Voice of Russia: Support Committee Interview Jan. 2014

The Voice of Russia Radio (American Edition) did a brief interview with the Support Committee.  Attached is the audio file, or follow the link below to read the accompanying article, and listen to the story:

Play MP3

Voice-of-Russia-Logo

 

Newschool Free Press: Jan. 28, 2014

New School Free Press article on Jerry’s release, read the text in full below, or follow the link to the Free Press site, here:

Activist, Lang Student Jerry Koch Released

Jerry Koch
Photo Credit JerryResists.net

 

In the brisk January air, Lang student Gerald “Jerry” Koch ran out into the cold, wearing prison sweats and cotton slippers, to his attorney’s office, just after calling his mother to tell her he was free, according to a post on Facebook by New York Year Zero.

After Koch had been held for 241 days in Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correction Center without being charged with a crime, Judge John Keenan decided to answer a motion filed by his lawyers last month and release Koch on the grounds that the state would not be able to coerce him into cooperating with a federal grand jury.

Koch, who is a student at Eugene Lang College with one semester left until graduation, was jailed for refusing to testify in an investigation regarding the 2008 explosion outside a Times Square military recruitment center.

Koch was subpoenaed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation twice to testify in front of a grand jury, once in June 2009, and again in May 2013. Prosecutors alleged that he was present at a bar when two other patrons may have discussed a plot to bomb the US Armed Forces Recruitment Center some time in 2008 or 2009.

“When I was first subpoenaed to the grand jury in 2009 I had no recollection of any such incident— a fact that I expressed publicly. Now, almost 4 years later, I still do not recall the alleged situation,” Koch said in a May 2013 Statement.

Even though the FBI maintained that it did not believe Koch to be a suspect in the case and offered him immunity in exchange for talking to them about people he knew in the activist network, he refused to cooperate.

“I refused to testify at that time based on the assertion of my First, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights, as I will be doing again for the duration of this grand jury,” Koch said.

“My politics, principles and ethics stand in direct opposition with this legal tool that is used to further enable the government in its assault on anarchists, and I will not lend it any legitimacy, nor will I comply in any way,” Koch said in a statement made from prison in August.

“Jerry is out, and his dominant concern right now remains his awareness of all the others who are so cruelly incarcerated, Koch’s lawyer Moira Meltzer-Cohen told The Free Press. “The best way for us to celebrate is to carry on our struggle for abolition. The healing is in the work. Power to the people.”

“I am crying tears of joy,” Jerry’s mother said on Facebook.

FreePress

Village Voice: Jan. 29, 2014

Village Voice article on Jerry’s release.  Read the text in full below, or follow the link to the Village Voice website, here:

“After 8 Months, Brooklyn Anarchist Jerry Koch Set Free After Refusing To Testify Before Grand Jury

By Anna Merlan Wed., Jan. 29 2014 at 11:59 AM

Eight months ago, Gerald “Jerry” Koch, a 24-year-old environmental and political activist, was called to testify before a New York grand jury. The subject of the grand jury hearing was believed to be a 2008 incident in Times Square, in which a homemade explosive device was detonated in Times Square, damaging a military recruiting office there. It wasn’t his first time being called; in 2009, when he was 19, he was asked to testify before a grand jury and declined, saying he knew nothing about what happened.

When he was called again last year, Koch refused again, this time in stronger terms. He released a statement that read, in part, “I will once again refuse to testify to the federal grand jury in ethical resistance to participation in a fruitless exercise of fear-mongering and government intimidation.” Like many anarchist activists, he believed that the grand jury was more like a fishing expedition, designed to get information about activist circles.

Federal District Court Judge John F. Keenan was unhappy with Koch’s decision to stay mum. He held Koch in contempt of court and ordered him to be jailed at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Correctional Center for “an indefinite period of time.”

That constitutionally dubious sentence ended yesterday, when Koch was finally released. According to a website kept by his supporters, his attorneys filed what’s known as a “Grumbles motion.” A Grumbles argues that confining a grand jury resister to jail isn’t supposed to punitive, merely “coercive”; that is, it should persuade you to testify. Since Koch never did, his attorneys argued, the sentence had become punitive and should be ended.

The New York Anarchist Black Cross obtained the full order stemming from yesterday’s hearing, in which Keenan grudgingly accepts that argument. (We’ve embedded the full order below.)

“Koch has chosen to remain in contempt — indeed, he promises continued and endless contempt — but petitions the Court to be released so that he might be spared the remaining consequences of his choices,” Keenan wrote. He called Koch’s theory that the government subpoena was based upon his political beliefs a “delusion of grandeur,” adding, with noticeable sarcasm, “There is simply no evidence that the Government, threatened by Koch’s subversive prowess, seeks to bring him before a grand jury on a pretext, either to gain access to the treasure trove that is his circle of friends or to send an ominous message to political dissidents.”

Nonetheless, Keenan added, he would release Koch, despite the “fanciful” allegations made about government misconduct in many of his legal filings, including a claim that he was being illegally electronically surveilled (a claim the state denied). More important, he said, were Koch’s statements that he was physically and mentally suffering in prison: losing weight, developing joint problems, and becoming depressed. Although Keenan said he was “sympathetic” to Koch’s suffering, the real issue, he said, “is how Koch’s health or happiness at MCC will affect his reluctance to testify.”

Ultimately, Keenan ruled, “[T]he Court finds it more likely that Koch will only derive increasing grim self-satisfaction from his position. The more unstable he gets, the more he will be presented as a martyr and perceive himself as such. Koch has already decided that this type of notoriety is more valuable than his health and freedom in the short run and the Court sees no basis to conclude that he will reverse that calculus.” Koch’s “reflexive ideology that forbids his cooperation with the serious investigation at hand,” the judge added, would not be moved.

Koch had been anticipating his possible release for some time. On Christmas Eve, he released a statement through Jerry Resists, a site set up by his supporters; it reads, in part:

Very soon, Judge Keenan will decide whether to order my release or to continue my incarceration. He will make this decision based in large part on my claim that what began as coercive confinement has clearly become punitive – meaning that there never was any chance that incarceration would intimidate me into cooperating with this Grand Jury, and that after serving 7 months in this place, my resolve has only grown stronger.This is not to say that I haven’t suffered – I’ve lost more during my incarceration that I ever thought possible. I grieve for every goodbye, and I doubt that some of these scars will ever heal. It is during truly difficult times that reveal what lives in the core of people, and that knowledge can sometimes be incredibly painful. But so too can that knowledge make us stronger; I take comfort from those of my fellows who have also refused to be made into subjects of this place. My own resistance is far from unique. It is found in those who have always said NO to those in power. My refusal to cooperate is my contribution to this tradition of defiance to arbitrary and repressive power. I will not cooperate. I will not be institutionalized. No compromise in this. I will not sacrifice my dignity in order to leave this place, and that’s not nothing.”

VillageVoice

Judge’s Opinion: Grumbles Motion

Attached at bottom is the full opinion, written with a certain degree of lyricism, regarding the judge’s decision to accept the Grumbles motion and release Jerry.

From NYC: Anarchist Black Cross:

On Tuesday, January 28th, anarchist grand jury resister Gerald “Jerry” Koch was released from the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. Koch’s release comes over eight months after his imprisonment for refusing to testify before a grand jury convened under the auspices of investigating the so-called bicycle bomber case.

Judge John Keenan, the presiding judge over Jerry’s case, believes that taking the position of a government run amok, using grand juries as a witch hunt is, “a delusion of grandeur.” Judge Keenan goes on:

‘There is simply no evidence that the Government [sic], threatened by Koch’s subversive prowess, seeks to bring him before the grand jury on a pretext, either to gain access to the treasure trove that is his circle of friends or to send an ominous message to political dissidents.’

In reality, the United States government was following a pattern of using grand juries as fishing expeditions in hopes of better understanding social and political networks of anarchists. This tactic has been recently seen in the Pacific Northwest and in California. Regardless, Jerry’s release does not come as a result of some hacky judge “seeing the light” and letting the barred door swing wide. It comes due to the diligence of his legal support in filing a strong Grumbles motion. Also from the judge’s decision:

‘Koch’s argument is straightforward. Because he continues to oppose the government in general and the grand jury process in particular, he urges that continued confinement will not induce him to testify. Indeed, he asserts that his tenure at the MCC has caused his views about government repression to congeal even further.’

Imprisonment for civil contempt in order to coerce someone to testify is, according to the state, not supposed to be punitive. When it becomes punitive and loses any coercive power, the individual must be released (or so goes the argument). The content of the motion filed by Jerry’s legal support argues that the function of Jerry’s imprisonment—to coerce him to testify before the grand jury, was failing and in fact had become merely punitive. Based on the above quote, judge Keenan agreed. And this is the basis of the judge’s decision to release Jerry.

Judge Keenan’s decision also reveals the importance of outside support. Articles written about Jerry, letters written on his behalf, and even an online petition cumulatively added to the strength of the motion filed on his behalf. Strong solidarity from family and friends positively contributed to Jerry’s release.

In reading Judge Keenan’s decision, it is clear that the only joy he is able to squeeze out of his miserable life is in sophomoric barbs launched at Jerry and anarchists in general. And at the end of the day, none of the judge’s childish insults matter. What matters is that we have our comrade returned to us, unbroken.

Again in the words of Judge Keenan, Jerry “has chosen to remain in contempt– indeed he promises continued and endless contempt.” And for that, we applaud you, Jerry. Welcome home.”

Click to read the decision in full:

JudgesOpinionKoch_2014

JERRY IS FREE!

JerryKochReleased

Jerry has been released!  He was released early today, unexpectedly, after the judge accepted the Grumbles motion, despite opposition from the government.  Thanks so much to all of you, supporters, and friends.  All of you have helped immensely.

More details to follow!

If you have correspondence, letters, or unsent mail that you still want to send to Jerry, and no longer have contact information for him, mail can be sent to:

Combustion Books
P.O. Box 721338
Jackson Heights, NY, 11372

Jerry’s Letter on Mandatory Minimums/Good Time

Jerry sent out this letter asking for people to sign this petition asking for increased good time for federal prisoners and the end of mandatory minimums in sentencing.  Please read his statement and check out the associated link:

As you may or may not know (but most likely do), our oh-so-lovely congress has been tentatively considering a series of proposals to increase good time for federal prisoners, and also to allow judges to depart from mandatory minimums without having to have the express approval of the prosecutor. While I am incredibly skeptical of petitions, I do think that if something can be of practical and immediate aid to folks locked up, then we must do what we can to see that happen. There’s a letter going around that you can read at www.prisology.org/action that a lawyer named Jeremy Gordon based out of Texas drafted to be sent to our benevolent and caring representatives regarding these recent proposals. I wont further summarize it here, but rather encourage you to read it, share it, and sign it if you feel so inclined.

I hope that all of you are well, and each of you have my thanks for helping me get through this in one way or another.

Best

Jerry Koch

Jerry Releases a New Statement 12/24/13

Jerry has released a new statement (reproduced below), coinciding with the submission of a Grumbles motion by his legal team, appealing for his release.

Please, send your love and solidarity to Jerry over the holidays.

Not Nothing

Very soon, Judge Keenan will decide whether to order my release or to continue my incarceration. He will make this decision based in large part on my claim that what began as coercive confinement has clearly become punitive – meaning that there never was any chance that incarceration would intimidate me into cooperating with this Grand Jury, and that after serving 7 months in this place, my resolve has only grown stronger.

This is not to say that I haven’t suffered – I’ve lost more during my incarceration that I ever thought possible. I grieve for every goodbye, and I doubt that some of these scars will ever heal. It is during truly difficult times that reveal what lives in the core of people, and that knowledge can sometimes be incredibly painful. But so too can that knowledge make us stronger; I take comfort from those of my fellows who have also refused to be made into subjects of this place. My own resistance is far from unique. It is found in those who have always said NO to those in power. My refusal to cooperate is my contribution to this tradition of defiance to arbitrary and repressive power. I will not cooperate. I will not be institutionalized. No compromise in this. I will not sacrifice my dignity in order to leave this place, and that’s not nothing.

I offer my belated but heartfelt condolences to the family and partner of Herman Wallace. Please take a moment to write to Albert Woodfox, the last member of the Angola 3 still in prison. Please also take a moment to participate in the Move Marie campaign, at SupportMarieMason.org.

With love, with dignity, in solidarity, for anarchy

- Jerry Koch

Change.org Petition

A Change.org petition has been created to present to the courts for upcoming motions, asking for Jerry’s release.  It is a simple gesture, but one that is very quick and helps to keep his case present in the public sphere. Change.org Petition

Change.org Petition

Salon.com “Denied Appeal for Freedom” 12/4/2013

Natasha Lennard has written a new article for Salon.com responding to the denial of Jerry’s appeal. Follow the link here, or read the full text as reproduced below:

Salon.com

New York grand jury resistor denied appeal for freedom
Natasha Lennard

In May I wrote about my friend Jerry Koch going to jail. A well-loved New York anarchist, Jerry, 24, was not charged with a crime, but was taken into federal custody for refusing to testify in front of a grand jury — those black boxes of the federal prosecutorial system with a grim history of harassing activists.

As far as his lawyers have gleaned, Jerry was never the target of the grand jury investigation (with which, based on political ethics, he has twice refused to cooperate). For his silence, or, as the justice system put it, “contempt,” he faced prison time of up to 18 months — the time limit for a given grand jury before charges must either be brought or the investigation dropped.

Over the course of nearly two grand jury sittings believed to relate to the same incident (the setting off of an incendiary device outside a Times Square military recruiting station, in which no one was injured) — Jerry has made amply clear that he has nothing to say to prosecutors. As such, with ample evidence that he will never testify, Jerry’s imprisonment can be seen as little more than punitive — this, despite the fact that the 24-year-old has been charged with no crimes under U.S. law. Nonetheless, this week a federal judge threw out an appeal filed by Jerry’s lawyer for his release.

Jerry’s silent resistance continues from within the same Manhattan federal prison holding hacktivist Jeremy Hammond. As Jerry told me earlier this year, before he was taken in to custody as a large crowd of New York activists and anarchists packed his contempt hearing in support, for him, this political silence — a manifestation of his antipathy to state intimidation — is “the best example of meaning what you say.”

Early this year, two anarchists from the Pacific Northwest who had been held in federal prison for five months for their grand jury resistance were freed by a judge who ruled that: “Both Ms. [Kteeo] Olejnik and Mr. [Matt] Duran have provided extensive declarations explaining that although they wish to end their confinement, they will never end their confinement by testifying. The court finds their declarations persuasive.”

My friend Jerry has equally proven that he will never end his confinement by testifying, yet will not accordingly be freed.

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

Reuters “U.S. Appeals Court Affirms Contempt…” 12/2/2013

Reuters published a follow up piece on Jerry’s appeal.  Follow the link here, or read the full content of the article below:

Reuters-Logo

U.S. appeals court affirms contempt judgment for anarchist

By Dena Aubin

NEW YORK Mon Dec 2, 2013 9:07pm EST

(Reuters) – A federal appeals court has upheld a contempt judgment against a self-described anarchist who refused to testify before a grand jury thought to be investigating a 2008 bomb explosion in New York’s Times Square.

Gerald Koch, 24, of Brooklyn was sent to jail in May after being found in civil contempt for refusing to testify, citing his rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

He was ordered held in federal custody for no longer than 18 months or the remaining life of the grand jury.

Koch’s lawyer, Susan Tipograph, could not immediately be reached for comment. In May, she told Reuters that she believed the grand jury was probing a small bomb detonation outside a U.S. armed forces recruiting station in March 2008.

Koch was not a target of the grand jury, she said.

The explosion caused no injuries but did damage the recruiting station.

In an order on Monday, the appeals court discounted Koch’s First Amendment claims, saying the grand jury was investigating a serious crime and the government “has made a convincing showing of its need to ask the questions at issue.”

The government has demonstrated that it has credible evidence that Koch may have information about the crime, the three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals wrote.

Koch was associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement and his contempt proceedings in May drew large crowds of young people in a Manhattan federal court.

The case is ABC v. Gerald Koch, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, No 13-2271.

(Reporting By Dena Aubin; editing by Christopher Wilson)