Steve Downey on Greg Koger

UPDATE:

Steve has a lengthy update in the Comment section.  Here’s the beginning of it:

UPDATE ON GREGORY KOGER CASE

Media Release For information,
September 2, 2010 call Ad Hoc Committee for Reason
at 312-593-4191

INNOCENT MAN TO BE SENTENCED FOR VIDEOTAPING WITH CELL PHONE

Gregory Koger will be sentenced on Wednesday, Sept. 8 for videotaping with his cell-phone at a controversial public meeting. The hearing will be at the Cook County Courthouse in Skokie, IL at 9:30 A.M.

In a shockingly unprecedented move, the judge instantly revoked Mr. Koger’s bail bond after he was convicted of misdemeanor charges on August 26, and immediately sent him to jail. Scott Frankel, Mr. Koger’s attorney, has appealed the bond’s revocation, saying “I was stunned by the court’s decision to revoke Gregory’s bond.” A number of experienced criminal defense lawyers have commented that they have never heard of this happening before in a misdemeanor case. Even with most felony convictions, judges normally would raise post-conviction bail, but would rarely deny it entirely.

ORIGINAL POST:

Friend and activist Steve Downey sent this comment a little while ago:

Hey Jeff – Wanted to make sure you know about this case. Not sure the best way to reach you…I am enjoying looking at your blog. Perhaps you’ve heard about Gregory’s case – there have been forums in Evanston related to censorship and Gregory’s case, with Bill Ayers, Cindy Sheehan, Sarah and Emily Kunstler. Your voice should be heard in this case where a young man who has dedicated his life to change the world is facing 3 years in prison on totally unreasonable charges. –Steve

High Stakes Trial in Skokie August 24
Attacked by Police, Videographer Faces 3 Years in Jail

A young man, Gregory Koger, is facing 3 years in jail. His crime? Videotaping. Yes, videotaping a very brief but newsworthy statement by Sunsara Taylor in November 2009 at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC), in Skokie, IL.

The day before he was arrested Gregory had filmed a two hour workshop by Taylor in the exact same venue with no objections. The next day he accompanied Taylor when she returned to make a short statement objecting to the EHSC’s abrupt cancellation of her long-scheduled speech and inviting anyone who wanted to hear the presentation to the home of an EHSC member who opened her doors when the society shut theirs. When Gregory was told to stop filming before Sunsara made her statement, he put down the video camera as requested. His only device to capture Sunsara’s short statement was an iPhone. He was doing nothing wrong or illegal at the time he was rushed by the police in the lecture hall right after Sunsara announced that she was leaving.

Gregory was maced and brutalized during his arrest — eyewitnesses and photos taken at the hospital document this, yet he was the one charged with trespassing, resisting arrest and battery on a police officer which he did not do. This is a police practice so common it has a name – “cover charges,” charges that police press when they when they need legal justification to “cover” their brutality toward a defendant. (See American Constitutional Society Issue Brief “Disorderly (mis)Conduct: The Problem with ‘Contempt of Cop’ Arrests” by Cynthia Lopez, June 2010. Available at
http://www.acslaw.org/node/16288)

For over 9 months, there has been a vengeful and unrelenting pursuit of a conviction of Gregory for a situation that an impartial observer would expect to be easily resolved within a couple of weeks. In fact, unsolicited efforts by third parties to mediate an equitable solution have been stonewalled by those bringing the charges.

The prosecution even mounted an unsuccessful effort to find the defendant in contempt of court because of a defense committee website http://www.dropthecharges.net that publicizes and gathers support for him against this unjust prosecution! Reasonable people would certainly be justified in wondering whether there are some larger forces or agenda driving the State’s determination to get a conviction. Whatever the full story is, we cannot let them convict Gregory for any of these unjust and ridiculous charges.

Gregory had very difficult circumstances as a youth, yet he has transformed himself into a political activist, leading a very ethical life. The irony of this has been noted by more than one humanist; the EHSC should be giving Gregory a platform to speak, not trying to throw him in jail!

Gregory has done very constructive things, dedicating his life to ending oppression. He came alive in the struggle to protect women’s reproductive rights in the wake of the murder of abortion-provider Dr. Tiller. Gregory donned an orange jumpsuit to draw attention to torture of prisoners at Guantanamo. He marched against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq . He went to the Southside of Chicago to speak out against police shootings of young Black men. He has helped to provide revolutionary literature, like Revolution newspaper, to prisoners, and he has spoken to young people in Chicago classrooms as he sought to reach out to youth and others trapped in the bottom of society. And as part of his activism, Gregory videotapes events, like he was doing that day.

Is this someone who should be thrown in jail for almost 3 years for literally holding up an iPhone?? Shame on those who seek to ruin a man’s life to pursue their objectives.

We will not be silent. We will support Gregory in this case. We will let others know about this injustice. It is really very simple: It is way past time to drop the charges.

Friends & Supporters of Gregory

Support is greatly needed to defeat these outrageous charges.
What you can do:

1. Post this statement on list serves, e-lists, Facebook. Send to your email list.
2. If you are in the Chicago area: Attend the trial at Cook County Courthouse, 5600 W. Orchard Rd,, Skokie, IL at 9:30 AM, Tuesday, August 24, 2010.

3. Visit the defense committee website and donate to legal defense. (www.dropthecharges.net)

4. Send a letter to the prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, Cook County Prosecutor, at stateattorney@cookcountygov.com, and send a copy to the defense committee at AdHoc4Reason@gmail.com.

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One response to “Steve Downey on Greg Koger

  1. UPDATE ON GREGORY KOGER CASE

    Media Release For information,
    September 2, 2010 call Ad Hoc Committee for Reason
    at 312-593-4191

    INNOCENT MAN TO BE SENTENCED FOR VIDEOTAPING WITH CELL PHONE

    Gregory Koger will be sentenced on Wednesday, Sept. 8 for videotaping with his cell-phone at a controversial public meeting. The hearing will be at the Cook County Courthouse in Skokie, IL at 9:30 A.M.

    In a shockingly unprecedented move, the judge instantly revoked Mr. Koger’s bail bond after he was convicted of misdemeanor charges on August 26, and immediately sent him to jail. Scott Frankel, Mr. Koger’s attorney, has appealed the bond’s revocation, saying “I was stunned by the court’s decision to revoke Gregory’s bond.” A number of experienced criminal defense lawyers have commented that they have never heard of this happening before in a misdemeanor case. Even with most felony convictions, judges normally would raise post-conviction bail, but would rarely deny it entirely.

    Why should Mr. Koger face a long jail term for using an iPhone? The use of such camera phones has become ubiquitous for bringing events of the day to TV, as well as to the internet. Are the police now free to arrest, beat, and prosecute photographers who are documenting controversial public events?

    Mr. Koger was convicted of trespassing, but actually he was videotaping before an event began that was publicized as open to the public. There is no law against filming at a public event. The prosecutor made it appear to the jury as if filming is the same as trespassing. But the trespass law states that you must be ordered to leave, and then show that you intend to remain after you have been given notice to leave. Despite the defense attorney’s objections, the judge did not correct this misimpression. Testimony in court made it clear that Mr. Koger was told to quit filming, but he was not clearly or audibly ordered to leave until the police were dragging him out of the auditorium.

    According to Attorney Frankel, the police then “threw him against a wall, pushed him to the floor, Maced him after he was handcuffed, and then charged him with resisting arrest.” As a result Mr. Koger has a $1000 emergency room bill for his injuries. [See article in the Chicago Reader at http:tinyurl.com/yctqztb]

    As a way to cover up their brutality, the police charged Mr. Koger with resisting arrest and simple battery. These kinds of charges are described by an American Constitution Society Issues Brief (http://www.acslaw.org/node/16288) as “cover charges,” because they are used to cover up police misconduct. Mr. Koger was convicted of those charges, but the court procedure and conflicting evidence were very questionable and offer excellent grounds for an appeal, which Mr. Frankel says will be filed.

    Mr. Koger was arrested on November 1, 2009 at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) as he videotaped a brief statement that Sunsara Taylor was making before the group’s Sunday program was scheduled to begin. Ms. Taylor had been invited the previous July to speak that day, but EHSC cancelled their invitation two weeks before her scheduled talk. In her very short statement, Ms. Taylor objected to the cancellation and invited attendees to hear her speak that morning at the home of an EHSC member. As she announced that she was leaving, the police arrested Mr. Koger.

    Mr. Koger is now in jail and could be facing a long sentence. The reason the Judge gave for the unprecedented bail revocation was that Mr. Koger had been convicted of a crime when he was 17. Mr. Koger’s childhood was extremely difficult and included periods when his entire family was homeless. While Mr. Koger was in prison for his youthful mistake, he underwent a major conversion and decided to devote his life to helping other people who had been born in the same kind of unfortunate circumstances that he had. After his release, he became a social justice activist and a paralegal in a law firm where he helps indigent people. (For Mr. Koger’s biography, see http://www.dropthecharges.net.)

    “His work at my law offices has helped many people, including women who need child support and several people suing to defend their civil rights,” says Michael Radzilowsky, Attorney at Law, who will testify at Mr. Koger’s sentencing hearing. “He works hard and efficiently. He has turned his life around and devotes every waking hour to helping other people.”

    Mr. Radzilowsky is just one of many people who will provide character references at Mr. Koger’s sentencing hearing. Father Robert Bossie, SCJ, will testify about Mr. Koger’s ethical behavior and his dedication to social justice and peace. “I am astonished by the extreme measures taken against Gregory Koger, all for a misdemeanor charge. This is not justice, especially for a person of his moral standing,” says the priest.

    This is the same case where in April the prosecutor brought criminal contempt charges against Mr. Koger in an unsuccessful attempt to shut down his defense committee’s website. Those charges raised serious First Amendment rights issues, as does Mr. Koger’s conviction for taking pictures.

    The sentencing hearing will be held on Wednesday, September 8 at 9:30 A.M. at the Cook County Courthouse, 5600 W. Old Orchard Road, Skokie, IL, in Courtroom 205.

    For further information, call the Ad Hoc Committee for Reason at 312-593-4191, or see http://www.dropthecharges.net, or email adhoc4reason@gmail.com.
    # # # # # # # #

    WHAT YOU CAN DO:
    ·
    Immediately sign and circulate this petition: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1170/action/gregory-koger.

    · Send statements of support for Gregory to the defense committee AdHoc4Reason@gmail.com

    · Donate money for the appeal. Go to the defense committee website for more information http://www.dropthecharges.net

    · Show your support at the sentencing hearing on September 8.

    Keep in touch with the Ad Hoc Committee at AdHoc4Reason@gmail.com

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