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“What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.”—Karl Marx
gregory_a_k » Posts for tag 'Illinois Supreme Court'

Not One More Day in Jail for Gregory Koger!

We say:
• NOT ONE MORE DAY IN JAIL!
• WE SUPPORT GREGORY KOGER AND OPPOSE THIS WRONGFUL CONVICTION.

Sign the above statement and add your own comments, here. Email this statement to friends here.

Gregory KogerThe Illinois Supreme Court has refused to hear Gregory Koger’s appeal of the vindictive conviction and outrageous sentence that were inflicted on him for peacefully videotaping a statement against censorship at the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago almost three years ago on November 1, 2009.  And now the State’s Attorney has filed a motion to revoke Gregory’s bail and send him back to jail immediately.

What does this mean? It means that the court’s dangerous interpretation of the Illinois trespass statute is affirmed and is now a threat to everyone who records protests and the actions of the police.  It means that the court’s vindictive sentence of 300 days is affirmed, punishing a former prisoner for standing up to injustice and oppression. And by moving immediately to revoke Gregory’s bond, the State is continuing its ruthless persecution.

What has Gregory been doing with his life in the years since he was arrested for using an iPhone at the EHSC?  In addition to his employment as a paralegal at a Chicago law firm, Gregory has continued to dedicate his life to the struggle against all forms of injustice.  He has been invited to speak at universities, including Columbia College and Roosevelt University in Chicago, about mass incarceration and torture in U.S. prisons.  He has spoken to students in high schools about police brutality, torture, and wars for empire.  He has attended rallies against police brutality and murder, spoken on panels about the issues involved in his own case and the rights of prisoners around the country, and he spoke before the Chicago City Council in January in support of a declaration naming Chicago a torture-free city — to name just a few of his many beneficial and constructive activities.

Gregory should not be forced to spend even one more day in jail! He committed no crime – in fact, the police brutalized him. Videotaping is not a crime, and taking pictures is not the same as trespassing. Gregory has become a productive member of society who deserves appreciation, not punishment.

Gregory’s lawyers will file a motion to oppose revocation of bond. If that fails and Gregory is ordered to report to jail, we call on all of you to join us at the Cook County Courthouse in Skokie, IL [and at the Cook County Jail] to protest and show support for Gregory. We must put them on notice that we are standing with Gregory.

Gregory sends his most sincere thanks to everyone who has supported him in the course of this struggle, and he wants people to know that:

My case shows quite clearly how the legal system in this country operates:

  • Evidence that exposes the lies of State witnesses was barred from the jury, and video evidence shown in open court multiple times was barred from the appellate court.
  • The judge imposed a sentence based on ‘facts’ that were never even alleged by any witness, when she claimed that I ‘chose a path of violence’ after being convicted of what are categorized as non-violent misdemeanors, and she then sentenced me to nearly double the maximum allowable sentence for criminal trespass.
  • The judge barred any mention to the jury of the events that led to the peaceful protest against censorship on November 1, 2009.  But these events showed up within the first few sentences of the appellate court’s decision.

“These outrages happened in a political prosecution in my case, but they happen on a daily basis to millions of people herded through the courts into the United States’ historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration.  Our struggle to defeat these charges has been a small part of the broader struggle against this oppressive system that inflicts monumental suffering on the people, here and around the world.

“My life will continue to be dedicated to that end, whether I’m talking with students in inner-city high schools who face police brutality and repression every day, university students from more privileged backgrounds who are beginning to learn about how this system operates, or whether I am in jail learning from and organizing with other brothers locked down there.  I will continue to build a movement to end all of these injustices and bring forth a world where everybody can live a life worthy of human beings and flourish in ways undreamed of under this system.

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Stop the Vindictive Political Prosecution of Gregory Koger!

Friends – As we enter the final stage of the legal battle against my ongoing political prosecution, I hope you will take a moment to sign and spread this public statement of opposition. Thank you. – Gregory

Stop the Vindictive Political Prosecution of Gregory Koger!

Gregory KogerWe Say:
· Stop the Vindictive Political Prosecution of Gregory Koger!
· Videotaping is not a crime!
· Former prisoners who stand up against injustice and oppression should be supported, not repressed!

Signed by: Ad Hoc Committee for Reason; Cindy Sheehan; Dr. Antonio Martinez, co-founder of the Marjorie Kovler Center for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture; Debra Sweet; Fred Lonberg-Holm; Sunsara Taylor and others.

Sign the above statement and add your own comments here.

At an historical moment when people are stepping forward in dissent and protest around the world from Tunisia to Wall Street, political attacks on those who document these courageous acts are escalating. For nearly 3 years, Gregory Koger has been fighting a completely outrageous political prosecution and 300 day jail sentence for attempting to videotape a statement by Sunsara Taylor opposing the censorship of her talk prior to a public event at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago.

Gregory’s prosecution is premised upon a dangerous attempt to reinterpret the legal definition of trespass, and the State is using his prior conviction and imprisonment as a teenager to justify his political prosecution and vindictive sentence. At his sentencing, the judge claimed that Gregory “chose a path of violence” and “endangered every single person in [the EHSC] auditorium that day” – for videotaping with an iPhone! That is a lie. The appeals court recently upheld this outrageous verdict and sentence and it is being appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

While in prison as a youth, where he spent many years in solitary confinement, Gregory transformed himself and has dedicated his life since his release to opposing injustice and struggling for a liberated world for all humanity. In a country where over 2.4 million people, mostly Black and Latino, are imprisoned under a New Jim Crow system of injustice, tens of thousands are held in conditions of solitary confinement that amount to torture under international law, and millions more are denied basic human rights after they are released and have supposedly “served their time,” former prisoners who step forward to become part of challenging the injustices of this society and inspire others to do the same cannot be allowed to face political repression.  

As Gregory put it in a statement before his trial: “Now my life is dedicated to the struggle to end all exploitation and oppression and getting to a world where people contribute what they can to society and get back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings.” Gregory needs to be out here in society continuing the fight to bring into being this new world.

To donate funds to publish this statement and for the appeal, as well as get updates on the case, go to the website of the Ad Hoc Committee, Gregory’s defense committee, at dropthecharges.net.

If you are on Facebook (Free Gregory Koger!) or Twitter, publicize this case and mobilize others to speak out and sign the statement.

For more information on the case see:

A Grave Injustice Has Been Perpetrated… Free Gregory! No Jail Time!, September 12, 2010, Revolution #211
Judge Slams Videographer with 300 Days in Jail – FREE GREGORY!, September 26, 2010, Revolution #212
Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Political Persecution of Gregory Koger, May 13, 2012, Revolution #268
Gregory’s Video: 300 Day Sentence for Videotaping at the Ethical Humanist Society?

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Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Political Persecution of Gregory Koger

The following is an article from Revolution newspaper about my ongoing political prosecution, please check it out – Gregory.

The Illinois Appellate Court in February continued and intensified the unjust persecution of Gregory Koger by upholding his conviction for three misdemeanors and upholding the outrageous 300-day sentence for documenting with an iPhone camera the attempts to suppress the speech of Sunsara Taylor. Koger was arrested in November 2009 at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) when he was videotaping a short statement by Revolution writer Sunsara Taylor. For that “crime,” the police grabbed, beat and maced him. Then they charged HIM with misdemeanor battery, resisting arrest, and trespassing. (See “A Grave Injustice Has Been Perpetrated… Free Gregory! No Jail Time!” in Revolution #211, September 12, 2010.) In its ruling, the Illinois Appellate Court went even further than the prosecutors and the original trial judge in twisting the facts and interpreting the record to advance this highly political and vindictive attack on Koger.

Koger’s lawyers have recently filed a petition for leave to file an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. A powerful outcry against this outrage is needed!

An examination of some of the key findings of the appeals court will show the political nature of this attack on Koger through the legal system. This is revealed by what they chose to emphasize, concentrate, and even add to the record, and what they omitted and refused to consider.

First, at Koger’s trial in August 2010, the continual mantra from the judge and prosecution was “politics has nothing to do with this case, the defendant is on trial for his conduct, not his politics.” The judge vehemently denied every effort by the defense to provide the highly political context for his arrest: why he was documenting Taylor’s statement protesting the cancellation of her speech at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) and why the EHSC was trying to prevent exposure of this censorship.

So it was striking that the ruling by the Appellate Court prominently refers to Sunsara Taylor in an introductory paragraph as a “self-avowed communist.” This fact was completely banned from the trial itself! Even the defense’s request to probe potential jurors’ political prejudices, including regarding communism, was turned down. The original trial judge stated that Taylor could have been speaking about anything—”organic farming or feminism”—it was all irrelevant. The word “communism” appears nowhere in any of the official record of the proceedings in open court. One of the big claims of America is that there is supposedly no political suppression, that there is no such thing as a political case. Yet here in black and white the appeals court is boldly signaling that, yes indeed, this is a political case where political acts (documenting a controversial event) are on trial, depicted as criminal acts, and in the trial the actual events are twisted to fit that framework.

Second, the Appellate Court refused to consider the video that played a key role in the trial. This was the video Koger himself taped as he and Taylor entered EHSC that morning and took their seats in the auditorium. Provided by the defense, the video was actually introduced as Exhibit 1 by the prosecution in an effort to put their own spin on it for the jurors.

This video is now posted on the defense committee website (www.dropthecharges.net), along with the original police report. The prosecution received the video the day before trial, and by the next day they rewrote the charges with coaching from the judge who then denied the defense’s attempts to enter the original police report into evidence. This revealed the American justice system in action—if the defendant presents hard evidence proving his innocence, the state is allowed to change their story. Now people can see for themselves how the judge and the prosecution worked together to twist the facts in any way necessary to get a conviction. And this has been upheld by the appeals court. The EHSC president claims in the police report that he told Koger three times to stop filming and that Koger replied by saying “fuck you” to the EHSC president, who then told him that if he didn’t stop filming he’d be arrested for trespassing. A cop claims in the police report that he witnessed this. The video refutes all of that: Koger is completely silent and the president of EHSC is heard telling Koger only that he has to “stop filming,” which Koger does and the video shows that he put the camera down on the seat next to him. The only aggression on film comes from the president of EHSC when he pushes his hand aggressively into Koger’s camera.

The Appellate Court tried to have it both ways: bolstering its decision by using the politics that were banned from the trial, while refusing to consider documentary evidence that was part of the trial record.

New misrepresentation of trespass law is upheld

The Illinois trespass law states that in order to convict someone of trespass the state must prove that a person was ordered by a property owner to leave the premises, and then must prove that the person showed an intent to remain on the property after having been given notice to depart. Koger was never told he was trespassing at the EHSC, nor was he given notice that he must leave. After the video evidence refuted the previous statements from the witnesses in the police report that the EHSC president told Koger that he would be arrested for trespass if he didn’t stop filming—which the cop witnessed, the EHSC president directly testified in court that he never ordered Koger to leave. And the cop who grabbed Koger then changed his story and testi-lied at trial that he “whispered” into Koger’s ear after he put his camera down that he would be arrested if he didn’t stop filming—a whisper in a room with loud music blaring (as can be heard on the video). A convenient “whisper” that could not be documented.

A major legal argument in Koger’s appeal brief drew out the danger posed by a significant misinterpretation of the trespass law employed by the prosecution and upheld by the judge during the trial. Koger was never told that he must leave the premises. However, the prosecutors repeatedly equated giving “notice to stop filming” with giving “notice to depart.” The defense argued at trial and in the appeal that such conditional notice is not sufficient to convict. The prosecution went so far as to argue that if you do anything that a property owner asks you not to do, that makes you a trespasser—without any requirement that they give you explicit notice to depart, a fundamental element of the crime of trespass. To quote from the prosecutor’s closing arguments in the trial transcript: “Even if they were eating a sandwich, it’s not the filming, defendant’s eating a sandwich, ‘Sir, you can’t eat your sandwich in here; if you do it again, you’re going to be asked to leave.’ The moment he takes that sandwich back out, he becomes a trespasser.”

Astonishingly, the Appellate Court simply adopted and expounded upon the prosecution’s novel and dangerous theory of trespass and failed to even comment on, let alone refute, the legal arguments raised in Koger’s appeal brief. Those arguments are now a key element in his petition to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Additionally according to Illinois law, after being given notice to depart by the property owner, a person must be given an opportunity to leave before they can be convicted under the trespass statute. The Appellate Court ignored this too and twisted Koger’s alleged resisting arrest charge into “complete resistance to leaving” after he had “overstayed his welcome,” allegations which even the prosecution hadn’t made. Again, witnesses had testified that Koger was getting ready to leave to record Taylor’s speech at an alternate location when he was grabbed by the police. The Appellate Court wrote these witnesses out of the record when it said that his intent to leave “was not supported by the record,” despite citations to that testimony in the appeal brief itself! In fact, Koger would have been off EHSC property within minutes if the police had not grabbed him, beaten him up and maced him, but that’s the point: His crime was never trespass or “overstaying his welcome.” It was documenting a public statement of protest at a venue open to the public, and that’s a key part of what is chilling about this case.

The Appellate Court went even further than the prosecution in rewriting the record. In its summation of the defense witnesses’ testimony, they conveniently omitted any reference to two witnesses for Koger who were former members of EHSC, including a member of the EHSC Board at the time of his arrest, who did not know him before the events in question and who subsequently quit EHSC in protest of this very prosecution. Leaving out these key defense witnesses allowed the Appellate Court to claim that the defense witnesses “could be found wanting given their close relationship to defendant.” One of those EHSC witnesses for the defense testified that, in his recollection, no one had ever been prohibited from taking photographs or videos at EHSC. But the Appellate Court simply wrote that testimony out of the record too. In contrast, the Appellate Court deemed the prosecution witnesses to be “objective.” The Court didn’t see fit to acknowledge the fact that the EHSC witnesses for the prosecution—the president and a Board member—had every reason to want to see Koger convicted in order to cover up their censorship of Sunsara Taylor and their desperate attempt to prevent documentation of her statement that morning. The EHSC boasts of being an open forum, and the outpouring of opposition to their unprecedented cancelation of Taylor’s speech had stung them. They were determined to stop more exposure, and the videographer who was merely documenting the events—Gregory Koger—became the target of their vindictive counterattack. That targeting is both extremely cruel to Koger and dangerous for anyone attempting to document controversial or newsworthy public events.

Blatant Political Repression

Many people have asked incredulously why there has been such determined vindictive persecution throughout the whole legal process of this case, continuing with the Appellate Court. The EHSC played an important role in this unjust attack insisting that charges be brought, refusing to drop the charges against a huge national public outcry, including among humanist circles and many other people. But through the pre-trial phase and the trial itself, it became clear that the state itself was taking up this political persecution way beyond the vindictiveness of the EHSC. At a key pre-trial hearing the prosecution filed a contempt petition against Koger because his defense committee’s website talked about his case. While the judge did not allow this to go forward, he warned Koger that having a defense committee was going to harm his case—an unmistakable threat to back off the political struggle, all the while asserting that “this is not political.” At the trial itself, two prosecutors were assigned, unheard of for minor misdemeanors, which rarely go to trial at all. The judge, a former prosecutor herself, coached the prosecutors on pre-trial motions and repeatedly ruled against the defense.

But the fangs of the state were openly expressed and the essence of the very political message became clear at the end of the trial when the judge revoked Koger’s bond and sent him immediately from the courthouse to jail on the basis that he was a danger to society because of a past prison record. In Illinois the default sentence for misdemeanors is probation. At the sentencing hearing the judge viciously attacked Koger’s character and his very humanity in response to moving testimony from his employer, lawyers, professors, a priest, a student he had mentored, and several others who all described his transformation from a juvenile convicted of a serious crime to a person dedicating his life to helping people and emancipating all humanity.

The outrageously long sentence Koger was given—300 days, close to the maximum for simple misdemeanors, was also a subject of his appeal. The judge at the trial equated Koger’s conviction for violent crimes as a teenager almost 15 years earlier with his filming at EHSC that day and said he “chose a path of violence” there that “endangered the safety of everyone in the room.” There was absolutely nothing in the trial record to support these outrageous claims and in fact, right before trial, the prosecution had reduced the battery charge to “making contact of an insulting or provoking nature” because they knew they couldn’t prove Koger engaged in violence. Instead, he was the victim of police brutality, which required treatment at the emergency room when he was released from jail. The defense is appealing this outrageous sentence.

This is another chilling feature of this entire prosecution. The state is using Koger’s prior conviction to justify this political prosecution and vindictive sentence. When former prisoners step forward to become emancipators of humanity and participate in changing the world, they are treated even more vindictively in an attempt to dissuade anyone else from following their example. This cannot stand in a country where over 2.4 million people, mostly Black and Hispanic, are in prison at any time, and many millions more are denied basic rights after they are released and supposedly “done their time.” (See “Stop the Vindictive Political Prosecution of Gregory Koger!“)

In its portrayal of Koger’s conduct, the Appellate Court once again outdid even the prosecution in distorting the already twisted trial record. The Appellate Court went to great lengths to concentrate a portrayal of Koger as “belligerent,” citing his alleged “abusive language” as part of satisfying the elements of resisting arrest. The defense had requested that the jury receive an instruction based on a State Supreme Court decision that held that even the most abusive language is NOT resisting arrest and the trial judge had denied that request, but that didn’t deter the Appellate Court from using these false allegations against Koger. So the Appellate Court finds that recording with an iPhone constitutes trespass and swearing is evidence of resisting arrest!

This cannot be allowed to stand. Send statements of outrage and support for Gregory Koger to adhoc4reason@gmail.com. Funds for the appeal can be donated at the website of his defense committee, dropthecharges.net, or checks made out to Gregory Koger Fund can be mailed to the Ad Hoc Committee, 1055 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, 60660.

Visit the committee’s website and if you are on Facebook (Free Gregory Koger!) or Twitter, publicize this outrageous decision and mobilize others to understand its significance and speak out too. Stay in touch and join the fight to overturn this verdict!

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