Gregory Koger will be sentenced on Wednesday, Sept. 8 for videotaping with his cell-phone at a controversial public meeting. The hearing will be at the Cook County Courthouse in Skokie, IL at 9:30 A.M.
In a shockingly unprecedented move, the judge instantly revoked Mr. Koger’s bail bond after he was convicted of misdemeanor charges on August 26, and immediately sent him to jail. Scott Frankel, Mr. Koger’s attorney, has appealed the bond’s revocation, saying “I was stunned by the court’s decision to revoke Gregory’s bond.” A number of experienced criminal defense lawyers have commented that they have never heard of this happening before in a misdemeanor case. Even with most felony convictions, judges normally would raise post-conviction bail, but would rarely deny it entirely.
Why should Mr. Koger face a long jail term for using an iPhone? The use of such camera phones has become ubiquitous for bringing events of the day to TV, as well as to the internet. Are the police now free to arrest, beat, and prosecute photographers who are documenting controversial public events?
Mr. Koger was convicted of trespassing, but actually he was videotaping before an event began that was publicized as open to the public. There is no law against filming at a public event. The prosecutor made it appear to the jury as if filming is the same as trespassing. But the trespass law states that you must be ordered to leave, and then show that you intend to remain after you have been given notice to leave. Despite the defense attorney’s objections, the judge did not correct this misimpression. Testimony in court made it clear that Mr. Koger was told to quit filming, but he was not clearly or audibly ordered to leave until the police were dragging him out of the auditorium.
According to Attorney Frankel, the police then “threw him against a wall, pushed him to the floor, Maced him after he was handcuffed, and then charged him with resisting arrest.” As a result Mr. Koger has a $1000 emergency room bill for his injuries. [See article in the Chicago Reader]
As a way to cover up their brutality, the police charged Mr. Koger with resisting arrest and simple battery. These kinds of charges are described by an American Constitution Society Issues Brief (http://www.acslaw.org/node/16288) as “cover charges,” because they are used to cover up police misconduct. Mr. Koger was convicted of those charges, but the court procedure and conflicting evidence were very questionable and offer excellent grounds for an appeal, which Mr. Frankel says will be filed.
Mr. Koger was arrested on November 1, 2009 at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) as he videotaped a brief statement that Sunsara Taylor was making before the group’s Sunday program was scheduled to begin. Ms. Taylor had been invited the previous July to speak that day, but EHSC cancelled their invitation two weeks before her scheduled talk. In her very short statement, Ms. Taylor objected to the cancellation and invited attendees to hear her speak that morning at the home of an EHSC member. As she announced that she was leaving, the police arrested Mr. Koger.
Mr. Koger is now in jail and could be facing a long sentence. The reason the prosecutor gave for the unprecedented bail revocation was that Mr. Koger spent years in prison for crimes stemming from his youth, and the Judge added that she was revoking bail because the jury had just found him guilty of the misdemeanors! Mr. Koger’s childhood was extremely difficult and included periods when his entire family was homeless. While Mr. Koger was in prison for his youthful mistake, he underwent a major conversion and decided to devote his life to helping other people who had been born in the same kind of unfortunate circumstances that he had. After his release, he became a social justice activist and a paralegal in a law firm where he helps indigent people. (For Mr. Koger’s biography, see below.)
“His work at my law offices has helped many people, including women who need child support and several people suing to defend their civil rights,” says Michael Radzilowsky, Attorney at Law, who will testify at Mr. Koger’s sentencing hearing. “He works hard and efficiently. He has turned his life around and devotes every waking hour to helping other people.”
Mr. Radzilowsky is just one of many people who will provide character references at Mr. Koger’s sentencing hearing. Father Robert Bossie, SCJ, will testify about Mr. Koger’s ethical behavior and his dedication to social justice and peace. “I am astonished by the extreme measures taken against Gregory Koger, all for a misdemeanor charge. This is not justice, especially for a person of his moral standing,” says the priest.
This is the same case where in April the prosecutor brought criminal contempt charges against Mr. Koger in an unsuccessful attempt to shut down his defense committee’s website. Those charges raised serious First Amendment rights issues, as does Mr. Koger’s conviction for taking pictures.
The sentencing hearing will be held on Wednesday, September 8 at 9:30 A.M. at the Cook County Courthouse, 5600 W. Old Orchard Road, Skokie, IL, in Courtroom 205.