For the past five months Matt Duran and Katherine “KteeO” Olejnik have been in jail for refusing to talk about their friends or about their political beliefs. They were never accused of any crime; they took a principled stand against a federal grand jury targeting anarchists. During that time, one of the other grand jury resisters was released under questionable circumstances, Maddy Pfeiffer was imprisoned for resisting, and Kerry Cunneen received a grand jury subpoena. And for the last two months, Duran and Olejnik have been in solitary confinement, which has taken a toll on their physical and mental health.
As the Los Angeles Times noted:
The pair have been the subject of public demonstrations and an appeal by the Seattle Human Rights Commission, which this month argued that holding them isolated for 23 hours a day with little human contact could cause permanent psychological injury.
Through it all they did not waver in their political statement of non-cooperation. Last week in Seattle, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones recognized this and granted their attorney’s motion to release them.
|“Their resolve appears to increase as their confinement continues”
— Judge Jones
The story isn’t over yet. Maddy Pfeiffer is still in jail. Another grand jury in California is winding down, but is still a threat. And it’s possible that Duran and Olejnik could face criminal contempt charges for their non-cooperation (they were jailed on civil contempt).
But Judge Jone’s strongly-worded order is a huge victory for these activists, and everyone concerned about civil liberties. It directly speaks to the power of non-cooperation, public outreach, and community solidarity.
The government does not dispute the witnesses’ assertions that confinement in the special housing until entails 23 hours of solitary confinement in their cells and an hour of solitary time alone in a larger room each day, a single fifteen-minute phone call each month (as opposed to five hours of monthly phone time for detainees outside the special housing until), and exceedingly limited access to reading and writing material. Their physical health has deteriorated sharply and their mental health has also suffered from the effects of solitary confinement.
Their confinement has cost them; they have suffered the loss of jobs, income, and important personal relationships. They face the possibility of criminal convictions for contempt… both she and Mr. Duran have nonetheless refused to testify…
The court has observed both Ms. Olejnik and Mr. Duran in their prior appearances before the court. Whatever the merits of their choices not to testify, their demeanor has never given the court reason to doubt their sincerity or the strength of their convictions…
The witnesses face confinement that could last another thirteen months, and their is always the chance that additional confinement will break the resolve of the contemnor. For these witnesses, hoewever, their resolve appears to increase as their confinement continues…