Monday, March 05, 2012

Stop the Vindictive Political Prosecution of Gregory Koger!

On February 23, 2012, the Illinois Appellate Court denied the appeal of the unjust conviction and vindictive sentencing of Gregory Koger for videotaping with an iPhone a public event at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC). The court mandated that he serve out the rest of the time on the outrageous 300-day sentence. Now there needs to be a powerful outcry against this latest outrage that threatens to railroad Gregory to jail again. The cops, the prosecutors and the EHSC must not be allowed to get away with this vindictive persecution! Send statements of outrage and support for Gregory, as well as funds for the appeal. See below.

About the case: Gregory was arrested in November 2009 at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC, located in Skokie) when he was videotaping a short statement by Sunsara Taylor protesting her disinvitation by the EHSC. Gregory was videotaping Sunsara Taylor's statement for her protection so there would be an accurate record of her statement. And for that "crime," the police grabbed, beat and maced him, leaving him with lacerations and contusions. Then they charged him with misdemeanor battery (on police officer called by the EHSC), resisting arrest and trespassing.

An important part of the legal case and appeal is the prosecution's outrageous equating of video taping with trespassing which has chilling implications for anyone documenting newsworthy events. The then-president of the EHSC testified under oath that he never asked Gregory to leave (an essential part of the very definition of trespass). And the only person who supposedly gave such notice to leave was the cop who test-i-lied that he whispered it into Gregory's ear.

Send statements of outrage and support for Gregory, as well as funds for the appeal.

To learn more about Gregory's case and to find out more about how to join this fight, check out:

Donate online at or send checks or money orders payable to Gregory Koger Fund to Ad Hoc Committee for Reason, 1055 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. #226, Chicago, IL 60660

There were many irregularities in the original trial—leading to an unjust guilty verdict on all counts. Gregory's bail was revoked while awaiting sentencing and he was taken directly to jail from the courthouse. At the sentencing hearing, the courtroom was packed with supporters who presented a petition with almost 1,000 names demanding no jail time. Character witnesses who took the stand on his behalf included Gregory's boss—a lawyer, one of his college professors—a former prosecutor, a research scientist, a young woman intern he had mentored, and a priest. The case was covered in the Chicago Reader and the Chicago Tribune. In spite of all this, the judge issued a totally disproportionate sentence of 300 days, of which Gregory served 60 days before the appeal court granted his appeal bond.

Central to the prosecution and persecution of Gregory by the state has been the manipulation of the fact that Gregory had previous felony convictions as a youth and had served 11 years in prison in Illinois. At his sentencing, the judge claimed that Gregory "chose a path of violence" and "endangered every single person in [the EHSC] auditorium that day"—for videotaping with an iPhone! The judge then questioned "whether he really has any rehabilitative potential," and after sentencing him to nearly the maximum sentence stated that "once you serve your sentence, there is hope you may become a law abiding and useful citizen some day." The state deliberately set out to paint a picture of Gregory as a violent lifetime criminal who poses a threat to society. And this, too, was part of the appeal. In fact, what Gregory has done with his life shows that is a vicious lie!

In the 16 months that Gregory has been out of jail on bond while the appeal has worked its way through the system here are some of things he has done, including resuming his job as a paralegal:spoken out against police brutality and the criminalization of Black and Latino youth, organized a forum exposing the torture of prisoners in U.S. segregation units and supported the hunger strike of California prisoners in 2011 against conditions of torture. Spoken at high schools and university classes on mass incarceration and the New Jim Crow. He has protested the unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and been part of Occupy Chicago.

This is a continuation of the path he began while in prison as a youth when he began questioning the nature of the system that put him and millions of others behind bars. While in prison Gregory spent many years in solitary confinement in segregation in the U.S. home-grown torture chambers, where he experienced first hand the degrading and dehumanizing effects of torture. He began to read Revolution newspaper. He broke with the dog-eat-dog outlook. After his release from prison in December 2006, Gregory jumped into changing the world. Along with others, he put on an orange jumpsuit to protest torture by the U.S. in its "war on terror." He traveled to Nebraska and Kentucky to participate in the defense of abortion clinics and doctors. He spoke at rallies against police brutality and to support prisoners' rights to receive and read revolutionary literature.

Should a whole section of society (there are over 2 million people incarcerated right now in American prisons) be denied the right to participate in the full range of lawful social and political activity by mere virtue of being former prisoners, because the state will use prior criminal convictions to justify political persecution? A message is being sent to intimidate millions of others at the bottom of society, "Don't even think about raising your head, participating in political activity or protest, much less taking up revolutionary politics, this is what we will do to you." We cannot allow this message to stand.

The "public safety" is hardly threatened by former prisoners stepping forward to take up the big social and political questions of the day, including those who become revolutionary emancipators of humanity. THAT is the life Gregory has chosen, not a "path of violence," as the judge asserted. THAT is what is "volatile," and threatening to their system, not Gregory picking up an iPhone.

As Gregory put it in a statement before his trial, "Now my life is dedicated to the struggle to end all exploitation and oppression and getting to a world where people contribute what they can to society and get back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings." He needs to be out here in society fighting to bring into being this new world.


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posted by Sunsara Taylor at 11:11 AM


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