A freelance journalist and political activist was sent to federal prison Tuesday and could be held for nearly a year after refusing a grand jury’s demand that he turn over unaired videotapes of a 2005 anarchist demonstration in which protesters clashed with San Francisco police, reports the city’s Chronicle. U.S. District Judge William Alsup found Josh Wolf, 24, in contempt of court for failing to comply with a subpoena that the federal grand jury issued Feb. 1. Alsup rejected Wolf’s claim that a reporter has a right to withhold unpublished material, and he said prosecutors were seeking the videos for a legitimate investigation into a possible crime — the attempted burning of a San Francisco police car.
“Every person, from the president of the United States down to you and me, has to give information to the grand jury if the grand jury wants it,” the judge said at the end of a 2 1/2-hour hearing in federal court in San Francisco. Wolf and his lawyers contend that federal authorities are less interested in the alleged arson than they are in disrupting the legitimate political activities of anarchist groups. Forcing Wolf to turn over his videotapes is a way of keeping the media from reporting dissidents’ point of view, they said. Wolf describes himself on his Web site as an activist and anarchist. The videos sought by the grand jury were of a demonstration that Wolf shot on July 8, 2005, in the Mission District.