It has recently come to my attention that previous to receiving my first subpoena to testify in front of a grand jury early 2009, I became a suspect in an investigation into a raid on a local mink farm. Why? Because of a name.
While being sentenced for my refusal to testify at a grand jury allegedly investigating local underground animal rights actions in Utah. It was announced by the prosecution that they believed I still had information on local underground animal liberation activities. They stated that they believed I was a key witness and that I had released an email communication, to a news organization, about a mink farm raid that had occurred at the McMullin mink farm, hours before police or the farm itself knew about the action. For that reason they believed that my resistance was more than just an act of civil disobedience against tactics of the government that I thought were obtrusive and that impinged upon my rights.
This statement obviously shocked me. This is the first time I had heard them say anything about me directly having emailed a news organization. It is public record that while in the grand jury I was asked my email address, as well as a list of additional email addresses and if they belonged to me, I was also asked if I had sent emails from them, these emails were “Joemail@example.com” and “Jordan@aol.com”. I of course refused to answer on the basis that I believe grand juries to be abusive, archaic, and unjust and that they violate my rights as a citizen. We had challenged the government to provide information regarding the questions they asked about emails, because the questions asked may have involved some illegal electronic, telephonic, or wire surveillance, if they weren’t then they needed to legally provide the source behind their absurd questions. Our thought process here was to call them out on their bluff, and admit that the questions they were asking were not relevant and not based in any solid fact regarding any criminal activities and that they were being used to harass and intimidate as opposed to actually investigate.
I haven’t had AOL in maybe 10+ years, when I did I was still a young kid and I believe my email address was “JordanWCW1@aol.com” or something similar, because of course “World Championship Wrestling” was the most important thing at that time in my life. Also, to be able to obtain the email address “Jofirstname.lastname@example.org” was impossible as “~” isn’t a valid email character and “Jordan@aol.com” was also impossible as it was a common name and highly unlikely that I would have it.
It is also public record that when called to testify the prosecution stated that they had put a “trap and trace” and a “pen registry” on my phone, but nothing involving emails. When asked where they received the email addresses, they responded that it came from “K.U.T.V. News” and that they had received it in an email on the day of the mink farm raid. I will be honest, I didn’t really think too much of it at the time, I was more surprised by the fact that they just admitted to having a tap on my cell phone.
So, at sentencing I was obviously shocked when they brought it up again, I went back through my discovery to find an unsealed document discussing the matter. It was only 3 pages in length. It describes a comment form being filled out on the “contact us” section of the “KUTV news” website “www.kutv.com”. Written on the form under “NAME:” was “Jordan”, “CITY:” was left blank, “EMAIL:” was listed as “Joemail@example.com”, and “PHONE NUMBER:” was also left blank. Under “MESSAGE:” this was written,
“The animal liberation front liberated 300 mink from the mcmullin mink farm. Monday Night/tuesday morning. It is located just off of 1540 wand [sic] 10400 s. I heard these rumors and went around that area and there are mink running around inthe [sic] fields. They look alot [sic] happier”
It then shows that “KUTV news” had forwarded this communication to “Lindsey McMullin” who is the owner of the McMullin Mink Farm. McMullin then forwarded the communication to the notorious “Teresa Platt” of the Fur Commission USA, who forwarded it to the FBI.
You can view all 3 pages HERE.
Reading this my mind was completely blown. I had always thought the government had no real basis for targeting me. As I have said from the beginning of the investigation into the 2008 mink farm raids in Utah, I have no knowledge of any underground animal rights activities. But, now things were starting to make sense. That simple statement that was released to the media is the reason the government considers me a key witness. A statement that was allegedly released before the police or even the mink farm knew it had been raided.
I continued reading to find that another Jordan had been visited by the FBI briefly, but they lost interest. I had been really active with the Animal Defense League of Salt Lake City at that time. As one of the core members that helped start ADL back up in Utah, I was already on the radar. Some fellow Utah activists and myself had recently been cited and detained in the neighborhood of a University of Utah vivisectionist during some neighborhood outreach. Something that four of us are still appealing, with all of our other non-pleading co-defendants having already won. Armed with only a name and a fake email. It was probably only a logical jump in their mind to go after me and consider me their prime suspect (at the time).
The FBI decided to first visit my parents house. Asking my dad if he had seen me with breeding cards or heard about anything I had done recently. My dad told them that I didn’t live with them and unfortunately provided them with my work and house address. On a side note, we should all inform our non-activist family and friends of their rights. They don’t need to speak to the FBI or let them in their homes anymore than we do. This might be considered basic knowledge to us, but not everyone involved in our lives knows this. My parents now realize this, I just wish I had told them earlier. It wasn’t until THE FBI CAME INTO MY WORK AND I TOLD THEM TO LEAVE that my life started to change.
I was visited by the FBI only a few days after the local raids had happened. I was told by my manager that some people needed to talk to me, I had recently been promoted and corporate was at the store that day, so I assumed they just wanted to talk/congratulate me on my promotion. When I entered the room I was met with 2 agents who identified themselves as Special Agent Knapp and Replogle, they told me they needed to ask me some questions, I asked if I was being detained or arrested, they didn’t answer they just continued trying to ask questions. This was of course my first time ever dealing with the FBI, they are a different breed than cops, they know just what to say to make you stay. They present an authority and assertion that leaves you unsure. I told them I needed to talk to my lawyer, I called him and he was unavailable. Even when calling my lawyer, I was told to use their phone, I of course declined and used my own, but when I went to leave the room to talk with my lawyer in private, they told me to sit down with such an assertion that I did so.
I finally left the room myself after it was established that I wasn’t being detained or arrested, this wasn’t a verbal establishment, in fact it was the opposite, I asked and they never answered. They are obligated to answer this question only if they are detaining or arresting you, if they aren’t, they don’t need to answer it. This is one way they can get you to stick around, by avoiding the question and not answering it. This is also something we should all know and something we all have the right to do. If they aren’t detaining/arresting you, then you don’t have to stick around.
As I was leaving the room, the FBI tailed behind me, telling me at a range everyone in the store could hear, customers, management, and corporate (who was unfortunately there at the time), that I was making a bad choice in not answering their questions and that they were going to subpoena me to a grand jury. This is when I asked them to leave the store and that they were not welcome back as customers, because I won’t tolerate their harassment. It was in my authority to tell customers to leave the store. Without a warrant/subpoena police and FBI are just citizens, if in a position you have the right to tell them to leave and ban them if they are harassing you. I of course had to explain this to management and corporate, but they ultimately agreed with my decision.
It was nearly 6 months before they returned. During this time, I was receiving unrelated harassment most likely from other unrelated entities in the animal industry. I received a package in the mail containing a decapitated rats head, I was constantly awoken in the middle of the night with spotlights shining through my windows, loud noises and cars squealing off in the distance afterward. This was a unique time in my life as an activist. Dealing with these things, I had forgotten completely about the threat of a grand jury subpoena.
However, they followed through with their threat. The same 2 agents returned to my work with a subpoena, this was my first subpoena, even so, I could tell it was not filled out properly and had white out smeared over areas of it. Honestly, it looked illegitimate and like a joke. I called the Eco-Law fraction of the National Lawyers Guild and was put in touch with someone who eventually became my first attorney.
He helped me develop a motion to file pro se as the subpoena was invalid and deficient. I still appeared before the grand jury and presented the prosecution with my motion. After that, it is public record that I refused to swear oath or answer any question simply responding with “no comment”. I did this because the motion was deficient. The grand jury was dismissed and I walked out of the grand jury room.
The next week I was visited again, however this time by 7 FBI agents and the United States Deputy Marshall, he was there to verify that the subpoena was properly filled out, and it was.
I returned to the grand jury, this time swearing oath, and providing my name and age. It is public record that I again refused to answer any questions. The Judge was then called to the Grand Jury room and ordered that I would be in contempt if I refused to answer any more questions without a valid privileged. She was dismissed and the Grand Jury was resumed. I then began to invoke my 5th amendment right against self-incrimination. The grand jury was dismissed and I was called to a contempt of court hearing.
We asked for more time to present our arguments and returned about a week later. It was determined I was in civil contempt of the court and I was sentenced to coercive custody until i was willing to cure myself of my contempt. I was also granted immunity and sent to the Salt Lake County Jail.
I was subpoenaed one more time a week after that hearing and returned, this time i was refused the right to talk with my lawyer in private, I was in US Marshall Custody and they would not allow me to have a private conversation with my attorney. The prosecutor decided to dismiss the grand jury and i was sent back to the jail. I was transferred to a Cache County Federal Holding Facility the next day.
We filed a Grumbles motion, but it was denied on the grounds that I had knowledge about Grumbles motions that pre-dated my grand jury appearance and also that I hoped that I would get out on a grumbles motion and that by knowing my rights and having hope I would get out on that motion, I was not being fully coerced.
I spent nearly 4 months in federal custody until finally the grand jury term expired. However before being released, I was informed that the grand jury had indicted me and charged me with Criminal contempt of court. I was then released on pretrial and have been on that since July 2009.
I plead guilty a year later in July 2010 to sui generis criminal contempt of court for willfully and knowingly refusing to answer questions at a federal grand jury. The government who was trying to give me 2 years (the same amount of time and more as the individuals convicted of releasing the mink), refused to offer me any plea deals.
In November 2010, I was sentenced to 10 months in a federal prison, with 3 years probation upon release. If I serve all 10 months, including the 4 that I have already served, I will have served 14 months, more time than one of the individuals convicted of releasing mink, who was recently released early for good behavior, and slightly less than the other who will also be released early, next month. We are appealing this sentence.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, December 28th, 2010, I will hopefully be told the prison in which I am to report. I will then have to transport and surrender myself to the federal prison I am assigned, by noon, on January 3rd, 2011, which is exactly one week from today. This gives me slightly less than 6 days to get myself to where i need to go.
So why am I going to prison? Because, I was brought into a grand jury investigation after my name was posted in a communique on a news website. I find it hard to believe that the government would actually think anyone would be stupid enough to put their name on a website if they were involved in anything illegal. As I have said from day one, I have no knowledge, nor have i ever had any knowledge of illegal underground animal liberation activities.
I just chose to take a stance against an abusive tactic of the government that is often used against activists to harass and intimidate us, a tactic that is overzealous and one that impinges upon our rights.
You can find information on how to contact me at “www.supportjordan.com” when it becomes available.