Thursday, September 08, 2005 | U.S. District Chief Judge Irma Gonzalez ruled Wednesday that activists Danae Kelley and David Agranoff must remain in jail.
The activists have persistently refused to give testimony to an FBI-instigated Grand Jury investigation. Gonzalez ruled on July 12, 2005 that the two defendants were in contempt of court as a result of their actions and ordered them jailed.
The two were freed for two weeks in July and August pending the results of an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That appeal failed and they were immediately ordered back to jail.
Attorneys for the activists have contended that their clients will never give evidence to the Grand Jury and that, therefore, keeping them incarcerated amounts to punishment, rather than coercion.
That distinction is an essential factor in deciding whether the judge can free the activists, explained former San Diego federal prosecutor John Kirby in a July interview.
“The thought behind it is that incarcerating someone for contempt of court isn’t really a punishment for them not testifying, it’s an incentive to get them to testify,” said Kirby. “… If at some point it becomes apparent that that person is never going to testify, no matter how long they are in jail, then a judge is going to be hard pressed to keep them there forever.”
Jeremy Warren, defense attorney for Agranoff, argued before Gonzalez Wednesday that his client is simply never going to testify.
“No one likes jail,” said Warren, “it’s a terrible thing. But these people have sat there every night for 45 days and 45 nights knowing that any time they can get out just by calling the government. The bottom line is that Mr. Agranoff is not going to testify.”
Gonzalez appeared to be warming to the defendant’s arguments, but after hearing from both sides, she called the plaintiff attorneys into a sidebar conversation.
Immediately after that conversation, Gonzalez returned to the bench and made her ruling.
“I am convinced that the government is pursuing every single avenue to solve this crime,” she said. “So at this time, I deny the release of the prisoners.”
The method by which Gonzalez’s decision was reached, if not the decision itself, came as a surprise to Warren and to Julie Blair, attorney for Kelley.
“She didn’t even mention the fact of whether this was coercion or punishment,” said Blair. “She just all of a sudden was very convinced that this investigation was very important – and, of course, we don’t know what they said to her. I thought it was a little unusual.”
Warren was blunt in summarizing the hearing.
“The nature of today’s hearing highlights the problem with the Grand Jury process,” he said. “Everything’s done in secret.”
Both attorneys were, naturally, disappointed with the results of the hearing. More disappointed, however, was Kelley’s husband, 22-year-old Justin Hand.
Lamenting the fact that his spouse was still incarcerated, but speaking with pride about his wife’s moral stance, Hand laid out just one of the things that makes him upset about seeing Kelley in jail.
He said the daily visits are nowhere near enough time to spend with his wife, especially since the former Navy man only recently returned from seven months at sea.
“Between a half-hour conversation,” he said, “I’ve got to fit in ‘I love you;’ ‘Have a good day;’ ‘What do you want me to do with all this stuff;’ ‘We’re broke,’ this, that and the other thing and you just don’t have the time.’”
Warren said the attorneys will seek to appear again in front of Gonzalez as soon as possible. He expects to be back in court within three weeks, and he’s sure that next time the judge will relent.
For background information on this story, you may want to read:
Vegan Activists Remain in Jail After Appeal Fails
Vegan Activists Get Out Of Jail Free (Well, For $1,000)
Activists Go Back to Jail as Lawyers Gear Up for Another Round of Appeals
Husband of Jailed Activist Dodges Subpoena
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