I met Jerry in 2011 during my first book tour. I lived with him for a few months in 2012. It’s hard to say how much of an influence he’s had on me. Anyone who’s been following my work over the past few years has undoubtedly noticed that I have become increasingly outspoken about my politics, and this is largely due to the influence of Jerry. Before I met Jerry, I had beliefs, but they were paired with a feeling of powerlessness and resignation that it was impossible for me to effect any kind of lasting change. And now I know that I was right, at least in that I alone cannot make a difference. Jerry is the most principled and resolute man I know, and a supportive hub of the New York radical community. He taught me that even if I feel powerless on my own, there is power and hope in solidarity.
Which is why he’s now facing the possibility of prison time, though he hasn’t been charged with any crime.
In 2009 Jerry was called in for a federal grand jury on a case he was totally disconnected from and knew nothing about. This being the case, he refused to testify.
Double Jeopardy not being something that applies to federal grand juries, he’s been called in again on the same case, and is taking the same course of action.
Unfortunately, it seems to be going differently this time. In a federal grand jury, a witness can be granted “immunity,” which, though it sounds nice, essentially rescinds the witness’ 5th Amendment constitutional right, and that “right to remain silent” we all know and love goes out the window. What immunity means, in this situation, is something along the lines of, “You are incapable of incriminating yourself with anything you say, so you have no legal reason not to tell us everything we want to know, no matter how disconnected it may be from the ostensible case at hand. Thus, if you continue to exercise your 5th Amendment right and your right to remain silent, you are in contempt of court.”
If deemed uncooperative with the federal grand jury, the witness—Jerry—is subject to prison time for the duration of grand jury as a “coercive measure.”
As anarchists, we have said time and again that the existing governmental structures oppress the populace in hypocritical, unjust ways. And the government’s current response to that assertion is to call Jerry into a secret proceeding where he is not allowed to have his lawyer in the room, and then send him to prison without charges. As a “COERCIVE” measure.
The response has proven our accusations. Not that it helps.
Jerry, to his credit, is continuing to refuse to testify in a nonviolent act of civil disobedience, fully aware of the consequences it may have.
What we can do now is spread the word and support Jerry. The grand jury process relies on secrecy, and publicity is a great tool against it. Please, reblog this, signal boost this, whatever the term is. We need solidarity. Visit http://jerryresists.net/ to learn more. Tell your friends.
Jerry’s contempt hearing is tomorrow, May 21st at 3:45 PM on the 20th floor of 500 Pearl Street.
We expect that he will be taken into custody by U.S. marshals tomorrow.
Because the hearing is public, we will be able to be in the courtroom with Jerry. Bring a photo ID if you will be going into the court house. No electronics are allowed and will be checked with security.
We suggest folks arrive 45 minutes to an hour early: security takes a while, and we want to show Jerry–and the feds–that we support him, and all grand jury resisters.
Bring banners or flyers. Spread this widely.
Resist state repression! Support Jerry! Support all political prisoners!
Our Passion for Freedom is Stronger than their Prisons
Today, the grand jury is being used to conduct a witch hunt against anarchists and political radicals. In refusing to testify, Jerry risks being held in contempt of court and faces incarceration in a federal prison for the duration of the grand jury, which could be up to 18 months.
Under the guise of an exploratory legal investigation, the grand jury is a secretive tool of repression that aims to intimidate and punish those who refuse to collaborate with the State.
Thursday, our friend and long time anarchist activist, Gerald “Jerry” Koch finally made his appearance before the Federal Grand Jury that subpoenaed him. Around 10:30 AM, at 40 Foley Square, Jerry entered the courthouse to cheers from some 80 gathered supporters chanting “our passion for freedom is stronger than their prisons!”
For the second time in four years, he stood before the impaneled jury and the prosecutor, without legal representation by his side or the comfort of loved ones in the courtroom pews, and refused to capitulate to state intimidation and announced his intention to remain silent.
From what we understand, Jerry answered only the three pedigree questions which were his name, address, and date of birth. For all of the following questions he invoked his First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth amendment rights and offered nothing further. After receiving each question he exited the courtroom to consult with his lawyer, before proceeding to return and invoke his rights. When it became clear he would not be answering any of the prepared questions he was permitted to leave the grand jury room.
At this time he emerged to hugs and cheers from the assembled supporters. The word had been spread around that he would not be taken in that day, since there wasn’t enough time for a contempt hearing (we would later find out this was not exactly true*). A ring of media formed to hear a very brief statement from Jerry, which was simply that he had answered only the control questions and invoked for all others. Immediately following his subpoena appearance he was given a second meeting with the judge at 12:30 at the other Federal Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street. Those gathered were told that this would be a procedural and routine admonishment, advising Jerry of the potential consequences of his resistance and ostensibly ensuring that his counsel had made him aware of the legal mechanisms at work.
The tension among Jerry’s supporters subsided giving way to exhausted calm upon hearing that the second appearance was moved to 3:30 – it seemed impossible that time would be made in the busy court schedule for a contempt hearing. Media of every stripe continued to arrive and be fielded by members of the Support Committee. At 3:30, Jerry and his partner Amanda climbed up for their second time the set of Federal Courthouse steps to another round of cheers and camera flashes. In minutes the relative peace was broken by the news that this procedural admonishment could turn into a contempt hearing at any moment without delay. That is to say, the doors would simply be flung open, and the process of throwing Jerry into prison would begin without notice. Those of us outside immediately streamed into the courthouse, into a long and anxious line to present photo ID and be searched before being allowed up to his part on the 20th floor.
* We give this detail to underline that legal proceedings are always shrouded with a degree of ambiguity and uncertainty. Those of you who can make it on Tuesday, May 21st, should be prepared to enter the courthouse early (we are asking 3 PM) and, if possible, wait until the very conclusion of the session to make sure you don’t miss an important moment.
After queuing, the group consisting of Jerry’s supporters and family eager to hear the news of their friend, along with a slew of reporters impatient for the dramatic resolution, had been moved into the hallway of the 20th floor for even more waiting. About an hour later Jerry emerged again and it was made clear that the proceedings were adjourned until Tuesday. His lawyer, Susan Tippograph, gave a brief press statement. When asked what she expected to happen on Tuesday she stated, “I anticipate that the government will seek an order from the court holding Jerry in civil contempt.” A reporter who asked if he had any plans to amend his decision before the next hearing was rightly told, “This is a long-held position. This is not a flirtation. Jerry is a very thoughtful and serious young man.”
A few days ago, we repainted a billboard as a message of solidarity to those avoiding subpoenas for the grand jury in the northwest and to the person currently imprisoned for refusing to cooperate with the grand jury in NYC.
The billboard now reads: NO LOVE FOR THE POLICE nyc . seattle . oakland
I just heard from Jerry’s lawyer. He’s out of the SHU! I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
He said, not surprisingly, that that was one of the worst experiences he’s been through. He’s got access to the library, so he’s got a book he thinks will get him through the weekend. Unfortunately, he missed commissary by a few hours, so he’ll have to wait two weeks to have access to it. In the meantime, though, another inmate gave him some socks, and he was able to get a few stamps.
He hasn’t gotten any letters yet, so hopefully they’ll start coming in today. If you’re writing to Jerry: he’s got very few stamps right now, so it may take a while for him to get back to you. Keep writing, though! He’s really looking forward to hearing from everyone.
He’s doing as well as he can, given the situation. He’s got his glasses, he feels safe, and he said that while he doesn’t know if he’ll be making any lifelong friends, everyone has been really decent. His cellmate is a meth head from Iowa, and I guess Jerry said that while his hygiene could be better and he could maybe use a few more teeth, he’s an alright guy. Kind of annoying and weird, but at least he’s not alone.
He thinks he’ll be able to call me either tonight, Sunday, or Tuesday.
So, all in all, really great news! I almost cried I was so happy. This is the best news I could possibly get, given where he is.
Please keep supporting Jerry! Keep writing and sending cards! Help Jerry stay strong!
Friday’s noise demo outside of MCC for Jerry was a huge success! Despite the hurricane-like conditions, 75 people gathered outside the prison to make noise for Jerry. We unfurled a great support banner and screamed over the roar of the torrential downpour to make sure that Jerry could hear us, and as the noise demo started, we saw a black silhouette in one of the windows raise a fist in strength and solidarity.
He confirmed on Saturday by way of a brief phone call that he could see and hear us, and that the figure in the window was him, and that he had never felt anything so powerful before. He asked that we thank everyone that joined us outside MCC and to let you all know how much he misses and loves you all. Not only did Jerry see us, but his fellow inmates in his wing did as well, and were really into the noise demo.
Join us on Friday, June 28 at 8 PM for our second noise demo for Jerry, and for all prisoners at MCC.