Back to jail
A federal judge on Friday, Aug. 12, ordered animal-rights activists and grand-jury resistors David Agranoff, 31, and Danae Kelley, 21, back to prison. The two were released July 29 after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered they be freed until that court could decide whether Judge Irma Gonzalez did the right thing when she jailed Kelley and Agranoff on July 12 for refusing to answer grand jury questions. The two argued that the tenor of the questions violated their First Amendment rights to free speech and free association.
In June, the grand jury began hearing testimony from activists who attended an August 2003 talk by animal-rights activist Rod Coronado. Hours before Coronado's talk, an arson fire leveled an unfinished La Jolla apartment complex. A sign left at the fire claimed it was set on behalf of environmental extremist group Earth Liberation Front. Though Coronado has, in the past, talked publicly about ELF activities and was at one point convicted of setting fire to an animal testing lab in Michigan, he told CityBeat he had no involvement in the La Jolla fire, nor does he know anyone who did. Agranoff and Kelley have said the same. Coronado said he expects this grand jury to indict him for telling the audience at his 2003 talk that a juice bottle could be used to build a crude explosive device. That sort of action is illegal under a post-9/11 law only if there's evidence that Coronado's demonstration was intended to inspire others to commit arson.
Agranoff and Kelley will remain in prison for the duration of the grand-jury session, which ends in December, unless they choose to testify. Incarceration in this case is intended as a coercive tool, but attorneys for both activists argue that imprisoning the two constitutes punishment.
Just how strained are relations at City Hall? On Tuesday, City Manager Lamont Ewell threw down the gauntlet in the direction of City Attorney Mike Aguirre.
"I am so committed to the best interests of this city that if he agrees to resign today, I will resign as well," Ewell said in a written statement a few hours after Aguirre offered up a 15-point plan to resolve the city's legal, accounting and financial crises.
As of press time, Aguirre had yet to respond, but it's worth pointing out that Ewell already has resigned, effective at the end of the year, but Aguirre has suggested he choose an earlier departure date.
A little needling?
Last week's CityBeat featured a story about a July 29 Union-Tribune editorial that accused the city's needle-exchange program of handing out sharps illegally. The editorial asserted that the program's "roving RVs" were "ply[ing] the streets of North Park and downtown" handing out needles despite a City Council vote the week before that took away the program's ability to do so.
Folks involved with the needle-exchange program publicly pointed out the error and program chairperson and UCSD medical professor Jim Dunford contacted the U-T shortly after the editorial ran but received no response. CityBeat couldn't get a comment, either, from editorial page editor Bob Kittle before our story ran. But on Aug. 10, the same day our story hit the street, the U-T issued a correction on Page B9, blaming the editorial on "erroneous information... by a city official" and that indeed the RV (singular and non-roving, as Dunford had said in his letter) was merely giving out informational materials and making referrals to the IV drug users who normally stop by for clean syringes. B-Kelly Davis