Secrecy Shrouds Hearing for Grand Jury Refusenik

     MANHATTAN (CN) – A secret hearing for a young man refusing to participate in a grand jury investigating the 2008 bombing in Times Square convened behind closed doors Thursday, as dozens of his supporters and the press waited outside.
     Gerald “Jerry” Koch, 24, was subpoenaed in connection with a March 6, 2008, bombing of a military recruitment center that damaged the property without causing any injuries or deaths.
     Insisting that he had no knowledge about the incident when he was first called in 2009, Koch accused prosecutors singling him out for a “fishing expedition” because of his anarchist beliefs.
     Koch invoked his First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights not to testify.
     He took the same position after served with another subpoena this year, and prosecutors took steps to initiate civil contempt proceedings.
     Although a Thursday hearing leading to those proceedings was expected to be public, U.S. District Judge John Keenan justified sealing the court under Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, codifying grand jury secrecy.
     After the hearing adjourned more than an hour later, Koch’s attorney, Susan Tipograph, said the court order barred her from revealing what was discussed.
     Speaking generally about her client’s case, however, Tipograph said: “This is not a question of him trying to interfere with an investigation into a federal crime.”
     She framed the issue in light of the recent revelations of the government’s secret seizure of phone records of reporters for the Associated Press.
     Attorney General Eric Holder later justified the snooping on an allegedly “very, very serious leak” of classified information published in a May 7, 2012, article about a foiled terror plot timed a year after the killing of Osama bin Laden.
     The investigation corralled the five reporters, one editor involved with the story, and another 20 separate telephone lines. The news wire’s CEO Gary Pruitt called the dragnet a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
     Tipograph said reporters should be especially sensitive to her client’s position, in light of the AP’s experience.
     Emphasizing that Koch was not a target of the grand jury, Tipograph said that her client has “no knowledge that he is aware of” about the bombing, and he made his decision not to testify on principle.
     “This is a long-held position,” she said. “This is not a flirtation. Jerry is a very thoughtful and serious young man.”
     Civil contempt proceedings are scheduled for the afternoon of May 21.
     If held in contempt, Koch could be incarcerated for the length of the grand jury, which typically convenes for 16 months, his lawyer said.
     “Special grand juries” could last double that time, Tipograph added, though she could not say whether this grand jury has been designated as such.
     The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

%d bloggers like this: