Two people, Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth have been jailed for refusing to testify in front of a grand jury in Iowa, USA. The two were found to be in contempt of court this Tuesday. Both will be held until they agree to testify or for the duration of the grand jury (another 11 months). By law the longest they could be held is 18 months.
The subject of the grand jury investigation is not made public however supporters of Carrie and Scott believe that it is likely related to an unsolved Animal Liberation Front action in 2004 at the University of Iowa. Though Carrie was only 15 and the time and Scott 17. Both deny involvement in the ALF action. However both have been active in their local communities especially in supporting political prisoners. “Carrie, Scott, and their communities feel that this support work has now made them targets”
Carrie received the subpoena to testify in front of the grand jury in mid October.
During the proceedings prosecutor Cliff Cronk offered immunity against their statements being used in criminal proceedings against them. However this type of immunity removes the ability to exercise fifth amendment rights.
The two continued to decline to testify. Cronk then asked they be held in civil contempt.
Before the hearing Scott DeMuth spoke to supporters “This decision about whether we cooperate or resist is the one thing that we as individuals have control over in this process. When we as individuals, with the strength of our communities choose to resist, we disempower this tactic.”
During the proceedings Cronk made the ludicrous suggestion that a photograph of Carrie wearing a T-shirt with the letter ‘L F’ was evidence of ‘membership in either the Earth or Animal Liberation Front.
We can be threatened, coerced, and jailed. However, no punishment could be worse than surrendering our values.
In the US, grand juries have been used to coerce people into providing information about themselves and their communities. No judge or defense attorneys are aloud to be present, and neither Constitutional rights nor conventional evidence-gathering protocol apply. A new website aiming to combat the use of grand juries as state repression in the US has been set up at http://grandjuryinfo.wordpress.com/
Donations for legal fees are required and an address for letters of support will appear soon on http://davenportgrandjury.wordpress.com.
Both Carrie and Scott released statements before entering the courthouse.
Today I have my second appearance before a federal grand jury that is investigating animal rights actions that occurred at the University of Iowa in 2004. Last month, after being subpoenaed in Minneapolis with one day’s notice, I appeared before this grand jury and plead my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Today, that right will be sidestepped with technical legal “protections” that have little or no substantive value. I will once again be put in front of a grand jury with no lawyer present in the room, and once again they will attempt to coerce me to testify.
The prosecutor has filed to grant me immunity. I do not need immunity from prosecution for a crime that I was not involved in and have no relation to. This will not change my decision to refuse to cooperate with the grand jury. I stand here today in solidarity with everyone who has stood up to resist the exploitation of the environment and animals, the repression of the state, and the abuses of the justice system.
Once again they will attempt to coerce me to testify
In anticipation of my refusal to cooperate, the court has scheduled a contempt hearing for today at ten o’clock. And they’re right. I do feel contempt for a justice system that prosecutes people for property damage that is done in defense of life, while real violence is committed at the hands of vivisectors, the police, and the military on a daily basis. I feel contempt for the federal agents that would use these prosecutions as a pretext to investigate above ground movements and activists like me, with no apparent grounds other than my political beliefs and legal activities. I will not help them to do this, and I will not let them violate my rights and privacy.
Today, I may be taken to jail for up to eleven months, solely for taking a moral stand against an institution that I believe to be corrupt and obsolete. I have not been accused of any crime. So let me ask you this, Clifford Cronk. Is it worth it to you? Is it worth it to you when my friend’s eight year old sobs, wondering if her mother could be going to jail next? Is it worth it, Tom Reinwart? Is it worth it to you when my elderly grandma is without a caretaker? Is this what you work for, Melissa Hendrickson? Is it worth it to tear an innocent 20-year-old woman away from everyone that she loves and cares for? Is this justice?
Thank you for your support.
Hau Mitakuyapi. Cante wasteya nape ciyuzapi do. Iyuskinyan waciyankapi do. Dakota ia Hepan emakiyapi do. Wasicu ia Scott DeMuth emakiyapi do. Damakota do. Oyate mitawa kin hena Bdewakantunwan ewicakiyapi do. Bdote heciya tanhan wahi do. Wanna nina cante mawaste do.
Hello all my relatives. With a good heart, I greet you all with a handshake. It is good to see all of you here today. My name is Scott. My place name is Dakota is Hepan. I am from Bdote, the confluence of the Mnisota and Mississippi Rivers, where the creation of the Bdewakantunwan took place.
Before anything else, I wanted to address you all in the Dakota language. State repression isn’t anything new to this country, or even to this city. One hundred and forty-six years ago, only a few miles from this courthouse, over 300 Dakota prisoners of war were held in a concentration camp. Over a third of them died in their captivity. Whatever happens to me today, whatever I face, it will be easy in light of the hardships those men faced. Right now, my heart is really good. I am glad to see so many people from so many of the communities I am a part of here to support me today. Being part of a community means we help each other. We support each other. We strengthen each other. And sometimes, we must make sacrifices for each other.
Grand juries started as an important part of our justice system to prevent over-reaching prosecuting powers. However, this process has been used historically against political movements. In the context of this history, most recently in the Green Scare, when investigative techniques of law enforcement have been halted by the silence of political movements, grand juries have been used as a tactic to intimidate our communities and as an attempt to coerce testimony from movement members. This is an abuse of a constitutionally mandated process by using it as an investigative tool rather than its intended purpose.
Grand juries can be very disempowering for us all, and especially for those targeted by them. We face questioning without legal counsel present or a right to remain silent. We can be threatened, coerced, and jailed. However, no punishment could be worse than surrendering our values. And this decision, whether we cooperate or resist, is the one thing we, as individuals, have control of in this process. Luckily, this is the choice that allows these grand juries to succeed or to fail.
Our willingness to cooperate and to be complacent, our willingness to be intimidated and to be scared, not only serves to legitimize these proceedings, but it also empowers the tactics of state repression.
However, when we as individuals, with the strength and backing of our communities, are no longer afraid of their punishment, choose to resist this process and refuse to cooperate, we dis-empower this tactic and give strength to our communities. We return the strength that is given to us.
So thank you all for giving me that strength. And I only hope to give back as much as has been given to me.
You can see a video of the statements here