What Are They Hiding?

Two Activists Were Released from Prison, but Feds Still Won't Unseal Their Records

What Are They Hiding?

Two weeks ago, Katherine Olejnik and Matthew Duran saw the sun for the first time in five months when federal judge Richard A. Jones granted their attorneys' request to release them from the SeaTac Federal Detention Center.

Neither had been charged with a crime, but they were sent to prison for civil contempt of court—refusing to answer some questions for federal prosecutors in front of a grand jury. That grand jury was supposedly looking into political vandalism on May Day last year, but neither Duran nor Olejnik were in Seattle on May Day. They say they refused to answer questions about other people's political beliefs and social affiliations (in the tradition of those who refused to testify about who was or wasn't in the Communist Party for Senator Joseph McCarthy).

Duran and Olejnik spent two of their five months in solitary confinement under irregular circumstances. Their attorneys, Jenn Kaplan and Kim Gordon, say that when previous clients have wound up in solitary, prison officials have been able to explain why. (Prison officials say The Stranger's request for comment last week "is being reviewed.")

People were overjoyed at their release—the post announcing the release on The Stranger's blog got picked up on social media, and even regular commenters who'd scoffed when the two went to prison seemed pleased by this turn of events. But the problems aren't over.

Throughout this process, The Stranger has been working with attorney Neil Fox, president of the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, petitioning to unseal some of the documents in this case that prosecutors have reflexively shielded. Some of those motions, for example, aren't sensitive to the investigation, but merely cite precedent and case law. We have been successful in getting some made public (such as a copy of the government's search-warrant affidavit, which Gordon and Kaplan say was helpful in getting their clients released), but not others (such as the full civil contempt proceedings). If we can raise the funds—including a $450 filing fee and at least $300 for printing—Fox and The Stranger will push our case for greater government transparency to the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. We plan to file soon.

In an interview after they were released, Duran and Olejnik said they were treated better than most prisoners, but they're still having trouble eating and are showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. "If I hear something behind me, I jump with my back to the wall," Duran said.

One more grand jury refuser, Maddie Pfeiffer, remains at the SeaTac FDC. recommended

This article has been updated since its original publication.


Comments (15) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
I'd happily contribute to your Keck-supplementing fund to pursue the records. The more light is shed, the better, both for the prosecutors who were flailing around trying to find out what was going on with the courthouse glass-smashery, and for these two.
Posted by gloomy gus on March 13, 2013 at 9:53 AM · Report this
This is the same government that will be running your health care starting in 2014. Have fun.
Posted by Homple on March 13, 2013 at 12:18 PM · Report this
how and where can we donate? Directly to the NLG?
Posted by blackflags on March 13, 2013 at 3:33 PM · Report this
@ 1 and 3: Not to the NLG—the response to the idea has been good and I hope to have a mechanism in place soon. Stay tuned.
Posted by Brendan Kiley on March 14, 2013 at 9:35 AM · Report this
You refer to them as "activists". I would call them anarchists or even civil terrorists.

Nobody has the right to destroy the property of others.

If we are to remain a nation under the rule of law, the laws or our nation must apply to each and every one of us. The should have remained in prison for their refusal to comply with the rules pertaining grand jury testimony.

No matter the apparent angst of those who would support the "activists'" ire over corporate profits, their refusal to testify is wrong and in the aggregate is hurtful to all of our citizens who would rely on the law for the protections and the redress for civil and/or criminal acts committed by others.
Posted by alforget on March 14, 2013 at 10:12 AM · Report this
Claypatch 6
@5: You may want to review the entire story before you start calling these folks "anarchists or even civil terrorists". The two in question were not even in Seattle on the day the vandalism occurred. They refused to answer questions about other folks political beliefs, and thus ended up in jail for contempt of court. Its not too far of a stretch to think that the only reason they were picked up, questioned, and then held in solitary for two months, was to discourage other people from acting out in such a fashion. Personally, I think that if we have a "government of the people, by the people" that behaves in such a fashion, then a bit more smashing up may be in order.
Posted by Claypatch on March 14, 2013 at 2:32 PM · Report this
Excellent. Thanx again to the stranger and Mr. Kiley. BTW, with May Day coming up again there's a lot of chatter about upcoming actions. I'm not an anarchist so can't speak as one, but I find it absolutely deplorable these people were held in an attempt to coerce them to talk about something they may or may not know. Oh, authority lovers, I get it; they must know something...right? But, heh, judging from the quality of police work around here (not all, only the important stuff like defending downtown from a marauding band of "activists") I don't really know anything of the sort. And when the authorities keep screwing things up by not being able to defend downtown Seattle it's an invitation for more. I don't have the answer. I know I'd really rather not see more young people go to jail, but I have a feeling this coming May Day is going to be bad. I hope not. I wish some people would lay low and chill for a while and retool. But whatev.
Posted by ooppoddoo on March 15, 2013 at 11:56 AM · Report this
@5,did you even read the story,you troll?Are you gonna blame Anarchists for bailouts,outsourcing,and wage slavery ,missing trillions,"depleted" uranium used in both Afghanistan and Iraq (birth defects gone wild),and Global Warming also?(Pfft!) ----
Posted by 5th Columnist on March 17, 2013 at 5:27 PM · Report this
Now that the Danny Casolaro's Octopus runs the Show,the only thing remaining for Us to do is engage in active resistance (assassination,espionage,propaganda,sabotage).Burn it all down!!! ----
Posted by 5th Columnist on March 17, 2013 at 5:29 PM · Report this
NDAA in effect:) The prez said he'd veto it. Not sure what happened. Must have been signed at some time when nobody was paying attention. LOL. Here's some nice infographics to help you understand!…
Posted by on March 17, 2013 at 6:11 PM · Report this
If you run a kickstarter/IGG campaign you'll raise the money in 2 hours.
Posted by knave on March 18, 2013 at 11:53 AM · Report this
#5 is correct, of course. The hipsters love the terrorists, until the terrorists trash their bicycles.
Posted by Unbrainwashed on March 18, 2013 at 1:20 PM · Report this
Claypatch 13
@12: Go back to Milwaukee, moron. You fail at reading comprehension as badly as #5.
Posted by Claypatch on March 18, 2013 at 11:44 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 14
These kids are idiots. I mean yes, it was stupid to put them in front of a grand jury...but what does going to jail for refusing to look the jury in the eye and say "I didn't do it and this 'evidence' is lame" going to accomplish?
They easily could have just talked to the judge and the whole thing would have been dropped. Instead they wasted tax payer dollars and their own time playing Gandhi wannabees like some immature pricks.
These kids are probably trust fund babies who pick up leftist causes to piss off their parents (trustfunarians) and when they grow up and move past the "crust punk" phase they will cash in that trust fund and get the MBA and work at the bank they used to protest in their youth. There is a reason you NEVER see an old anarchist: they all grow up and become Republicans.
Posted by collectivism_sucks on March 20, 2013 at 11:41 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 15
I just HAVE to ask the Stranger this: If a Seattle-based white nationalist was thrown in jail for something equally absurd, would they cover it as much as they did this?
I hate white nationalists as much as I hate anarchists, but freedom of speech is freedom of speech. Just as a anarchist moron has the right to wear a black hood and be a prick as long as they don't break the law, a white nationalist moron has the right to do the same with a white hood on. But I doubt the Stranger would be using any ink in the case of the latter.
Posted by collectivism_sucks on March 20, 2013 at 11:48 PM · Report this

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