Local Activist Subpoenaed to Federal Grand Jury in Iowa
UPDATE: After reading a statement to the grand jury, Feldman returned to the Twin Cities Thursday night with a subpoena to appear again one month from now. More, including the text of the statement, here.
Early Tuesday evening, Twin Cities activist Carrie Feldman was pulled over by Cedar Rapids, Iowa FBI agents and served a subpoena (PDF) to appear in Davenport, Iowa federal court. The subpoena, dated October 6, originally asked her to appear on Wednesday morning; that date has been pushed back to Thursday at 1pm. No other activists are known to have been subpoenaed. Feldman was also informed that her high school attendance records from 2004 were under investigation. (Read her personal statement below.)
Grand juries have been a leading tool of the Green Scare--the demonization and repression of both legal and illegal activities carried out by environmentalist and animal rights/animal liberation activists. The hearings are particularly troublesome for their secrecy; even the witnesses called to testify are often left wondering what the investigation is about. In this case, too, the nature of the investigation is at present completely unknown and left to the speculation of observers. However, a check of the Omaha, Nebraska FBI Field Office website (the office serves all of Iowa) shows that the FBI is prioritizing its investigation into a November, 2004 Animal Liberation Front action at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
Related: Grand Juries 101 PDF zine | EWOK!/MidwestGreenScare.org
The 2004 Iowa City action targeted a vivisection laboratory in the University's Psychology department, causing an estimated $450,000 worth of damage. The anonymous activists also said they freed 401 mice and rats, had them treated by a veterinarian, and placed them in homes. Nobody was ever arrested.
Not only is a grand jury designed to be secretive for witnesses called to testify, but it's secretive for other observers, as well. Nobody is allowed in the hearing room except the witness, prosecutor, grand jurors, and court reporter; no judge or defense counsel may be present, leading to the spectacle of a witness steppping outside the room to consult with her/his lawyer between questions.
Most disturbingly, people subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury are threatened with up to 18 months imprisonment if they fail to comply. Sometimes the threat is not fully pursued, but sometimes it is staunchly enforced, as in the case of Utah animal rights activist Jordan Halliday. Halliday served seven months in jail for refusing to testify, and now a grand jury is seeking to compel him again. "If I go to jail, I go to jail," he says.
Often, activists who do not want to testify will cite the 1st, 4th and/or 5th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution in response to the almost unlimited scope of questions from the prosecutor. The court may respond with an agreement of so-called immunity, thus compelling them to testify despite 1st or 4th amendment concerns.
Reasons not to testify are many: grand juries are often used as fishing expeditions, casting a net amongst activists who are accused of breaking no laws in an attempt to drag up information about others. The questions that may be asked by prosecutors don't have to be limited in scope to a particular investigation. And without a defense attorney or judge allowed in the room, prosecutors can try to trick witnesses into saying what they want the jury, which eventually decides whether to indict or not, to hear. The juries very rarely fail to indict.
Most of all, grand juries - like other repressive tactics of the state - are intended to divert resources and attention from the real issues that lead a small number of activsts to break the law in defense of animals and the environment. In the case of the 2004 raid at the University of Iowa, the fact that no suspects have been indicted five years later at a time when the school is re-prioritizing its animal research must make high-ranking UI officials and local authorities wary of more such actions.
Whether or not this grand jury turns out to be related, the University of Iowa is certainly showing renewed interest in dissuading animal liberation activity: earlier this year they asked for and received funding for a new underground animal testing facility.
"The continuation of vivisection is maintained only insofar as it remains outside public sight and scrutiny. The ongoing research uncovered at UI's Psych Dept. is of such a sadistic nature as to be inexcusable by all but the sickest minds," read the communique from the 2004 action. "UI has also tagged this raid as mere vandalism and denied an animal liberation motive despite numerous slogans left painted at the site, all to divert attention from its animal research."
Like the torture of animals, grand juries, too, are only at their most effective when done as intended, in secret.
* * * * * *
Copy of Feldman's Statement:
October 13, 2009
Shortly after leaving my house today at 5:00, I was pulled over by an
unmarked black SUV, and approached by two FBI agents from Cedar Rapids,
Iowa. They served me a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury in
Davenport, Iowa on Thursday, October 15th. They identified themselves as
Tom Reinwart and Melissa Henderson, and gave the Cedar Rapids, Iowa FBI
office as their contact information (Phone number 319-366-2461). I was
also notified recently that a federal agent had contacted my high school
with a subpoena for my attendance records from 2004, presumably in
relation to the same event. While it is still unclear what the grand jury
is investigating, our basic internet research has found that there were
some acts of animal rights vandalism in Iowa during the time period in
A scan of the subpoena is attached here.
We have no information yet of other activists being subpoenaed. If you
have any information about this grand jury or have been subpoenaed as
well, please contact Earth Warriors are OK! at 612-29-EWOKS (612-293-9657)
or e-mail email@example.com.
Stay safe, stay strong, and fuck grand juries!
Coldsnap Legal Collective