Interview with Jailed Grand Jury Prisoner Carrie Feldman
On November 17th, Minneapolis residents Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth were jailed for refusing to testify at a grand jury in Davenport, Iowa. It is believed the grand jury is investigating and seeking to indict persons unknown for the Animal Liberation Front raid of the University of Iowa in 2004. 401 animals were liberated in the overnight break in, and nearly $500,000 damage was done to the labs.
The jailing of the two activists (15 and 17 at the time of the raid, respectively) received heavy media attention. Before her grand jury appearance on Tuesday, I did a short interview with Carrie on the her experience at her first Iowa grand jury experience several weeks prior. While most grand jury coverage has focused on the principles behind grand jury resistance, I wanted to ask Carrie about the experience itself: What they asked, how she was subpoenaed, and more.
Please visit the Support Carrie and Scott website to find out how you can support the both of them for their noble acts of grand jury non-participation.
Animal Liberation Front-line: Tell us how you were served with the subpoena.
Carrie: I was subpoenaed on a Tuesday around 5:00, just after leaving my house. Looking back I had stayed in most of the day because I was hanging out with a friend who was in town, so I wonder if they were waiting outside my house all day for me to come out. I had only gone about two or three blocks when I saw police lights flashing in my rear view mirror. I thought it was just a traffic stop or one of those awkward times when a cop is right behind you and turns on their lights to do something else. So I pulled over to let them pass, but soon realized that it was a black SUV, and they pulled over right behind me.
Two people got out, a man and a woman. I rolled down my window, and the man approached. “Carrie?” he said. I never know what exactly to say in those situations. I think I just muttered something vaguely affirmative. They identified themselves as members of the Cedar Rapids FBI, and handed me a piece of paper that turned out to be the subpoena. They informed me that I would have to appear before a grand jury in Iowa the following Thursday. I think I said something incredulous about having to show up in Iowa two days later, and they told me to contact the victim/witness coordinator whose number was on the subpoena. I asked for their cards but they didn’t have any, so I wrote down their names and the number for the Cedar Rapids FBI office. I told them I would have my lawyer contact them.
(A funny side note– they pulled me over across the street from the church where the RNC 8 were having a meeting, which I knew because a few of them had just walked over from our house. I went and talked to all the folks at the meeting about what happened and what to do. I also ran into someone from Twin Cities indymedia who was on their way in to the church, and he sent it out over their twitter. So a ton of people knew about it within minutes.)
Prosecutors are not required to divulge the crime that is the subject of a grand jury. To date, what evidence is there they are investigating the 2004 ALF action at the University of Iowa?
The first piece of evidence came before I was served the subpoena. I got a call a few days earlier from a teacher at my old high school, to let me know that the FBI had called with a subpoena for my high school attendance records from 2004. She said that they didn’t keep those records any more and she had directed them to the district. I thought back to 2004 and was totally baffled– at that point I was 15 years old and had just gone vegetarian. Still had a year or so before I would get into more radical politics.
After I was served the subpoena, I gathered that these things must have been related. I went home and did a Google search of “Iowa 2004 communique”. The first thing that came up was a news story about the UI raid. At that point I was already pretty convinced. I can’t imagine anything else happened in Iowa in 2004 that was a big enough deal to have two FBI agents drive 6 hours to subpoena me.
Since then, it has been pretty well confirmed in my mind. My public defender independently came up with that as what he suspected, and one of the grand jurors asked me if I was ever a student at the University of Iowa. The Omaha FBI website also indicates that it is an open investigation, and shows a sketch of a young woman they believe to have been involved (despite the speculations of right wing bloggers, I think the sketch looks about as like me as any sketch of a generic white female with dark hair.)
What questions did they ask you during the grand jury?
It started off with the prosecutor, Clifford Cronk, asking basic questions like my name and where I was from. That’s always awkward because it’s unclear where to stop. The third question was where I was born, and at that point I decided that there was no reason to answer questions that they already knew, and that it was just going to transition into the more serious questioning. Especially without a lawyer present to tell me what to answer and not to answer, I just went ahead and plead the fifth and read my statement saying that I wasn’t going to cooperate. Cronk was like, “you’re not going to tell us where you were born because you think it might incriminate you?”
Mostly after that they asked me about my refusal to cooperate. Cronk was rude and argumentative. He said something along the lines of, “I hope your lawyer didn’t tell you that you have the right to do this, because you don’t.”
The only two questions that weren’t about that were when Cronk asked me whether I had posted the subpoena online, and a juror asked if I had ever been a student at the University of Iowa. I wanted to say, “are you asking if I went there when I was fifteen years old and the action happened, or do you want to know if I go there now?”, but instead I just repeated the line “I am not answering any questions before this grand jury”.
One of the jurors, a middle aged woman, told me to tell my mother about this right away. I think she must have a daughter about my age or something.
Have you received any indication from the grand jurors (or prosecutor) that others have testified at this grand jury?
No, I have not. I’m guessing that there are people testifying who are not radicals, maybe people who work at UI or FBI agents or people like that. But no one else has come forward about a subpoena, and I didn’t see anyone else at the courthouse who seemed to be a witness.
Can you describe the inside of the grand jury room and the experience of being inside?
It was just a regular courtroom that was being used for the grand jury. They had it in the “historic” courtroom because it was the biggest. The jurors were in the area where the jury always is, and the prosecutor was at the normal prosecutors stand. I was at a table directly across from the grand jurors, sitting next to a large projection screen, and the prosecutors’ table was to my right, towards the door. On my left were the empty judge’s seat and the court reporter.
I didn’t count the grand jurors. In federal grand juries there are 16-23, and I’m guessing it was the full 23 because it seemed to me like a lot.
Anything else of interest you would like to add regarding this GJ, and the overall experience, please do.
It’s really frustrating when people assume that I was involved in the UI raid just because I am resisting this grand jury. I’m not doing this to cover my ass; the easy thing to do would be to go in there and tell them the truth–that I was 15 when that happened and I don’t know anything about it. That may be what my dad wants me to do (he supports me, he just says he doesn’t want me to go to jail for no reason), but this is a matter of principle, and of not allowing repressive and coercive systems to dictate our lives. My cooperation would allow them to gather more information about activists and movements, and would violate my personal privacy as well as that of any others they would ask me about. They are targeting me for my political beliefs, because I am an anarchist and because I have spoken and worked publicly in support of animal rights and environmental movements, and I’m not going to let them get away with that. What I said in the statement about how our complicity allows the grand jury system to happen, I meant it. That’s why I am resisting this.
Thanks to Carrie Feldman for doing this interview. She is currently incarcerated in Washington County Jail. Please write her a letter of support:
Washington County Jail.
2185 Lexington Blvd. PO Box 6
Washington, IA 52353
A second MN activist was also jailed the same day. Write him at:
Muscatine County Jail Inmate
c/o “Scott DeMuth”
400 Walnut Street
Muscatine, Iowa 52761
Statements from both Carrie and Scott regarding their refusal to cooperate can be read here:Receive updates via email: Subscribe here.