Friends & Supporters,
Jed Stone, Eric Shah, Gregory and his legal team recently wrapped up work on a powerful Reply Brief. The opening paragraphs capture the significance of the battle to overturn the false charges against Gregory for videotaping Sunsara Taylor’s statement with his iPhone nearly 2 years ago:
Across North Africa and the Middle East, during what became known as the “Arab Spring,” ordinary citizens, using cell phones and video cameras, preserve the truth about the events that unfolded before them. Here, in the United States, we have a tradition of protecting those of us who seek to gather, record and preserve information about public events.
The prosecution of Gregory Koger was initiated because he used a cell phone camera to capture and record the words of Sunsara Taylor, and preserved on video her treatment by the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (hereinafter, “EHSC”) and Skokie police officers present at an open meeting at the EHSC. It is clear that others photographed the events of the EHSC that Sunday morning… No one other than Gregory Koger was told to stop taping or photographing. It is equally clear that capturing Ms. Taylor’s statement about her censorship by EHSC (and the police reaction to it) was constitutionally protected.
This ill-conceived arrest and prosecution was made worse by the prosecution’s confounding of law of trespass, incorrectly telling the trial court and jury that Mr. Koger’s continued taping constituted a trespass.
Gregory’s Reply Brief goes on to expose numerous factual misstatements in the State’s brief before breaking down, point-by-point, the legal errors that contributed to Gregory’s unjust and unlawful conviction and sentence of 300 days in jail. It also highlights how an important recent case regarding the right to document newsworthy events and the actions of police, Glik v. Cunniffe, relates to Gregory’s prosecution:
“As the Supreme Court has observed, ‘the First Amendment goes beyond protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw.’… An important corollary to this interest in protecting the stock of public information is that ‘[t]here is an undoubted right to gather news “from any source by means within the law”… The First Amendment right to gather news is, as the Court has often noted, not one that inures solely to the benefit of the news media; rather, the public’s right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press… Moreover, changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.” Glik v. Cunniffe, 2011 WL 3769092, (1st Cir.), August 26, 2011.
The arrest and prosecution of Gregory Koger were born out of the Ethical Humanist Society’s attempt to prevent Mr. Koger from documenting Sunsara Taylor’s peaceful statement opposing their censorship of her speech. The involvement of Skokie Police and the misuse of the criminal trespass statute to further this aim have grave implications for the public’s right to document public events.
We hope you’ll take a moment to read the Reply Brief – you can download it here. The filing of the defense Reply Brief concludes the briefing portion of the appeal. We’re now awaiting a decision from the appellate court as to whether they are going to grant oral argument on the appeal. We’ll keep you posted! Gregory sends his deepest thanks for all of your support and the Ad Hoc Committee urges you to continue to publicize this case and demand his unjust conviction be overturned!