Judge Frees Witness Jailed Eight Months for Contempt
The judge also suggested that continued confinement would only perpetuate Koch's "doctrinaire fever," bolster his conviction that the government is corrupt and encourage rather than discourage the protest.
"Koch will only derive increasingly grim self-satisfaction from his position," Keenan wrote. "The more unstable he gets, the more he will be presented as a martyr and perceive himself as such…He has…become fully inculcated with the partisan zeal of one who is often in error but never in doubt."
Keenan also took a shot at "Koch and his ilk" who adhere to an anarchist ideology that "prizes conformity over independent thought."
"He has condemned the crime in question, but if he takes the logical step of assisting in the investigation of that crime, he will be excommunicated by the anarchist community he cherishes," Keenan wrote. "Ironically, far from articulating any genuine dissent, these 'anarchists' have accomplished little more than substituting one flavor of authoritarianism for another."
The decision did not reveal the nature of grand jury investigation for which Koch was subpoenaed. But one of his attorneys, Moira Meltzer-Cohen of Manhattan, confirmed that the probe centers on an explosion outside a Times Square military recruitment center more than five years ago.
According to the website jerryresists.net, Koch is a 24-year-old environmental and political activist and Eugene Lang College student who allegedly was at a bar where two other patrons discussed a plot to bomb the recruiting office.
"The only legitimate purpose for civil contempt is to coerce testimony," Meltzer-Cohen said. "If it becomes apparent that confinement is not bringing any pressure to bear to coerce testimony, it becomes punishment without the benefit of due process."
Koch was also represented by Susan Tipograph, Grainne O'Neill and David Rankin, all of Manhattan. Southern District Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Cronan and Michael Lockard appeared for the government.
Tipograph said she is "heartened" that Keenan released Koch when he plainly did not want to do so.
"I understand that the judge and the court and the government disagree with Jerry's decision not to testify," Tipograph said. "The goal was not to convince the court or the government to agree with Jerry's position of why he wasn't going to testify or that there is a history of abuse by law enforcement officials of political movements. The goal was an application of the law and Judge Keenan correctly applied the law and released him."