Wolf, a video activist who reported on numerous protest and progressive events, videotaped an anti-G8 anarchist protest in San Francisco on July 8, 2005 in which the protesters wore masks to hide their identities. Later that same night, and over the next few days, Wolf posted edited clips of his video to a local activist news website, Bay Area Indymedia (Indybay). Wolf also sold some video to a television broadcast station (KRON) the day after the protest. In the process of documenting protest actions, Wolf had recorded a tense scene of a protester being choked by a police officer and other officers threatening passers-by with stun guns. The only other recording that was broadcast nearly as much was a still photograph of a bloody police officer who was injured during the protest, not taken by Wolf. Other activists who posted video and photographs to the Bay Area Indymedia website were contacted by the FBI seeking their original source materials, but it is unknown how many, if any, turned over their recordings to Federal authorities. Wolf’s videotape is the only known source material from the protest to have been sought by subpoena after refusal to turn it over.
The US District Court empaneled a grand jury to determine whether arson charges should be brought against some of the protesters on the suspicion that they may have intended to damage a police car by firing a bottle rocket under it, even though the only official damage reported was to a tail light. The premise for Federal intervention in a case involving a city police car was that the car was funded in part by Federal dollars. Josh Wolf did not shoot any footage of the car incident. But because he shot other video footage elsewhere during the protest, and the identities of some of the protesters were allegedly known to him, Wolf was targeted by Federal officials. Wolf was subpoenaed by the court, requiring him to turn over his footage and submit to testifying before the grand jury. Specifically, the FBI subpoenaed him to provide “all documents, writings and recordings related to protest activities conducted in San Francisco” between 6:30 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. on July 8 as well any cameras, recording devices, and his computer.
Wolf refused to comply with the subpoena. His case was picked up by the National Lawyers Guild who asked a federal magistrate in San Francisco to block the grand jury subpoena, arguing that taking such action would have a chilling effect on other journalists covering future protests. U.S. District Judge William Alsup rejected this argument and ordered Wolf be jailed on August 1, 2006 for contempt of court until he complied.
A federal appeals court granted him bail on August 31, 2006 and he was released on September 1, although Wolf again refused to comply with the district court order that he produce the videotape. On September 18, 2006 his bail was revoked and Wolf returned to prison on September 22, 2006. The entire en banc Court of Appeals refused Wolf’s subsequent appeals.
February 7, 2007 marked the 169th day of Wolf’s imprisonment, surpassing the time served by Vanessa Leggett, a Houston-based freelancer who was imprisoned for 168 days in 2001 and 2002 for declining to reveal unpublished material about a murder case. Wolf remained in jail for a total of 226 days, the longest time a U.S. journalist has been held in contempt for refusing to divulge sources or unpublished material.
On April 3, 2007, according to Wolf’s lawyer David Greene, prosecutors dropped their insistence that Wolf testify before a grand jury after he posted the unaired video online. With permission from the prosecution, U.S. District Judge William Alsup signed an order requiring Wolf’s release from the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California.
(Biography from Wikipedia)