Who are we? We are a rapidly expanding, ad hoc committee of people with a wide range of backgrounds and interests, who believe in reason, ethical behavior, compassion, and (in this particular instance) dropping the charges against the photojournalist, preferably with an apology. Do you share this belief? If so, then, in a very real sense, you are a member of our committee.
We encourage you to stand up for our shared beliefs in any way you can, with the knowledge that you are not alone. Suggestions for solutions and actions are most welcome. Let us know if you want to be kept abreast of what is transpiring.
Ad Hoc Committee for Reason,
1055 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. #226,
Chicago, IL 60660
Posted by admin | Announcement | Monday 25 March 2013 5:02 pm
Overturn the Wrongful Conviction of
Gregory Koger – Not One More Day in Jail!
For the last three-and-a-half years, Gregory Koger has been fighting a vindictive political prosecution, an outrageous conviction, and an over-the-top 300 day jail sentence. Why? He peacefully videotaped a statement against censorship at a public meeting of the “Ethical Humanist” Society of Chicago (EHSC) on Sunday, November 1, 2009. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed his conviction without addressing the serious legal issues involved, and the Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.
Gregory and his legal team have now filed a Post-Conviction Relief Petition to overturn his wrongful conviction. This Petition exposes the lies at the heart of the false charges against him and provides documentary evidence (suppressed by the judge at trial) of the perjured testimony and prosecutorial misconduct that laid the basis for his conviction – and demands that his wrongful conviction be overturned.
Gregory’s prosecution was based upon false claims that he was trespassing and violent at the EHSC. These claims were made by key figures within the EHSC, and falsely corroborated by the Skokie police. Some of their claims were actually audio recorded, and some were published and distributed prior to Gregory’s trial.
Just weeks after Gregory’s arrest, which was quite brutal, then-president of the EHSC and complaining witness Matthew Cole issued a public statement, which was published on several humanist websites (including the websites of PZ Myers and Hemant Mehta), giving his account of what he claimed had taken place. He also gave an account of the incident at a recorded meeting of the EHSC board on November 18, 2009. Another EHSC board member, David Hardesty, also spoke at the board meeting, propping up the president’s version of events. Their accounts are also included in the official police report and charging documents, and the Skokie police officer Baldo Bello, who arrested Gregory, claimed he witnessed what they said. These documents formed the basis of Gregory’s prosecution.
None of these claims were true! The video that Gregory recorded on the morning of November 1 proves that the claims of the EHSC and Skokie police were totally false.
The day before trial, Gregory’s lawyer gave the video to the Cook County State’s Attorney, as evidence. Instead of dropping the charges, now that the claims of the State witnesses had been shown to be lies, the State’s Attorney met with the EHSC and Skokie police witnesses to completely change their stories.
On the first day of trial, the State’s Attorney rewrote the charges against Gregory, with the help of Judge Marguerite Quinn. As the trial went forward, Judge Quinn – who knew the witnesses had previously given completely different accounts in the Skokie police report of the events on November 1 – prevented Gregory’s lawyer from presenting this fact to the jury. In addition to the police report, Gregory’s legal team also had audio recordings of the State’s witnesses telling different stories than they gave at trial. Judge Quinn also prevented the jury from hearing this evidence. Gregory was convicted and sentenced to 300 days in jail, based on the false accounts given during sworn testimony by members of the EHSC and Skokie police.
Many people who hear about this case say: “There must be something more to this story…” – and there is:
In his youth, Gregory spent years in solitary confinement while in prison. He transformed himself and has dedicated his life since his release to opposing injustice and struggling for a liberated world for all humanity. But the State’s Attorney and judge held his former prison record against him and treated him with contempt, and the judge gave him a 300 day sentence that is unusually high for non-violent misdemeanor violations.
Gregory’s experience is not unique – 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. Millions more are denied basic human rights after they are released from prison and have supposedly “served their time.” Former prisoners who step forward to challenge the injustices of this society and inspire others to do the same must not be allowed to face political repression.
Before trial Gregory stated, “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.” This is the person the judge condemned as a menace to society and sentenced to 300 days in jail. Gregory Koger should be celebrated, not sent to jail! He needs to be out here in society continuing the fight to bring this new world into being, and his wrongful conviction must be overturned.
Now is the time for all people of conscience to put the court and the powers-that-be on notice that there are thousands of people supporting Gregory across the country who demand “Overturn the Wrongful Conviction of Gregory Koger” and “Not One More Day In Jail for Gregory.”
What You Can Do:
• Support real justice by letting others know about Gregory’s wrongful conviction and mobilizing to overturn it. Spread this announcement far and wide!
• Be ready to come out if there is a court hearing or other development. The State has acted vindictively throughout this process so we need to be ready to demonstrate our support on short notice.
Posted by admin | Announcement | Monday 1 October 2012 11:42 pm
• 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.
The 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.”
Stop the Vindictive Political Prosecution of Gregory Koger!
· 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.
Posted by admin | Announcement | Sunday 25 March 2012 9:19 pm
Gregory Koger took this video on November 1, 2009 at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago. He was subsequently grabbed by the police, brutalized and arrested, and after the ensuing political prosecution received an outrageous 300 day sentence.
This video was admitted at his trial as “People’s Exhibit #1″ and shown repeatedly to the jury. In refusing to overturn Gregory’s conviction and sentence, the Illinois Appellate Court simply wrote this key piece of evidence out of the record.
Gregory’s defense team thinks it’s well worth watching. It shows that Gregory was openly filming as he and others entered EHSC that morning, right in front of Matt Cole, then-President of EHSC. Gregory was greeted at door and, as they entered the auditorium, we see that the program had not started and music was blaring. Gregory says nothing since he was there to document events, not be part of them. The only apparent aggression comes from Matt Cole, who violently grabs Gregory’s camera. Matt Cole never orders Gregory to leave or tells him he is trespassing. Officer Bello (in plainclothes) speaks loudly as he asks Gregory to “step outside” to talk with him, but he too says nothing about leaving or trespass.
Gregory never says a word to Cole or Bello, let alone swears at them as they claimed in previous statements. This video also refutes Cole’s statement to police that he told Gregory to stop filming several times or that he would be arrested for criminal trespass, and Bello’s claim that he witnessed those warnings. Read the police report for yourself. Those allegations had to be rewritten the day before the trial to “adapt” to the evidence in this video – and ensure conviction of Gregory Koger simply for attempting to document a peaceful statement critical of EHSC’s censorship of a long-scheduled speaker. THIS is a crime deserving 300 days in jail?!?
Posted by admin | Announcement | Sunday 25 March 2012 9:09 pm
The Illinois Appellate Court just denied Gregory Koger’s appeal to reverse his conviction in a lower court and he is now planning an appeal to the State Supreme Court.
Everyone who believes in democracy, free speech, and real justice should be appalled by the terrible precedent Gregory’s case is setting. In case you have not heard or are a little rusty on the details, Gregory was brutally arrested on Sunday, November 1, 2009 for peacefully recording a video of Sunsara Taylor making an announcement at, of all places, The Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC), located in Skokie, IL. This is a society that claims to represent tolerance and compassion. In the society’s own words:
“The Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago is a democratic fellowship and spiritual home for those who seek a rational, compassionate philosophy of life without regard to belief or nonbelief in a supreme being.”
“Our commitment is to the worth and dignity of the individual and to treating each human being so as to bring out the best in her or him.”
Ms. Taylor is a well known lecturer, who has appeared numerous times on nationally publicized programs. She has also lectured many times in the Chicago area, including at the University of Chicago. Ms. Taylor is a champion for women’s rights and social justice and she is very much opposed to imperialist wars. And Gregory was Ms. Taylor’s local videographer.
The EHSC had invited Ms. Taylor to lecture on that Sunday and to give a workshop on Saturday, the day before. Her subject was Morality Without Gods. The events were publicized in the EHSC calendar, widely promoted by Ms. Taylor’s office, and expected to be very well attended. However, toward the end of October, a heated battle of wills broke out, as the president of the EHSC and one or two other members mounted a vigorous dis-invitation campaign that many have described as based on flagrant distortions of Ms. Taylor’s views and record. In the end, the Society’s program committee agreed to cancel her lecture on Sunday, but to maintain the scheduled Saturday workshop. Dis-inviting a speaker, especially on short notice is widely considered to be extremely poor form.
The Saturday workshop was an unqualified success by any reasonable standard. The meeting hall was so packed that people were sitting on window sills and Ms. Taylor received a standing ovation at the end of a lively open discussion, which she moderated very professionally. And throughout the workshop, Gregory was doing his job of documenting Ms. Taylor’s lecture – without anyone objecting and completely without incident.
At the workshop, Ms.Taylor explained why she could not, in good conscience, fail to return to the hall in the morning in order to make a very brief announcement, before the start of events. Ms. Taylor’s stated purpose was to object to the cancellation of her scheduled lecture, and to invite all those who came to hear her know that she would be speaking within minutes at a nearby alternate venue, the home of a member of the EHSC.
As you listen to her speaking, bear in mind that this gentle young woman, who was so well received by the crowd, had been sufficiently maligned by the EHSC president that he was able to justify moving the regular Sunday School to another location, for the safety of the children. If you were Ms. Taylor, wouldn’t you have felt justified in standing up for your professional record and in doing your best to minimize the inconvenience to all those who expected to hear you speak on Sunday? Of course you would.
During that Saturday afternoon and evening, the president of the EHSC apparently planned what some have characterized as a trap. A trap, which would have to snare a victim in order for the president’s actions not to appear wildly excessive, even paranoid. The Skokie Police department was called and advised that the Society was anticipating a potentially violent disturbance at their Sunday morning meeting, triggered by a communist, with extreme atheist beliefs, and her followers. The Skokie Police Department would be paid to have a plainclothes officer, who happened to be a Marine, present in the building, while additional officers waited nearby.
Sunday morning, both Gregory and Ms. Taylor were greeted by the EHSC president and EHSC greeters. No one said they were not welcome. All this was recorded by Gregory, who was filming openly. As members and visitors began filling the room, the music volume was unusually high. Before the announced starting time for the morning’s event, the Society president came over to where Ms. Taylor and Gregory were sitting and Gregory lifted his camera to record the interaction. At that point, the president smacked the lens of Gregory’s professional camera and gruffly stated, “I am going to ask you not to film in here, it’s private property sir.” Of course, it is also a meeting that is open to the public and other people are filming. Next, a burly man, walks forward and says something like, “Sir, can you step outside please.” He was difficult to understand. This man is not identifiable by his dress as a police officer and he does not identify himself or why he is making the request. Ms. Taylor asks Gregory to stop filming and he does, During this entire time, there was not one word about trespass and Gregory was silent.
Shortly thereafter, Ms. Taylor stood to make her announcement and the EHSC president ordered the police to prevent Gregory from recording her statement. The police grabbed Gregory; dragged him out of the lecture hall, tearing his clothes; beat him up in the EHSC lobby; handcuffed his hands behind his back; pepper sprayed him in the face; and arrested him! Gregory was not the only person filming at the EHSC that day, a fact that is confirmed by the existence of photos showing Gregory face down on the lobby floor with two police officers kneeling over him and being led out the front door in handcuffs.
Gregory is certain that nobody, neither the president nor the police, ever told him he was trespassing and had to leave. And no members of the general audience in what was a crowded space has ever reported having heard either make such a statement. Furthermore, even if someone representing the EHSC had told Gregory he was trespassing, an Illinois Supreme Court ruling makes it absolutely clear that Gregory should have been given a “reasonable opportunity to leave the premises.” (People v. Mims,1972) And remember, at the point of Gregory’s arrest, he and Ms. Taylor had been on the verge of leaving in order to lead people to her lecture at the alternate venue – which Gregory was going to videotape as Sunsara’s videographer.
Gregory was taken to the Skokie Police Station, where the police later stated that he refused care by the Skokie Fire Department. When he was scheduled for trial in Skokie Court and released on bond, his attorney took him to the NorthShore Hospital for treatment of his injuries. His hospital bill came to just under one thousand dollars, hardly insignificant!
Meanwhile, the EHSC president was letting it be known that had the police not been present, he could have been dead on the floor, or words to that effect. According to his version of events, Gregory cursed him and threatened to hit him with his professional video camera when he approached Ms. Taylor and told Gregory to stop filming. An ally of the president claimed to have been present and that he too was cursed and threatened.
The police incident report, which was apparently prepared about the time of Gregory’s arrest, was written by an officer who did not play a direct role in most of the melee and who relied on those accusing Gregory for what he presented as fact. This report bears virtually no relationship to actual events, describing the police officers as methodically reasonable and Gregory as completely out of control. Regarding the reasons for grabbing Gregory, the report indicated:
• Ms. Taylor interrupted a lecture with her announcement and the EHSC president approached Koger and asked him to stop filming her, whereupon Mr.Koger said, “fuck you,” and the plainclothes police officer radioed for additional police assistance due to a disturbance at the location.
• The president approached Mr. Koger again, this time with a plainclothes officer, and once again asked Mr. Koger to stop filming and that if he filmed anything else in the establishment, he would have him removed and arrested for criminal trespass.
• The plainclothes officer claimed to witness these warnings. The officer then claimed he approached Gregory, identify himself as a police officer and told Gregory he was on private property and if he did not stop filming he would have to leave – at which point Gregory stopped recording.
All efforts at reasonable diplomacy failed and the EHSC refused to drop the charges. Guilty of having over reacted in the extreme, resulting in injury and arrest for no good reason, the EHSC and the Skokie Police apparently concluded that the only solution to their problem was to do everything possible to insure that Gregory was found guilty of criminal trespass and violent behavior.
Gregory’s case was assigned to Judge Marguerite A. Quinn in the Skokie Courthouse, home turf for the officers who arrested Gregory and where everybody seemed to know them personally. And Judge Quinn was on excellent terms with the State’s Attorneys, having been an Assistant Cook County States Attorney for 13 years. The proceedings quickly became bizarre. At a pretrial hearing, Judge Quinn essentially threatened Gregory’s attorney with disbarment, though his attorney had barely spoken a word. Why the threat? Because the prosecutor told Judge Quinn that the defense attorney’s name was mentioned on the website of Gregory’s support committee. There is nothing illegal, or unethical, about having a support committee or referencing an attorney’s name on such a website. But judges are extremely powerful in their courts and such threats could be expected to weaken an attorney’s zeal.
As the actual trial began, there was a surprising turn of events. Seemingly out of nowhere, there appeared an unimpeachable witness, prepared to testify in minute detail to what transpired at the EHSC immediately preceding Gregory’s brutal arrest. Who was this surprise witness? It was Gregory’s video camera and the recording it contained.
Suddenly, the State and its witnesses had a BIG problem! The recording, clearly showed that Gregory was never told he was trespassing or told to leave. Furthermore, it showed that he was simply filming and not doing anything disruptive. Stories changed and minutes before the trial started, the charges against Gregory were altered from criminal trespass, battery, and resisting arrest to criminal trespass, contact of an insulting or provoking nature, and resisting arrest. The president of the EHSC was now able to remember that he had not told Gregory to leave or that he was trespassing and all references to Gregory cursing the president vanished. The plainclothes officer’s memory also cleared and he recalled that after Gregory was asked to stop filming and had put his camera down, he “whispered” in Gregory’s ear that he was trespassing and had to leave. Gregory unequivocally states that the whisper never happened.
Of course, the original police report was critical to Gregory’s defense at this point in his trial; however, Judge Quinn refused to allow it into evidence for the jury’s consideration – what! How unfortunate for Gregory. Apparently, the officer who completed it was not on the list of witnesses and was unavailable, or something like that (arguments were made at a side bar and could not be heard and are not part of the court record) Of course, at this point reasonable people might have been likely to conclude that Gregory was not actually trespassing. So, the prosecution argued that recording a video without express permission from the owner of the venue was absolutely equivalent to criminal trespass under the law. They argued that if a property owner tells you not to do something and you do it, then you are trespassing. Really? Where is that written in statutes? In fact, during her closing argument, urging Gregory’s conviction, the State’s attorney actually said:
“What we’re saying is, if you go onto private property and you’re doing something, and the private property owner tells you not to do it, if you don’t stop, you’re going to be arrested for trespass, that’s what’s important. 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.”
The prosecution went even further, claiming that it was irrelevant that Gregory and Ms. Taylor were essentially leaving when he was grabbed by the police. And despite vigorous objections by Gregory’s attorney, Judge Quinn permitted the prosecution to make these arguments to the jury as fact.
There were also the usual, and not so usual, shenanigans during the trial. Judge Quinn took great pains to express her gratitude to the jurors for serving and her concern for their comfort. She repeatedly threatened Gregory’s supporters with ejection should they focus their gaze on the jurors or be disruptive in any way; however, members of the EHSC were permitted to signal the jurors with thumbs-up and thumbs-down gestures from an open doorway that led from the court room to a conference room. When one of Gregory’s supporters alerted a bailiff to this highly inappropriate behavior, the bailiff threatened to eject Gregory’s supporter, but did nothing about the individuals signaling the jury. Needless to say, Gregory did not stand a chance and a bamboozled jury of his peers found him guilty.
At sentencing, Judge Quinn essentially ignored the testimony of Greg’s character witnesses, which included lawyers, clergy, professors, and business people. There were also scores of personal letters testifying to Gregory’s good character. Instead, she claimed that Gregory “chose a path of violence” and threatened the safety of all those present at the EHSC meeting – Whoa! Really? She sentenced him to 300 days in prison, nearly the maximum sentence possible for a misdemeanor. This despite the fact that there had been not one shred of evidence offered that his arrest was predicated on his violent behavior. Furthermore, Judge Quinn denied Gregory bond while he appealed his case and sentence, a process which can take a year or more in most cases – an extremely unusual action in a misdemeanor case. Judge Quinn and the State’s Attorney appeared to be intent on re-punishing Gregory for a crime he had committed 13 years previously, when he was a homeless kid and for which he served time. Since then, he has demonstrated an enviable strength of character; completely turning his life around, educating himself in prison, becoming a paralegal for a respected Chicago law firm, and dedicating himself to fighting for social justice. He has given lectures at schools and colleges. No wonder so many respected members of the community testified to his good character during the trial.
Judge Quinn put Gregory behind bars for nearly a year, because he was peacefully filming activities at a meeting that was open to the public, an activity that thousands of people do everyday in America.
When Gregory appealed his convictions and sentence, the prosecution responded by misrepresenting critical testimony. For example, they claimed that Gregory was told to leave the EHSC property by the Society’s president, in spite of the fact that the president had changed his story and testified in court, under oath, that he never told Gregory to leave. Appellate Judge Aurelia Pucinski, who wrote the order denying Gregory’s appeal, adopted the prosecution’s misrepresentations and faulty theories about the case in their entirety, and never addressed the serious legal questions raised in Greg’s appeal brief. Astoundingly, the Appellate Court also claimed that Greg’s video recording, which was shown several times during Greg’s trial, as “People’s Exhibit 1”, would not be considered as part of the appellate record – absolutely unbelievable and amazingly good luck for the EHSC and the Skokie Police Department:
“We, initially, observe that defendant has attached to his brief a disk purporting to be a recording made on the day in question at the EHSC center. Although reference is made to a recording in the record, it is well-settled that attachments to briefs that have not been made part of the record are not properly before this court and will not be considered… Since the disk at issue was only attached to the defendant’s brief and there is no indication that it was certified and made part of the record on appeal, it will not be considered.”
The Appellate Court simply eliminated critical evidence from the record by alleging that the defense was trying to shoehorn new evidence into the record on appeal that had not been shown to the jury. That would indeed be unacceptable but that is not the case here.
Now, Gregory’s attorney, Jed Stone, is planning to appeal the decision of the Appellate Court to the next higher court, the Illinois Supreme Court. Attorney Stone will argue that simply telling Gregory to “stop filming or leave” was a conditional order, leaving open a whole range of permissible actions on Greg’s part, and cannot be equated with notice of criminal trespass. Furthermore, he will argue that a person cannot be charged with criminal trespass unless, after receiving unambiguous notice, he is given reasonable time to depart the premises “If the police can arrest someone for trespass without notice and without giving the person ample opportunity to leave, it opens the door to criminalizing all manner of benign behavior. In this case, videotaping becomes a criminal offense.” Attorney Stone believes if the verdict against Gregory is allowed to stand, it will set a dangerous precedent. “A sponsor of an event that is advertised as free and open to the public will be able to select certain individuals, for whatever reason, and easily have them arrested and charged with criminal trespass,” says Stone. “Under this new interpretation of the law, millions of people in Illinois will be in danger of arrest and prosecution for doing nothing more dangerous than eating sandwiches or USING THEIR CELL PHONES TO TAKE PICTURES.”
Gregory reminds us that the power to document dissent and reveal the truth of events, which powerful people want hidden, is being celebrated world wide and changing the world for the better. He says, “My case is setting a precedent that poses a danger for anyone who attempts to document a public event on private property. If you pull out your cell phone , you can be arrested for criminal trespass.”
This chilling precedent must be overturned!
Thank you for your past support and whatever support you can provide going forward. Members of the AdHoc Committee donate their time and resources, but appeals cost money.
Posted by admin | Announcement | Friday 16 March 2012 1:53 pm
To: The Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago
Date: March 15, 2012
I am Dr. Antonio Martinez, co-founder and former director of the Marjorie Kovler Center for Treatment of Survivors of Torture. In this role, I was invited to speak at the EHSC on September 27, 1992. My presentation was about the moral and human concerns in treating survivors of torture. The purpose of this letter is to show my concern about the accusations against Gregory Koger regarding an incident that occurred on November 1, 2009 at the EHSC.
Gregory was the videographer for Sunsara Taylor, who was unethically disinvited from speaking at the EHSC just two weeks prior to her long scheduled talk based on anticommunist views and distortions of her positions, spearheaded by a member of your organization who is associated with the University of Chicago. Knowing the prestige and depth of content of your organization, I would expect that you would know the track record of the University of Chicago’s business school in Latin America, and their immoral association with the dictator General Augusto Pinochet. For me, a real morality is based on principles and not in who is funding or contributing to the organization.
Furthermore, it is difficult for me to understand how Mr. Koger, a survivor of torture and a person that I know and admire for his high standards of social morality and humanism, can be accused of these charges. He was simply acting as the videographer for the Ms. Taylor, who was disinvited from the event by the pressure of corporate America. In fact, the video taken by Gregory on November 1st contradicts completely the statements and accusations made against him prior to the trial by EHSC President Matt Cole and Board member David Hardesty.
I am really disappointed at this incident and I know that other members of the EHSC were also. It came to my attention that several members of the EHSC, including board members, left because of this obvious moral contradiction.
A moral response to this unfortunate event can be a courageous denouncement by the new EHSC leadership of these false accusations against Gregory and a public call for these false charges to be reversed and dropped.
Posted by admin | Announcement | Wednesday 14 March 2012 5:40 am
The Illinois Appellate Court just denied Gregory Koger’s appeal to reverse his conviction. It is time to speak out against this outrageous and dangerous ruling!
As you may recall, Gregory was arrested because he used an iPhone to peacefully take pictures of Sunsara Taylor prior to a public event at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) on Sunday. Nov. 1, 2009. This happened despite the following clearly established facts:
Ms. Taylor and Gregory came to EHSC that Sunday morning so she could make a very brief statement politely protesting the short-notice cancellation of the widely publicized lecture she had been scheduled to give that Sunday morning. She also was there to inform the people who had come to hear her speak but were unaware of the cancellation that her lecture would take place within minutes at a nearby alternate venue.
Both Gregory and Ms. Taylor were welcomed onto the premises by the president of EHSC and the meeting greeters. Gregory openly video recorded this as Ms. Taylor’s official videographer. He had also filmed the day before when Ms. Taylor gave an extremely well-received workshop to a packed house at the same venue!
Gregory and Ms. Taylor were unaware that the president of the EHSC had arranged to pay plainclothes local police officers, who were also marines, to act as private security guards that Sunday morning and presumably do his bidding. Even though other people were photographing at the same event, Gregory was singled out and told to “stop filming.”
When Gregory put down his large camera and took out his cell phone to catch Ms. Taylor’s final words, the EHSC president ordered the police into action. The police grabbed Gregory, dragged him out of the lecture hall, beat him up, handcuffed his hands behind his back, pepper sprayed him in the face, and arrested him!
An Illinois Supreme Court ruling says that after someone is informed that he is trespassing, he must be given a “reasonable opportunity to leave the premises.” (People v. Mims, 1972) The video that Gregory filmed that day proved that he was never told that he was trespassing, never ordered to leave, and never given an opportunity to leave.
The original police report of the event formed the basis of the charges against Gregory. In the report, EHSC witnesses and the plainclothes police made statements claiming that Gregory had been warned about trespass and told to leave. But the video Gregory filmed that Sunday completely refuted those stories in the police report.
The day before trial, Gregory’s lawyer turned over Gregory’s video to the Cook County State’s Attorney who viewed it for the first time. You would think that a prosecutor would drop the charges when video evidence clearly shows that the charges they had brought against someone for nearly a year were totally false. Instead, the prosecutor changed the charges against Gregory to try and fit the video. And the EHSC witnesses and Skokie police changed their statements that were in the original police report to a new set of lies.
Trial Judge Disregards Law and Denies Evidence
At trial, the prosecution repeatedly defined videotaping without permission as equivalent to trespassing. Gregory’s attorney objected to this definition because that is not the legal description of trespassing in Illinois. Filming is simply not trespassing. But Judge Marguerite Quinn denied this highly important objection.
Judge Quinn also did not allow Gregory’s attorney to introduce the original police report as evidence. This report would have made it very clear that the stories told by key prosecution witnesses at trial were an attempt to match the video and were substantially different than the lies they originally claimed in the report. For example, the arresting officer claimed in the report that he heard the warning given to Gregory about trespassing. But because the video revealed that this warning did not happen, the police officer instead testified in court that after Gregory was told to stop filming and had put his camera down, he “whispered” in Gregory’s ear that he would have to stop filming or leave. Gregory unequivocally states that the whisper never happened.
Judge Marguerite Quinn consistently ruled against Gregory’s attorney’s important motions and objections. She also incorrectly let the jury believe that telling Gregory to “stop filming or leave” was equivalent to a notice of trespass.
A Vindictive Sentence
At sentencing, Judge Quinn disregarded the numerous witnesses and personal letters testifying to Gregory’s good character. Instead, she sentenced him to almost the maximum sentence possible and denied him bond while he appealed her sentence, because she claimed he “chose a path of violence” on that Sunday.
There had been no testimony at all during the trial that Gregory had been violent in any way. In fact, minutes before the trial began, the prosecution reduced the charge of “battery” to “contact of an insulting or provoking nature,” because the prosecutors knew that there was no evidence that Gregory had done anything violent or even slightly disturbing.
Judge Quinn seemed intent on punishing Gregory for crimes he had committed 13 years previously, when he was a homeless juvenile, and for which he served time. Since then, he completely turned his life around, educated himself in prison, became a paralegal for a Chicago law firm, and dedicated himself to fighting for social justice, which is why so many people testified to his good character during his trial.
State’s Attorney and Appellate Court Misrepresent Trial Record
When Gregory appealed his convictions, the State’s Attorney prosecutors responded by misrepresenting critical testimony. For example, they claimed that Gregory was told to leave by the EHSC president, but the president actually testified in court that he never told Gregory to leave.
Astoundingly, the Appellate Court claims that the video that was shown several times during Gregory’s trial as “People’s Exhibit 1” cannot be considered as part of the appellate record! Appellate Judge Aurelia Pucinski, who wrote the order denying Gregory’s appeal, appears to have adopted the prosecution’s misrepresentations and faulty theories about the case in their entirety. But she never addressed the serious legal questions raised in Gregory’s appeal.
Next Step: Appeal to Illinois Supreme Court
Gregory and his attorney, Jed Stone, will appeal the decision of the Appellate Court to the next higher court, the Illinois Supreme Court. Attorney Stone will argue that simply telling Gregory to “stop filming” was a conditionalorder,leaving opena whole range of permissible actions on Gregory’s part, and cannot be equated with notice of criminal trespass. Furthermore, he will argue that a person cannot be charged with criminal trespass unless, after receiving unambiguous notice, he is given reasonable time to depart the premises.
If the police can arrest someone for trespass without notice and without affording the person ample opportunity to leave, it opens the door to criminalizing all manner of benign behavior. “In this case, videotaping becomes a criminal offense,” says Attorney Stone. He believes that such a precedent would enable any sponsor of an event that was advertised as free and open to the public to select certain individuals, for whatever reason, and have them arrested and charged with criminal trespass.
Gregory’s Case Affects Us All
“In an era when cell phones are everywhere, their power to document dissent and reveal the truth of events that powerful people want hidden is changing the world. This case is setting a precedent that poses a danger for everyone who uses a cellphone at a public event on private property,” says Gregory. “If you pull out your cellphone, you could be arrested for trespassing. We cannot allow this chilling ruling to stand.”
Gregory Koger will need your continued support. You can send him messages of support at email@example.com – and let us know if we can use them on the website. We can certainly use any contributions that you make – lawyers and appeals cost money. Please send donations to Ad Hoc Committee, 1055 W. Bryn Mawr, #226, Chicago, IL 60660.
We hope you will tell other people what’s happening – because we are all affected by this case.
Posted by admin | Announcement | Tuesday 21 February 2012 12:23 am
We learned this week that the Illinois Appellate Court will not be holding oral arguments on Gregory’s appeal. We asked for oral arguments but it’s up to the Court to decide and they notified Gregory’s attorney, Jed Stone, that they are “of the opinion that oral argument is not necessary.” This means that a decision could be issued at any time.
Just to remind our friends and supporters, after serving nearly two months of his unjust and completely unwarranted 300 day sentence, the Appellate Court granted Gregory bond in October 2010 and he was released from jail. In releasing Gregory on appeal bond, the Court acknowledged the fact that he is not a flight risk, that he is not a “danger to the community,” and furthermore that his appeal raises substantial questions of law or fact “likely to result in reversal or a new trial.”
Since that time, the appeal brief was filed in January 2011, the State’s Attorney responded in August 2011, and Gregory’s attorney replied in late September. This latest notice does not indicate anything as to the content of the Court’s decision. Please stay tuned – we’ll let you know as soon as we do!
Posted by admin | Announcement | Monday 9 January 2012 1:09 pm
As the year ends and a new one is upon us, we wanted to update friends and supporters of Gregory on the struggle to defeat the politically driven prosecution he faces for videotaping a peaceful political statement by Sunsara Taylor with his iPhone at the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago over two years ago.
After serving nearly two months of his unjust and completely unwarranted 300 day sentence, Gregory was granted bond and released from jail. In releasing him on appeal bond, the Court acknowledged the fact that he is not a flight risk, that he is not a “danger to the community,” and furthermore that his appeal raises substantial questions of law or fact “likely to result in reversal or a new trial.” Gregory was released just in time to attend Jazz for Justice, a benefit for his legal defense featuring jazz musicians Ted Sirota and Fred Lonberg-Holm.
Over the course of this past year we have completed the legal briefing portion of the appeal. Our initial appeal brief was filed in February, and the State received six months of extensions before finally filing their response in August. Our final reply brief was then filed in September, which powerfully and compelling dissects and exposes the political nature of the charges and numerous factual misstatements in the State’s brief before breaking down, point-by-point, the legal errors that contributed to this unjust and unlawful conviction and sentence. At the heart of the legal case is the State’s Attorney’s unprecedented argument that refusing to comply with alleged rules of a property owner equate to trespassing. However, under Illinois law, to be legally guilty of trespass, a person must be ordered to leave by the property owner or the owner’s authorized representative, and must be given time and opportunity to leave. In fact, during the trial the then-president of EHSC testified under oath that he never asked Gregory to leave before he was grabbed, dragged, and assaulted by the police. If this baseless legal argument is allowed to stand, it has dangerous and chilling implications for the public’s right to document public and newsworthy events. We are now awaiting word from the appellate court as to whether and when oral arguments will be held on the appeal. Read the final brief here.
As part of opposing this prosecution both inside and outside the courtroom, the Ad Hoc Committee for Reason raised funds to publish a statement in the March/April 2011 issue of The Humanist magazine, calling on those in the humanist community to speak out in opposition to this political prosecution and noting some of those who have, such as Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney, PZ Myers and Bill Ayers.
We have also continued to open up discussion and debate around the larger political issues concentrated in the case. In the midst of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and the inspiring swirl of the Arab Spring that presaged the outpouring of dissent in the US, forums were held on the rising wave of political repression in the US that targets those who document dissent, protest and police misconduct – Smart Phones and Dumb Laws: Will Your Cellphone Make You A Criminal? Our February Smart Phones and Dumb Laws event was held just after the Egyptian people in Tahrir Square inspired the world. The panel included Gregory and Chris Drew, along with his civil rights lawyer Mark Weinberg. Chris Drew is an artist and activist who is facing up to 15 years in prison under Illinois’ egregious “eavesdropping” law for audio recording his own arrest while selling a $1 piece of art on the streets in an attempt to challenge Chicago’s peddling ordinance.
In November we held another Smart Phones and Dumb Laws event at DePaul University College of Law, after thousands of people occupied spaces across the country and faced police brutality and repression for peaceful political protest (including numerous journalists being arrested and brutalized, which has been documented by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press – see Some journalists still facing charges after Occupy arrests). Gregory and his lawyer Jed Stone were joined by Chris Drew, Mark Weinberg, and Robert Johnson, Chicago civil rights attorney who successfully defended Tiawanda Moore from felony eavesdropping charges. Ms. Moore was prosecuted for audio recording Chicago police on her cellphone as she attempted to have a Chicago police officer investigated who sexually accosted her. Adam Schwartz of the Illinois ACLU also spoke about their federal lawsuit against Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez challenging the eavesdropping law, which recently had oral arguments at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Both forums were broadcast on CAN-TV, the Chicago local access television network.
Since his release from Cook County Jail on appeal bond, Gregory has continued to speak out about his case and other injustices and crimes of this system. In May, he was invited by students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to be the guest speaker at their Prison Arts Fest, which featured artwork from prisoners in Illinois.
Gregory has also spoken in university and high school classes in Chicago about torture in U.S. prisons, mass incarceration and police brutality, while organizing for the October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Read a report on the Chicago O22 action here.
On the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Gregory produced a video with his friend Anthony Wagner, Iraq veteran who was very active in opposing the wars and stopping youth from joining the military, who tragically died on November 3, 2011, just hours after marching on Wall Street with other veterans in support of Scott Olsen, who was shot in the head with a tear gas canister by police at Occupy Oakland. After Anthony’s tragic death, Gregory produced a video of a We Are Not Your Soldiers teach-in at Occupy Chicago that Anthony organized, where Anthony’s brother and mother spoke out against the war and its horrific effects.
Much has been accomplished this past year! Thanks to the support from many people, appeal bond was won and Gregory has been able to be a part of all of this work that his life is dedicated to – work he would not be able to do if he was sitting in a jail cell as the Skokie judges, Cook County State’s Attorney, and the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago want. Defeating these ongoing charges is vitally important not only to his life and his work, but for everyone who opposes injustice. We will continue to fight to overturn this unjust political prosecution and link up with others facing political repression in the coming year.