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Saturday, August 20, 2005 | A subpoena that would have forced the husband of a jailed animal rights activist to testify in front of a federal Grand Jury was withdrawn Thursday, one day after his lawyer filed a motion to quash the binding document.
Justin Hand was served a demand to testify before a Grand Jury investigating a 2003 arson fire immediately following a hearing on Aug. 12 in which his wife, animal rights activist Danae Kelley, was taken into custody for refusing to testify in the same investigation.
Activist David Agranoff was also imprisoned at that hearing, in what some say is an effort by the FBI to harass members of the San Diego activist community.
Lawyers for Hand, 22, filed a motion to quash the subpoena Wednesday, arguing that he didn’t know anything about the activists that wasn’t protected by “marital privilege,” a legal protection that makes communication between spouses confidential.
“It sounds like they agreed,” said former U.S. Attorney John Kirby. He called the subpoena withdrawal “pretty unusual,” particularly since it was done without any agreement for a more informal meeting between the parties.
As part of its inquiry, the grand jury is looking into those attending a lecture given in Hillcrest 12 hours after the $50 million University City blaze, in which militant activist Rod Coronado allegedly spoke to the audience about homemade incendiary devices historically used by radical activists.
The government has subpoenaed several (it will not say how many) attendee of the lecture as part of its investigation.
Activists have said that, because video tapes of the speech exist, the subpoenas are being used to find out who attended, and therefore violate their right to free assembly by forcing them to name members of their community.
Since Hand is not an activist and he and Kelley did not know each other in 2003, the motion argued, everything he could have told the grand jury was already protected by marital privilege.
“This was kind of a unique case because he wasn’t part of the movement,” said Hand’s lawyer, Gerald Singleton.
In his motion, Singleton cited a civil rights case in which courts struck down a municipality’s demands to have a full list of members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People “so that the government could harass, intimidate and disrupt the activities of the movement.”
“The prosecutors are using the Grand Jury as a tool against the animal rights and environmental movements for the same purpose,” Singleton wrote. “The receipt of a subpoena tends to have a chilling effect on activists’ basic freedoms to associate, to advocate and to espouse a dissident belief.”
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