomb that damaged an armed-forces recruitment center in Times Square in 2008.

A lawyer for the man, Gerald Koch, said she believed that prosecutors would ask a Federal District Court judge in Manhattan to cite him for contempt during an appearance scheduled for next week, an action that could result in Mr. Koch's being jailed.

"I anticipate that the government will seek an order from the court holding Jerry in civil contempt," said the lawyer, Susan V. Tipograph, adding that her client had refused to testify as "a matter of principle" and because "he has no knowledge whatsoever" about the bombing or who caused it.

Ms. Tipograph said Mr. Koch was not a target of the investigation and had been granted immunity.

That grant of immunity is likely the key to the inquisition, since it can be interpreted to make the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination moot. But Koch objects that he's already made it clear in the years since the bombing that he knows nothing, and he believes the feds want to put him on the stand to extract information that's irrelevant to the case, but that piques their interest.

From Jerry Resists:

Given that I publically made clear that I had no knowledge of this alleged event in 2009, the fact that I am being subpoenaed once again suggests that the FBI does not actually believe that I possess any information about the 2008 bombing, but rather that they are engaged in a 'fishing expedition' to gain information concerning my personal beliefs and political associations.

Rather than answer questions when last called to court, Koch confirmed his name, age and address. On his Website, he says he thinks prosecutors really want to use the grand jury "to gain information about my friends, loved ones, and activists for whom I have done legal support."

Originally intended to prevent prosecutors — government employees — from wielding their powers arbitrarily, grand juries have instead turned into powerful tools of the state. New York Judge Sol Wachtler famously quipped that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. In 2003, W. Thomas Dillard, Stephen R. Johnson, and Timothy Lynch wrote a cautionary paper (PDF) about grand juries, which were then being further empowered as part of the "war on terror," for the Cato Institute:

While most people are generally familiar with the function of the police officer, the prosecutor, the defense lawyer, the judge, and the trialjury, few have any idea about what the grand jury is supposed to do and its day-to-day operation. That ignorance largely explains how some overreaching prosecutors have been able to pervert the grand jury, whose original purpose was to check prosecutorial power, into an inquisitorial bulldozer that enhances the power of government and now runs roughshod over the constitutional rights of citizens.

Koch is next scheduled to appear at the federal court house at 500 Pearl Street, in New York City, on May 21. He's inviting supporters to pack the venue to witness what will likely be a grand jury doing whatever it's told to do.

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  1. Koch? They’re everywhere!

    1. See? The Kochs ARE anarchists!

      1. I can’t see a flaw in that statement.

      2. I like being in good company.

  2. Rather than answer questions when last called to court, Koch confirmed his name, age and address. On his Website, he says he thinks prosecutors really want to use the grand jury “to gain information about my friends, loved ones, and activists for whom I have done legal support.”

    McCarthyism is alive and well.

    1. This is more like the Buchanan committee.

  3. Federal prosecutors: they’re faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaantastic.

  4. Tulpa defending the prosecutors in 3…2…

    1. Dunphy should be along to help.

    2. Nah, he’s got his Mexican Coke and doesn’t care so much anymore.

      1. Nah, he’s got his Mexican Coke and doesn’t care so much anymore.

        He posted that he hates it and reported the evil retailer who tried to pass it off as “real coke” to Coca-Cola corporate for shenanigans.

        Why? Apparently because Tulpa is retarded in all things, including Coke.

        1. No, that was something about Jewish Coke. I didn’t know there was such a thing.

          1. No, that was something about Jewish Coke. I didn’t know there was such a thing.

            He said the Jew Coke sweetened with sucrose, which is Mexican Coke.

            1. Kosher-for-Passover Coke is essentially the same thing as Mexican Coke. He complained about Passover Coke but since he didn’t like the way it tastes, the objection would presumably carry over to the Mexican kind.

              1. So Mexicans and Jews are the same thing? Really, my ignorance knows no bounds.

        2. It’s odd, because he is comitting a similar fraud of mislabeling.

          Way back, he told us how he came up with his handle:

          I went to Tulane ( + Pennsylvania = Tulpa ) and came pretty close to being lynched in the Discrete Math class where the professor curved down.

          He no longer lives in PA, but moved to VA, if I recall correctly.

          So he should be calling himself Tulva now.

          1. That doesn’t count, tarran. That wasn’t a description of his handle, it was just another proof that he’s smarter than you. Since he is, it’s not fraud.

        3. What the hell is happening to our country that people are now whining that they want corn syrup instead of sugar in their sodas?

          For some reason, I want to dump this in a box with the suddenly ubiquitous peanut allergies that have taken so much of the joy out of school lunches and airplane travel. I guess it’s because I blame Monsanto/ADM/the Illuminati for both.

  5. This does smack of abuse of power, of course, but I’m not sure it can be a Fifth Amendment violation. If the grant of immunity is broad enough, there’s no question of self-incrimination, right? I’m no expert in that, though, so maybe I’m wrong.

    1. If the grant of immunity is broad enough, there’s no question of self-incrimination, right?

      “… nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”

      Seems pretty clear from this language that if you fear that the government may use your words against you, even if the government says it won’t under certain circumstances buried in fine print, and even if certain other individuals think your fears are unreasonable, then you always retain the Fifth Amendment right to not speak to government officials.

      1. I’m pretty sure the fine print in a grant of immunity doesn’t simply say, “No matter what you say on the stand, the government can’t use it against you under any circumstance whatsoever.”

        So, no grant of immunity is broad enough for an actual anarchist who views the government as the mafia with better PR.

        1. Maybe not, but I’m not sure what the case law says. I have a feeling it’s not as reasonable about this topic.

          1. What the case law says, and what the constitution actually says, tend to be quite different things.

            When I assert my rights, I don’t assert what a 5-4 SCOTUS decision says those rights are.

            1. I’m with prolefeed here.

              And the constitution doesn’t say, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, unless he is granted immunity.

              It just says you can’t be compelled. Period. And since they have made everything a potential crime, anytime you say anything you might providing testimony against yourself.

            2. Those are two different issues. What should be and what is. Unfortunately, the latter is nothing like the former.

            3. I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Burdick v US yet.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B…..ted_States

              Guy refuses a pardon, which is offered to compel his testimony, and the court still fines and imprisons him until he agrees to testify.

    2. It seems that depending on the scope of the immunity, a prosecutor could ask questions aimed at getting certain self-incriminating information which would force a 5th amendment claim for a certain line of questioning. Then the prosecutor does some investigation and lo and behold, finds a possible prosecutable offense that was not covered by the grant of immunity. Hence, the witness was essentially forced to disclose self incriminating information. It sounds like an end around the 5A.

      1. And IIRC you cannot claim the 5th to a grand jury if you have answered any question at all.

  6. This is exactly like the story from a bit ago about two anarchists in Seattle who spent months in jail on contempt charges for doing exactly this. A new trend for federal prosecutors?

    1. Let’s hope it signifies a new trend of informed people clamming up to prosecutors and grand juries.

      1. At least informed people who won’t lose much by spending months in jail.

        1. Is it a new trend for federal prosecutors to be total dicks?

          1. I’ve never met any, but I’d suspect not.

            1. Ken White over at Popehat.com seems like a good guy, but then he’s a former federal prosecutor and his last decade or so of criminal defense experience may have changed him a bit…

  7. “Given that I publically made clear that I had no knowledge of this alleged event in 2009, the fact that I am being subpoenaed once again suggests that the FBI does not actually believe that I possess any information about the 2008 bombing, but rather that they are engaged in a ‘fishing expedition’ to gain information concerning my personal beliefs and political associations.”

    Clearly an example of Koch supported anti-government lies.

  8. A hipster anarchist? I’m intrigued.

  9. Boy, am I thrilled. I’m going to be a slave-juror next week. And it’s at the county superior court, where the serious crimes are called.

    Hopefully it’s a drug smuggling case, where I can nullify with a clear conscience.

    1. I personally would nullify any case where the crime does not involve harm to the life, liberty or property of another person.

    2. “Now listen to me, all of you. You are all condemned men. We keep you alive to serve this Court. So jury well, and live.”

    3. slave-juror

      “Jurissary”

  10. Did we (collectively) learn nothing from the Clinton years?

    “I do not recall at this time.”
    “I have no recollection of…”
    “I can’t remember.”
    “I don’t know.”

    You can keep that up for days, on every conceivable subject.

    1. Safer to stick with “I can’t remember”. If you say “I don’t know” and they found out that you did actually have knowledge at one point, they can bitch slap you with perjury. It’s much harder to prove whether or not you actually forgot something, though.

  11. Grand Jury proceedings are closed to the public, so his call for supporters to “witness” is far-fetched. If he doesn’t know anything, he should testify to that effect. Statements made in public are not the same as statements made on the record that are subject to perjury. He sounds more like he’s standing on the principle of free publicity for his narcissistic ego. “I’m an anarchist, so I choose not to co-operate as my part of the mission of anarchy.” Boring.

    1. This case sounds exactly the same as the one involving the two young Seattle anarchists that led to them spending many months in solitary for contempt.

      Just as in that case, it’s about prosecutors trying to use a grand jury to ferret out general intelligence on a wider group that contains, but is not limited to, people who may have committed a crime.

      In a criminal case, a competent judge will cut off lines of questioning that are not relevant to the charges being brought. It seems that in a grand jury, similar rules don’t apply and there is little or no pressure on prosecutors to not go on fishing expeditions using the power of coerced testimony.

      In this case, I suspect, the prosecutors believe that if they dig far enough they will uncover other crimes. That may be the case, but people should only be forced to testify about specific, known crimes, not the prosecutor’s hunch that there are other crimes out there.

      1. In this case the government is claiming Koch was at a bar WHEN HE WAS 19.

        That’s a pretty clear indication to me that the government has already fucked this case up and the prosecutor is scrambling to get someone, anyone, indicted for something, anything even tangentially related to the case or its investigation.

  12. Originally intended to prevent prosecutors ? government employees ? from wielding their powers arbitrarily, grand juries have instead turned into powerful tools of the state.

    Pretty much expected as it’s part of the same system. The same entity decides the laws, so why wouldn’t it be used that way?

    Until it’s possible to get a grand jury that can indict both prosecutors and other grand juries for use of grand juries to compel people, then it’ll always be like this. The idea of granting immunity as a reason to criminalize not testifying is ridiculous, first on the idea of anyone having “immunity” from anything, and that such a power is granted by the state. In fact removing immunity from the state i.e. its sovereignty, is the only permanent solution

  13. This sort of thing isn’t exactly new. One of the best episodes of the Rockford Files featured a young William Daniels as a prosecutor abusing the grand jury system and getting Rockford tossed in jail for contempt because he can’t/won’t testify about a matter he actually knows nothing about.

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/34927

    I always liked Rockford, but this is one of the better episodes in terms of addressing a real issue.

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