Josh Wolf Is Back In Prison

Sep 22, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Freelance video photojournalsit Josh Wolf is back in prison today, his bail revoked after he lost his appeal of a court order to jail him for contempt of court for refusing to turn over unaired video footage he shot of a protest rally turned violent in San Francisco in 2005. Wolf had been given until 1 p.m. today to report to the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, CA, where he's already served a month in prison for failure to comply with a grand jury's subpoena for the tapes.

As Wolf returned to prison he told reporters, "Even though they are going to take me into custody they can't silence me."

And two San Francisco Chronicle reporters may be joining Wolf in prison soon for refusing to tell a judge who leaked them secret grand jury testimony from Barry Bonds and other high-profile atheletes in an investigation involving professional baseball and steroid drugs.

Wolf has been free on bail since September 1 after already serving a month in jail in August for refusing to produce the video, but last week a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Wolf's appeal and on Monday granted prosecutors' requests to send the photojournalist back to prison.

Wolf, 24, was ordered to report back to jail by 1 p.m. on Wednesday but a last-minute two-day extension was granted by the court so that Wolf could deal with personal matters. He could be in jail for as long as up to nine months or more, until the grand jury's term expires or even afterwards if prosecutors call a new grand jury into session.

Outside the jail Wednesday, while awaiting the court's extension on his deadline, the freelance videographer told reporters, "The only effect this has, of sending me to jail and not allowing things to play out, is that it silences me. To me, this does seem like an assault on the press. No unpaid journalist wants to be an unpaid investigator for law enforcement."

Wolf's return to jail comes hot on the heels of another federal judge's ruling Thursday in San Francisco that threatens to send two San Francisco Chronicle reporters to prison for as much as 18 months if they continue to refuse to name sources that leaked them secret grand jury testimony about star athletes' use of steroid drugs in the BALCO case. Reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams were told by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White that he will send them to prison if they lose their appeal of his earlier order commanding them to tell a grand jury who leaked the secret testimony to them. The reporters used the grand jury testimony in their Chronicle series of investigative stories about the BALCO case.

Fainaru-Wada and Williams' appeal is before the same Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals that just ordered Wolf back to prison for his refusal to provide information. Their ruling about whether the two reporters have a right to refuse to testify is expected to take several months, according to the Chronicle.

The Ninth Circuit three-judge panel that has ordered Wolf back to prison could be overturned by the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals if they grant an "en banc" motion by Wolf's attorney, Jose Luis Fuentes of Oakland, to have the full court hear his appeal. If the full court rejects that motion, the next option for appeal for Wolf's lawyers is the U.S. Supreme Court. Monday when the court ordered Wolf to return to jail, his lawyer told News Photographer magazine that "The Appellant court did an end-run around their own rules and case law to punish Wolf."

The National Press Photographers Association has joined other press freedom groups in supporting Wolf's legal defense. In August, NPPA led a protest against Wolf's jailing. "We will continue to fight for a federal shield law, in both the courts and in the legislature, and for the right for photojournalists to protect their out-takes," NPPA immediate past president Alicia Wagner Calzada said.

he subpoena calling for Wolf to turn over his unpublished video was issued by a federal grand jury investigating an alleged attempt by protesters to burn a San Francisco police car during an anarchist-led rally in July 2005 that turned violent during a protest march in San Francisco against an economic summit that was taking place in Scotland.