On behalf of the Ad Hoc Committee, thank you to everyone who has been a part of the efforts for justice for Gregory Koger – by signing petitions hosted by World Can’t Wait, by contributing to the defense fund, by spreading the word about this outrageous prosecution to mobilize others.
As you may recall, Gregory was arrested in November 2009 when he was videotaping Sunsara Taylor’s brief statement at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago, which is not a crime. The Society had cancelled a speech Ms. Taylor was scheduled to give after key members were whipped up into a frenzy of anti-communist hysteria. Gregory was beaten and maced by the police, and then charged with trespassing, resisting arrest, and simple battery. A brief by The American Constitution Society describes these charges as “cover charges,” because they are so often used to cover up police misconduct.
This past August many of us spent time in the Skokie, Illinois court house at Gregory’s trial, and it was quite an eye opener to watch the justice system at work. It’s not like on television! While the judge declared her joy at the many people attending the trial, there were never enough seats, and the bailiffs never seemed happy with our behavior whether court was in session or not. When court was not in session, they regularly barked commands at us such as, sit back in your seat, no reading material, take off your hat, take that barrette out of your hair, keep aisles clear, and be quiet, be quiet, be quiet. This was their world; we were the intruders, and we needed to be kept in our place.
Most unsettling to many of us was the alliance of the (un)holy trinity: the prosecution, the police, and the judge. For starters, the prosecution rewrote the charges the morning the trial started. Why? The defense had submitted Greg’s video of events that took place the day he was arrested, and it disproved key parts of the prosecution’s story and contradicted the cops’ original report. When the defense objected and wanted to use the cops’ original report to show that the prosecution witnesses had changed their stories, the judge refused the defense requests, as she did on every important disagreement.
And so the trial went, with what we perceived as the state doing whatever it could to get someone in jail, not to get justice or do the right thing. They wanted to win at any cost and they did. The result – a good person was convicted and dragged off to jail before our very eyes.
Visiting people in jail was another eye opener. We were searched by prison guards who were on major power trips, and subjected to lots and lots of waiting around with overwhelmingly Black, Latino, and other poor people who filled the waiting area. Then we were ushered into a small, loud room where you had to yell through glass, making it almost impossible to communicate. We could not imagine that any form of rehab in this hell is possible.
The frightening thing is that this is the much vaunted American justice system. Imagine how many people are now sitting in jail with no resources, no help, and little or no support.
Fortunately we were able to engage Jed Stone, Gregory’s appeal lawyer, who filed the motion that got Gregory’s bond reinstated. But it took a lot of people, a lot of time, and a lot of money. Gregory’s lawyers have greatly reduced their fees, but they have to cover their expenses, and an appeal is expensive. One major expense is the trial transcript, which must be purchased and will cost close to $2500 dollars. Here in Illinois, the judge has discretion to give the defendant transcripts for free, but even if she were so inclined (which she is not), it would take months to get them.
These efforts on Gregory’s behalf would not have been possible without support from all of you and many others. Most recently, two renowned jazz musicians, Ted Sirota and Fred Lonberg-Holm, contributed their music and talent for an evening of Jazz for Justice here in Chicago. Thanks to this event and many, many contributions, we are meeting many of these expenses.
Our work to reverse this unfair verdict and keep Gregory Koger out of jail is ongoing. Justice has a high price in America. There are continuing expenses and much more legal work must be done.
Thank you for all you have done to date. We will continue to keep you informed, and we hope we can rely on your continuing support! Please keep in touch with us at adhoc4reason@gmail and www.dropthecharges.net.