Thursday, February 03, 2011

They Can’t Raid All of Us: An Explanation on How and Why to Resist Grand Juries

Feb. 3, 2011 Vanzetti's Ghost

“The law does not pretend to punish everything that is dishonest. That would seriously interfere with business.”-Clarence S Darrow

Earlier this week the FBI raided 40 members of anonymous in the US, serving them with subpoenas and taking all of their computers, phones and other technology that might have information regarding “Anonymous and/or 4chan”. The most troubling part being the revelation there is now a grand jury in the United States that is investigating the activities of anonymous…

Those of you who are familiar with grand juries already know most of what I’m about to say, but for those who don’t… Grand juries are unlike normal juries, are called to investigate whether or not someone should be charged with a crime. To decide this GJ has the power to subpoena physical evidence or witnesses to testify. From

How is a Grand Jury Different Than a Trial Jury?

Unlike the “petit” jury, which is used to determine guilt in a trial, a grand jury consists of 16 to 23 jurors who are not screened for bias. The purpose of the grand jury is not to determine guilt or innocence, but to decide whether there is probable cause to prosecute someone for a felony crime. The grand jury operates in secrecy and the normal rules of evidence do not apply. The prosecutor runs the proceedings and no judge is present. Defense lawyers are not allowed to be present in the grand jury room and cannot present evidence, but may be available outside the room to consult with witnesses. The prosecutor and the grand jury members may not reveal what occurred in the grand jury room and witnesses cannot obtain a transcript of their testimony.

How Has the Grand Jury Been Misused?

Because of their broad subpoena powers and secretive nature, grand juries have been used by the government to gather information on political movements and to disrupt those movements by causing fear and mistrust. The grand jury lends itself to being used for improper political investigation due in part to the prosecutor’s ability to question witnesses without regard for rules that prohibit irrelevant, unreliable or unlawfully obtained evidence. Those called before the grand jury may be compelled to answer any question, even those relating to lawful personal and political activities. That information has been used by the government as a basis to conduct further surveillance and disruption of political dissent. When used against political movements, the grand jury causes fear and mistrust because persons who refuse to answer questions about their First Amendment political activities, friends and associates may be jailed for the life of the grand jury: up to 18 months. If a witness asserts her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, she may be forced to accept immunity or go to jail for contempt. Even a witness who attempts to cooperate can be jailed if minor inconsistencies are found in her testimony. Such a perjury charge may stand even when the grand jury fails to hand down any indictment for what it was ostensibly investigating.”

For those too lazy to read that, here are the bullet points of why grand juries are the modern day equivalent of a kangaroo court and why they are worth resisting:

1) It’s not even a real fucking jury. You are not being questioned by a jury of your peers.

2) There is no judge. A prosecutor whose job relies on whether or not he can get convictions runs the thing.

3) You can get a lawyer but that lawyer can’t even be present in the room to advise you while you’re being questioned.

4) You can be thrown in jail for not talking and exercising your 5th amendment right against self-incrimination. You’re technically not guilty of anything but “contempt of court” then, but its still jail and you could stay in jail for as long as the grand jury is in session, up to 18 months sometimes. Then, if you still don’t testify, they can bring a charge of criminal contempt against you, which apart from being an actual crime you’d be guilty of, has no maximum sentence. To top that all off, nowadays if you refuse to testify and the “jury” decides they are performing a terrorism investigation, you can be charged with a terrorism enhancement, something along the lines of obstructing an investigation into terrorism which brings an intense sentence. (One Palestinian activist and grand jury resister was charged with criminal contempt and obstruction of an investigation into terrorism. He received 135 months! WTF!)

5) There could still be an actual court case. Although a grand jury means the state is reaching for an excuse to disrupt activists, they have and will bring any and all charges against anyone even slightly involved with the movement.

Most importantly though, grand juries are notorious for investigating and disrupting social movements. The prosecutor has the power to subpoena anyone to testify or hand over any physical evidence they may have information pertaining their potential “charges”. They can ask any questions they want and you have to answer them or you get thrown in jail. It’s easy to see why the government would use the grand jury. It’s an old tactic, divide and conquer. By serving subpoenas to testify to people in a movement they can try and pit the participants against each other. Imagine you are ordered to testify in front of a grand jury. If you choose to testify on the hope of immunity (which may or may not keep you from being prosecuted) you’re betraying your friends in the movement, laying the way for other subpoenas and charges, you’re betraying the ideals or cause you worked for, and on top of all that, you could still incriminate yourself and end up in jail. And if you don’t talk and stay loyal to your beliefs and your friends you could still end up in jail while the grand jury is in. At worst you could end up with criminal contempt and a terrorism enhancement.

Steps to be taken immediately to beat this Grand Jury:

1) Get organized to defend yourself and those you care about immediately. We are still in the early stages of this GJ, considering they could convene for as long as 18 months. (And they could always call another grand jury later) The earlier you start the more effective your defense will be.

Time to stick together

2) As long as the affected are fighting the grand jury, it is imperative to support them in every way possible. If it’s known that there’s a strong network of support for those who are served with a subpoena, its better for everyone. Less people will be willing to cooperate, which will make the jury less effective, and make everyone safer. Remember, it might seem safer to distance yourself from someone who was served but in reality it isn’t. One’s person’s non-cooperation could be the difference between jail and freedom for a lot of people. The more evidence they get, the easier it is for them to file more subpoenas, and the easier it is to bring real charges later. The only way to protect yourself from grand juries in the long run is to protect the movement and stick together.

3) Immediately form at least one visible, open, and participatory defense committee. The first task is securing legal representation for those who don’t already have it. There are motions an experienced lawyer can file that will waste time and until the grand jury is over. You may even get a subpoena thrown out with the right motion (i.e. a motion to quash a subpoena). This committee can get in contact with others experienced in fighting grand juries to get a better idea of how to proceed. Education needs to happen on two fronts. The first: the education of those in the movement of their legal rights, of the existence of the grand jury and of the support network in place for those who may be subpoenaed. The second: publicize the situation as much as public for the general public. As many people as possible need to know the true nature of the grand juries, how they are unconstitutional, and their history of disrupting social movements. This education needs to happen in many ways, including interviews, production of educational materials, the organization of visible protests in support of those subpoenaed and against the grand jury, setting up a bail fund and whatever else is necessary. The more happening the better.

4) And to restate: Don’t Testify! Even if you have nothing to hide, your testimony can still get you thrown in jail for perjury for minor inconsistencies, and it can certainly hurt others.

The National Lawyers Guild said in their publication:

“For many political activists, the historic and principled way to avoid these dilemmas (informing, perjury) has been the invocation of absolute non-collaboration with grand jury investigations of political movements. While this has resulted in many instances with the witness’ incarceration for contempt, it has also discouraged the subpoenaing of further witnesses, and on some occasions, the withdrawal of all subpoenas.”

Important Common Sense Legal/Know Your Rights Info:

1) You have the right to remain silent. So shut the fuck up. You don’t have to talk to any police, FBI or investigator that comes through your door. Regardless of what they say, or threaten you with it is always better to remain silent until you talk to a lawyer. Expect anything you say to be used against you or someone you know in the future. If you’re being subpoenaed anything you say could be used as basis for further questioning and subpoenas which could lead to more charges.

2) Cops lie. All the time. You can’t trust cops. You can’t trust cops. Do not believe a word they say.

3) Never under any circumstances let anyone into your place without a warrant. And if they have a warrant, make sure they only search the place specified in the warrant. And while they’re searching take down officer’s names and badge numbers. Take notes about the search as well. And if they don’t have a warrant do not let them search your place, whatever they say. It could only hurt.

4) To recap, if the police come knocking, you say three things, “Do you have a warrant?” if not tell them to GTFO. And when they start asking you questions say “I do not want to speak to you, Talk to my lawyer”. And if you don’t have a lawyer you can just take down the investigators name, agency and phone # and tell them you’ll give them your lawyers phone number and name once you have one. That should work the same as “I want my lawyer”

Well that’s about it for now. I hope this info is of some use. I just want to say my heart goes out to those anon who got served with subpoenas. The only thing I can say is this thing has come this far, now is not the time to split apart. In reality it is possible to “crush” a grand jury as they say, and it has happened before… Solidarity to all the raided and accused! They’re grasping at straws here and we all know it…

P.S. Here’s a bunch of resources that will probably help, some of which I used to write this here article.

Useful Resources: is a great site that has a bunch of info and useful links about grand juries and defending yourself from them. You go to the site and read detailed material about grand juries and how to resist them, and you can also read briefs from Josh Wolf’s grand jury hearings. Their statement: “The GJRP is a coalition of lawyers, activists, and individuals targeted by government harassment. The efforts of the GJRP include: public education and training, organizing demonstrations, utilizing the media, consolidating current grand jury information, and the development of affirmative legal responses. In addition, the GJRP assists in providing direct support and legal representation for those being politically targeted by grand juries. The GJRP works in the spirit that politically motivated attacks by the government demonstrate that people’s movements and direct action are effective and powerful tools against oppression. The GJRP seeks to support people’s resistance to intimidation and their continued action against exploitation and for social, environmental, and economic justice.” Hit them up at

National Lawyers Guild (NLG): a network of lawyers that has a long history of defending activists and fighting surveillance. You can also get a lawyer referral from them. A statement from their website: “Rather than focusing on narrow areas of professional practice, the National Lawyers Guild sees that a wide range of social, political, and legal issues, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, environmental destruction, immigrant-bashing, labor issues, and voting rights, are intertwined with questions of economic justice and cannot be solved through focus on specific “legal practice” issues, or through the legal system alone. As a result, in addition to belonging to other professional organizations with a specific practice or professional focus, Guild lawyers, nonlawyers, students, academics, legislators, jurists, and activists from a wide range of law-related work find ways to make common cause, through the National Lawyers Guild.” Info about terrorism enhancements being brought against grand jury resistors A fantastic compilation of essays about grand juries and how to go about resisting them, how to talk to the cops, how to keep your movement together under pressure, all put out by No Compromise a publication of the animal liberation movement. I suggest checking out How to Crush a Grand Jury the No Compromise Way.

And to finish off a few sites of support groups/defense committees that have formed to deal with other grand juries:

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