GRAND JURY CONVENED FOR IRVINE 11 CASE, FELONY CONSPIRACY CHARGES POSSIBLE

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From Occupy UCI:

If you have been indicted, subpoenaed, or contacted by the Orange County DA regarding this case, call the National Lawyers Guild Hotline at 415-285-1041 and the Los Angeles NLG Chapter at 323-653-4510.

Have yet to receive independent confirmation, but OC Weekly reports:

Radio station KPCC 89.3 reported today the Orange County district attorney’s office has convened a grand jury to look into the possibility of filing conspiracy charges against a group of Muslim students busted at the UC Irvine campus in 2010 for disrupting the speech of  U.S. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren.

The information was reported during Larry Mantle’s morning show, Air Talk, which then opened the phones to callers expressing incredulity that a grand jury was convened for what they feel is essentially a free-speech issue. There were also those who theorized that a politically motivated Tony Rackauckas is strategically appeasing conservative Jewish Orange County constituents. Orange County DA’s office spokeswoman Farrah Emami declined to comment, saying it was the policy of that office to not discuss grand-jury proceedings.

What are grand juries? From the Grand Jury Resistance Project:

What is a Grand Jury?

In the federal legal system, the grand jury is used to decide whether someone should be charged (“indicted”) for a serious crime. The grand jury hears evidence presented by the prosecutor: the U.S. Attorney. The grand jury uses subpoenas to gather this evidence. It can subpoena documents, physical evidence, and witnesses to testify. The “special” federal grand jury, created in 1970, can be used to investigate “possible” organized criminal activity rather than a specific crime. The California legal system also has grand juries, but it is optional whether criminal prosecutions are initiated by grand jury indictment, or by a complaint by the District Attorney and preliminary hearing before a judge.

How is a Grand Jury Different Than a Trial Jury?

Unlike the “petit” jury, which is used to determine guilt in a trial, a grand jury consists of 16 to 23 jurors who are not screened for bias. The purpose of the grand jury is not to determine guilt or innocence, but to decide whether there is probable cause to prosecute someone for a felony crime. The grand jury operates in secrecy and the normal rules of evidence do not apply. The prosecutor runs the proceedings and no judge is present. Defense lawyers are not allowed to be present in the grand jury room and cannot present evidence, but may be available outside the room to consult with witnesses. The prosecutor and the grand jury members may not reveal what occurred in the grand jury room and witnesses cannot obtain a transcript of their testimony.

How Has the Grand Jury Been Misused?

Because of their broad subpoena powers and secretive nature, grand juries have been used by the government to gather information on political movements and to disrupt those movements by causing fear and mistrust. The grand jury lends itself to being used for improper political investigation due in part to the prosecutor’s ability to question witnesses without regard for rules that prohibit irrelevant, unreliable or unlawfully obtained evidence. Those called before the grand jury may be compelled to answer any question, even those relating to lawful personal and political activities. That information has been used by the government as a basis to conduct further surveillance and disruption of political dissent. When used against political movements, the grand jury causes fear and mistrust because persons who refuse to answer questions about their First Amendment political activities, friends and associates may be jailed for the life of the grand jury: up to 18 months. If a witness asserts her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, she may be forced to accept immunity or go to jail for contempt. Even a witness who attempts to cooperate can be jailed if minor inconsistencies are found in her testimony. Such a perjury charge may stand even when the grand jury fails to hand down any indictment for what it was ostensibly investigating.

No Compromise has this guide to “Crush Grand Juries”:

Grand juries are a tool of political repression which the government uses to frighten activists, create mistrust, drive people out of the movement, and cause others to inform on friends out of fear. Grand juries are the modern day Inquisitions. But instead of scapegoating innocent people as “witches” and “heretics,” they target innocent activists as “terrorists.” At grand juries, your rights are stripped away and chucked out the window! You have NO right to remain silent, NO right to be represented by an attorney, and NO right to a trial should you be jailed. In fact, you can be jailed for up to 18 months without even being charged for a crime!

Yes, grand juries are unconstitutional. Yes, grand juries are wrong. And yes, grand juries are often used by the FBI’s as part of a COINTELPRO efforts against activists because they steal our rights. That is why we cannot cooperate with them. And that is why we have the following strategy on combatting these true threats to democracy:

1. Organize Early. As soon as you hear a grand jury is convening, start organizing to fight it. The sooner you start working against it, the more options you will have to fight it through legal and political channels.

2. Get Help. Start organizing by contacting other animal groups who have experience and expertise in fighting grand juries. ( See the resource groups below.)

3. Stick Together. Typically, when a grand jury convenes, activists avoid those targeted with subpoenas for fear that associating with them will make them a potential target –YOU MUST NOT DO THIS! Activists must stick together and support each other — not isolate targeted activists as the authorities want us to do! Thankfully, the nationwide coalition of grassroots militant activists who have helped support the LA3, Barry Horne, Tony Wong, and Sue McCrosky, as well as other activists, will not abandon you should you be targeted for government harassment. Be sure to contact the resources group’s below to tap into their support.

4. Set Up a Defense Committee. To organize support, resistance, and educational efforts locally, a defense committee should be formed. They will be responsible for coordinating media, organizing news conferences, support protests, producing educational literature, working with the lawyers of the targeted activists, supporting the activists in other ways, and coordinating jail support should anyone be imprisoned.

5. Expose the Authorities Abuse of the Grand Jury System. Conduct news conferences, send out news releases, organize protests, and distribute literature exposing the government’s harassment of activists, the FBI’s COINTELPRO activities, and the unconstitutional and undemocratic nature of the grand juries. Exposing the authorities abuse of our civil liberties in the media typically causes them to back off. And right now the FBI are most vulnerable to bad press because of FBI whistle-blowers who say the crime lab has falsified evidence to gain convictions, and because their blunders at Waco, Ruby Ridge, and Atlanta City are still fresh in the minds of most Americans.

6. Don’t Cooperate with the Authorities. This means knowing your rights, and asserting them. You do not have to talk to the government agents. Even if arrested, you do not have to talk to them. If arrested all you have to give is your name and address — tell them no more. You do not have to let them search your house or car without a warrant — so don’t. In fact, you don’t even have to answer your door when the police are there unless they have a warrant. By asserting your rights, you again frustrate their attempts to get information on activists to further their COINTELPRO actions and harassment against the movement.

7. Educate Other Activists. Be sure to educate other local activist on what their rights are and how grand juries work. Let them know that, should they be a subpoenaed, there is a support committee of people available to help.

8. Utilize All Legal Strategies. There are plenty of court strategies that can be used to frustrate the authorities’ grand jury witch hunts. Motions to quash the subpoenas, or motions for discovery of electronic surveillance can be used to tie them up in the courts for months and force them to give over information they would prefer to keep secret.

9. Have Patience. Resist the temptation to “get it over with” by testifying at the grand jury or going to jail. It is important to resist for as long as possible. Activists who are quick to go to jail, can be used to scare other activists into cooperating with the authorities. Instead, be sure to exhaust all of the many legal, political, and constitutional solutions. Grand Juries last for 18 months, and the longer you can stall them, the less time activists will have to spend in jail, should they be jailed.

10. Do NOT Testify or Capitulate to Their Demands. Never enter the grand jury chamber. And unless you are going to be issuing some motions, don’t even go to the courthouse. If they want your fingerprints, or mailing lists, don’t give it to them. Resist and fight! The stronger you resist, the better it will turn out for you. According to a publication by the National Lawyers Guild, “For many political activists, the historic and principled way to avoid these dilemmas (informing, perjury) has been the invocation of absolute non-collaboration with grand jury investigations of political movements. While this has resulted in many instances with the witness’ incarceration for contempt, it has also discouraged the subpoenaing of further witnesses, and on some occasions, the withdrawal of all subpoenas.”

The Grand Jury Resistance Project has lots more resources on fighting illegitimate grand juries.

If you have been indicted, subpoenaed, or contacted by the Orange County DA regarding this case, call the National Lawyers Guild Hotline at 415-285-1041 and the Los Angeles NLG Chapter at 323-653-4510.

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