Grand Jury Reflections with Gina Lynn
from No Compromise Issue 22


In September of 1999, I was arrested for refusing to cooperate with a federal grand jury subpoena demanding my fingerprints, handprints and handwriting samples. After a Motion to Quash the subpoena failed, I chose to ignore it on the grounds that grand juries are generally corrupt at worst, unconstitutional at best, and that everything that lead up to my being subpoenaed was essentially absurd.

About six weeks (to the best of my recollection) after the date by which I was to comply, I was arrested at my home by the FBI and spent the weekend in the Oakland County Jail waiting to see a judge on Monday morning. Luckily, Bay Area judges are notoriously liberal, and Magistrate Brazil recognized this as a political case and ordered my immediate release without processing, on the promise that I would travel to St. Louis, at the government’s expense, to fight Contempt of Court charges there (where the subpoena originated).

So, three weeks later, following two hearings before a St. Louis judge, I was found in Contempt of Court and ordered into custody until I cooperated with the subpoena (or until the grand jury ended about four months later). In the end, I spent a total of only 26 days in jail on hunger strike, and I attribute my earlier-than-expected release to a very dedicated and well-organized jail support campaign.

The St. Louis County Jail literally kicked me out because they were so inundated with letters, faxes and phone calls from people concerned about me, that they said they were unable to conduct usual business. It turns out that county jails have an agreement with U.S. Marshals to hold federal prisoners at their discretion. When having me there became a problem, they called up the U.S. Marshals and said, "Take her back; we’re not keeping her anymore."

So, I was moved to Belleville, Illinois, which was a very bad place that I prefer not to think about. The protests continued, including international days of action; an A.L.F. action in Washington State; and letters, faxes and phone calls to my new jail, as well as the U.S. Attorney in charge of the case and judge who threw me in jail.

One day, quite surprisingly, I was quietly released without notice and without any reason being given. The U.S. Attorney’s office later told the media that they had gotten what they wanted. My guess is that they intercepted a letter that I had written to a supporter and decided to accept that as a handwriting sample (they got extensive handprints and fingerprints when I was booked into custody).

Normally, such a letter would not be accepted as an official handwriting sample, but I am quite certain that the U.S. Attorney’s office was motivated, by the fuss being made over me, to do something to get me out of their hair and not have to deal with it anymore.

Jail support does work to get our fellow activists back on the frontlines where they need to be!