Tuesday, October 27, 2009

UI Spence Break-In: Gazette Scoop Illustrates Issues

October 27, 2009, 11:00 a.m.; November 20, 2009, 6:30 a.m.

Nov. 20 Updates: Two Spence break-in grand jury witnesses jailed for refusal to testify, one now indicted, "UI Spence Break-In: Gazette Scoop Illustrates Issues," October 27, 2009; Anonymous, "Davenport Grand Jury Subpoena for Scott DeMuth," Nov. 11, 2009; "Two jailed for refusing to testify before grand jury," Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 17, 2009; Carrie Feldman's Web site and the new "Support Carrie and Scott!"; "Activist indicted for alleged role in Spence Labs vandalism," Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 19, 2009 [in hard copy as "Man Indicted for Animal Terrorism," Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 20, 2009, p. A1]; Ann McGlynn, "Activist who refused grand jury testimony now charged with conspiracy," Quad City Times, November 19, 2009; Ann McGlynn and Diane Heldt, "Lab Break-in Charge Pleases UI Officials," The Gazette, November 20, 2009, p. A1; Ann McGlynn, "Animal rights activist pleads not guilty in University of Iowa vandalism," Quad City Times, November 20, 2009; Zack Kucharski, "Judge Orders Animal Rights Activist Held," Quad City Times, November 26, 2009.

Topics: Media, Shield Laws, Grand Juries (secrecy, abuse to suppress dissent, failure to testify, imprisonment for contempt), Animal Rights, Animal Research, Internet Revelations
(brought to you by FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com*)

Media. A "Hats Off" to The Gazette for a major scoop this morning involving the November 13/14, 2004, UI Spence Labs break-in with estimated $450,000 damage and "ALF" (Animal Liberation Front) spray painting. Diane Heldt, "Young woman: I’m grand jury’s target; Minneapolis native says inquiry is for 2004 Spence Labs break-in," The Gazette, October 27, 2009, p. A1 (with links to related stories). (That link is to the Gazette Online version of the story. The hard copy version, which contains a link to the subject's Web page, is available at http://cedarrapidsgazette.ussrv06.newsmemory.com/index.php (if you access it after the date of publication, October 27, use the drop down menus to find that day's edition). [Nov. 12. And see, Anonymous, "Davenport Grand Jury Subpoena for Scott DeMuth," Nov. 11, 2009; "Two jailed for refusing to testify before grand jury," Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 17, 2009, and Feldman's Web site.]

A Minneapolis woman, 15 at the time, is publicly reporting she has been called before a grand jury she asserts has been convened regarding the crime.

While The Gazette in general, and Diane Heldt in particular (along with "Ann McGlynn of the Quad City Times [who] contributed to this article"), are entitled to credit for getting and publishing the story, one media question is why is there not a whisper of it in the Daily Iowan, Iowa City Press-Citizen, or Des Moines Register? (Notwithstanding the Quad City Times's reporters involvement, I couldn't find anything in that paper's online edition either.)

[Long after this blog entry was written, and about the same time it was posted, the Press-Citizen put a story online: B.A. Morelli, "Woman Won't Testify in UI Animal Rights Case," Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 27, 2009. It could be both papers worked on the story independently, but the Press-Citizen doesn't mention its independent source, if any, or provide a link to either The Gazette's story or the subject's site. So we're left to speculate.]

Shield Laws. What if the reason The Gazette was able to get the story is that they had access to a confidential source, Diane Heldt and Ann McGlynn are subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury to reveal that source and what they were told, and they refuse to appear? This general subject ("shield laws") happens to be something my class is briefly focusing on at the moment. So far as I know Iowa has no shield law legislation as such, but at least a couple of Iowa Supreme Court cases seem to look favorably on at least balancing reporters' rights in comparable circumstances. (See, e.g., Lamberto v. Bown, 326 N.W.2d 305 (Iowa 1982), and Bell v. City of Des Moines, 412 N.W.2d 585 (Iowa 1987). Obviously, a lot more thorough research would be necessary to formulate a reliable "legal opinion" regarding Iowa law.)

Grand Juries. Grand jury proceedings are secret, in an effort, among other things, to protect the reputation of someone whom the grand jury ultimately refuses to indict. In this instance the witness has chosen to speak publicly about the existence of the grand jury, that she was called, refused to testify, and that she suspects it has to do with the 2004 case. All of the above, plus whatever she chooses to do on November 17 when she says she is to return, may be potential bases for the judge finding her in contempt.

One of her general arguments in her attack on grand juries generally, is that she believes they are being misused by law enforcement, not to prosecute crime, but as a way to obtain otherwise unavailable information, intimidate and otherwise suppress legitimate dissent. I have no independent knowledge of that one way or the other, but it would be a concern if true.There certainly have been revelations of law enforcement infiltrating and otherwise spying on non-violent anti-war and other benign organizations.

Animal Rights; Animal Research. Animal rights organizations range the political/activist spectrum from those like the World Wildlife Fund, our local Johnson County Heritage Trust, or Pheasants Forever: The Habitat Conservation Organization, to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and on to the unabashedly radical, property-destroying Animal Liberation Front (because Google warns that even the ALF's Web site can harm your computer, the latter is a link to the Wikipedia entry). [Photo Credit: The Gazette.]

Those doing animal research point out the benefits it can contribute for humans in terms of pharmaceutical and other product testing, understanding human psychology, and other scientific research; that researchers have cut back on the use of primates and dogs; and that the animals are well cared for. Needless to say, animal rights activists dispute some of these assertions.

Internet Web Pages. I doubt that this is either the first or the last use of the Internet by someone called before a grand jury, but it is also fascinating to me for that reason. She lays out the whole story -- from her perspective, of course. Her friends have attached comments of support. Her statement to the grand jury is included, along with the details of her planned events the day she returns. It's kind of a combination Web page, blog and Facebook site. It may very well figure in any future judicial findings of her being in contempt of court.

It's not often I come upon a story that touches on so many subjects of interest to me. You may find some here of interest as well.
* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source, even if I have to embed it myself. -- Nicholas Johnson
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

l, was compelled but confidential. See Bonds, Barry...where trainer Greg Anderson went to prison for a year because he would not testify against steroid cheat bonds.