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 Ad Hoc Committee for Reason and Dropping the Charges | Announcement | Thursday 31 October 2013 1:57 pm
“After Party” for Gregory Koger!
Saturday, November 2
Grace Place, 637 S. Dearborn, Chicago
Doors open 6:30, start 7 pm
After a four-year battle against a truly vindictive prosecution, our friend Gregory Koger is finally out of the clutches of the Cook County system of criminal injustice. Gregory, his defense committee, and friends fought tirelessly against a prosecution for the “crime” of taping a statement against censorship at the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago. Hard to believe? Read the details & watch the video he took that day at here. Gregory faced such an outrageous prosecution mainly because he is a former prisoner who has now dedicated his life to the emancipation of humanity.
Now, we invite you to celebrate the fact that Gregory has served the outrageous sentence he was given and he will now be with us again contributing to the fight to liberate humanity and the planet! We also want to thank all of you for the support you have given in this battle.
This will be an evening of music and celebration. If you would like to contribute to the casual buffet of finger food, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by admin | Announcement | Thursday 25 July 2013 2:00 pm
Please read and sign our petition to Sheriff Tom Dart and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to release Gregory to serve whatever time he has remaining on electronic monitoring. They have stated in the media that the jail is overcrowded and they have expressed concerns about public resources wasted by incarcerating non-violent offenders. As many friends have noted, Gregory does not deserve to spend one more day in jail! Pleas read our petition here, sign, and share it widely – via email, on Facebook, twitter, etc.!
Letters, cards, magazines and paperback books (no hardcover books or newspapers) can be sent to Gregory Koger at
#2013-0723091 / P.O. Box 089002 / Chicago, Illinois 60608
Listen to a powerful statement from Gregory at our press conference on July 23 at the Skokie courthouse, along with statements from supporters from the Illinois Coalition against Torture and the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (our thanks to Dale Lehmen, WZRD).
Posted by admin | Announcement | Wednesday 24 July 2013 12:50 pm
For immediate release:
What: Gregory Koger sent back to Cook Co Jail in continuing political persecution
When: Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Who: Ad Hoc Committee for Reason
For additional information, contact Jay Becker at 312 459 2708 or email email@example.com
This afternoon Gregory Koger was sent back to Cook County Jail to serve the remainder of his 300 day sentence (around 3 months) for peacefully videotaping a statement against censorship at a public meeting of the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) on Sunday, November 1, 2009. Over 50 supporters, including fellow ex-prisoners, human rights activists, a priest, musician, scientist, retired business people, and a doctor, filled the courtroom in suburban Skokie. Expressing their outrage at the vindictive hearing and sentencing, over two dozen supporters went straight to the main Cook County jail several miles away to demonstrate their support for Mr. Koger and the California hunger strike.
The hearing today was supposed to be about adjusting Mr. Koger’s original sentence, which in part exceeded the statutory maximum. Mr. Koger was represented by attorney Jed Stone, who planned to argue that Mr. Koger’s Post-Conviction Relief Petition filed in March, had to be adjudicated, after months of silence.
When Mr. Koger’s case was finally called, however, the presiding judge announced that she had rejected Mr. Koger’s post-conviction relief petition more than three months ago, on April 15, and that his 30 day period in which to file an appeal had expired! No notice had been received by Mr. Koger or his attorneys of record of the rejection, nor had they received notice that Mr. Koger should appear in court on April 15. The judge stated that the prosecutors had told her that Mr.Koger had been seen in the courthouse on April 15 but left before his case was called, an impossibility because the defense team knew nothing of the date. Furthermore, although Mr.Koger had served two months of his 300-day sentence, the Judge insisted the file showed that he had only been in jail for two weeks. Jed Stone stated, “In my 38 years as an attorney I have never seen anything like the blatant, sloppy and disingenuous actions of the Court today.” Mr. Koger’s attorneys plan to take further legal action and his defense committee, the Ad Hoc Committee, is determined to continue to press for his release. For more information on this case, see www.dropthecharges.net.
At the press conference before the hearing, Mr. Koger announced that while in Cook County Jail, he would join the California prisoners hunger strike, now at Day 16, in solidarity with the demand to end solitary confinement. Recently, Gregory Koger has been speaking in support of California hunger strikers on WBEZ’s Worldview, WVON’s Cliff Kelley Show, and KPFK’s Michael Slate Show. In his youth, Gregory spent years in solitary confinement while in prison. During that time, he transformed himself and has dedicated his life since his release to opposing injustice and struggling for a liberated world for all humanity, as he has written.
At the Cook County Jail July 23 2013
Ad Hoc Committee for Reason • www.dropthecharges.net • firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by admin | Announcement | Tuesday 2 July 2013 9:05 pm
A court hearing has been set for July 23, 2013, where the State will move to put Gregory Koger in jail to serve the remainder of his 300 day sentence for peacefully videotaping a statement against censorship at a public meeting of the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) on Sunday, November 1, 2009.
Neither the Court nor the Cook County State’s Attorney has responded to the Post-Conviction Relief Petition that Gregory’s legal team filed in March. This Petition exposed 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 and outrageous sentence be overturned. For more details, see www.dropthecharges.net
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. Gregory’s legal team will vigorously oppose any attempt to put him back in jail.
We call on you to come out to stand with Gregory and demand:
Gregory Koger & Dr. Antonio Martinez on Worldview with Jerome McDonnell WBEZ
On July 8, 2013, over 30,000 prisoners in over two-thirds of California’s prisons began a hunger strike to demand an end to the systematic torture they face through long-term solitary confinement. Prisoners in several other states have joined them in work stoppages and hunger strikes. 2.3 million people are in prison in the U.S. and over 80,000 prisoners are held in solitary confinement in the United States – under conditions that amount to torture under international law.
• Dr. Antonio Martinez, a psychologist with the Institute for Survivors of Human Rights Abuse and co-founder of the Marjorie Kovler Center for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture. Dr. Martinez has been recognized by UNESCO for his lifelong work treating survivors of torture and human rights abuses.
• Gregory Koger, torture survivor who spent over six years in solitary confinement in Illinois prison. He is a revolutionary who works with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and has spoken in universities and high schools regarding torture in U.S. prisons. Mr. Koger – a jailhouse lawyer in prison and a member of the National Lawyers Guild – was a homeless teenager in a street gang when he was sent to an adult maximum security prison; he transformed himself in solitary confinement and has dedicated his life since his release to opposing injustice. He will be joining the hunger strike on July 23 when he faces a court hearing to jail him to serve an unjust 300-day sentence for recording a statement against censorship on an iPhone at a public meeting of the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago. More details on his case available at www.dropthecharges.net
During the initial California prison hunger strike in July 2011, Mr. Koger organized a Forum on the California Prison Hunger Strike and Torture in U.S. Prisons. Dr. Martinez spoke at that Forum, and compared the widespread, systematic use of torture in U.S. prisons to experiences of torture in other countries: “What I hear here is very similar to what I hear about the torture chambers in Guatemala, in Colombia, in Chile. Actually in Chile, Pinochet was more humane. They allowed people to be among others, they allowed some music, they allowed some type of interaction and they allowed more generous visits. And that was Pinochet. So what does that say about us as a society where all these things are the rule and not the exception? …”
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.