Item one: Matthew Duran, Katherine Olejnik, and Maddie Pfeiffer are still in solitary confinement at the SeaTac FDC. And Kim Gordon and Jenn Kaplan, the attorneys for Duran and Olejnik, say they still haven't gotten a satisfactory answer about why. (In response to a request from The Stranger about the three, a spokesperson for the FDC replied: "Where inmates are housed within the confines of our facility is not public information.")
So Gordon and Kaplan have filed motions for their clients' release. Their full statement is below the jump, but their argument has two parts (prepare for legal wonkery!):
(a) They are being held for civil contempt, not criminal contempt. That means they (supposedly) aren't being punished for refusing to answer some questions. The government hopes that prison coerce them into talking. (That's also why they're in prison with no charges filed—they haven't been accused of anything, they're just being "convinced.")
Past courts have found that when it becomes clear a person isn't being successfully coerced, that person should be released.
The attorneys argue that Duran and Olejnik have shown they will not be coerced—the length of their stay, being in prison for the holidays, the months in solitary confinement—so should be released. (Side note: Earlier this week, George Will wrote about the torture of solitary confinement.)
(b) Public documents show that the government has all the information it needs to identify the vandals, so holding Duran and Olejnik for coercion is not only unproductive, but unnecessary.
The lawyers don't say this openly, but they imply that if the court wants to punish Duran and Olejnik , it should release them from civil contempt and charge them with criminal contempt—in other words, if the court is going to be punitive, it should be honest about it. (And perhaps go to trial.)
Item two: Yesterday, pugetsoundanarchists.org posted a short letter from Pfeiffer written on Feb 1: "My main frustration thus far has been that, despite my many requests, I have still not been able to call my lawyer. It has been more than a month and I have not even seen so much as a response to my requests. Regardless of that, I am generally in good spirits and I am looking forward to the day when I can thank everyone, in person, for their support."
Item three: Last week, the Seattle Human Rights Commission sent a letter to Judge Richard Jones (that link is another pdf) about the grand jury refusers and "urge their immediate release" from solitary, citing studies by Harvard Medical School and the United Nations: "While even the critics of solitary confinement recognize that its use may be justified in an exceptional case where a strict monitoring protocol is followed, that is not the case here. There is no evidence that Katherine Olejnik, Matthew Duran, and Maddy Pfeiffer are the 'worst of the worst.'"
And here is Gordon and Kaplan's full statement about the reasons for and timing of their motions to terminate confinement. And here is the search-warrant affidavit that The Stranger, with the help of attorney Neil Fox, managed to get unsealed. (It's a pdf.)
As you know, Matt and Kteeo are in custody because they have been found in civil contempt. Generally, the idea is that they are not being punished for not testifying, but they are being held in an effort to coerce them into testifying. But the courts have held that if, in an individual case, it becomes clear that the confinement is not going to serve any coercive purpose and actually cause that person to testify, then it becomes "punitive." We believe that the confinement has now become "punitive" for two reasons.
First, our clients have suffered the worst conditions of confinement that the Federal Detention Center can lawfully impose upon inmates, and perhaps some that are not so lawful. Our clients have suffered under those conditions for a meaningful period of time. Our clients have also had very real personal losses—homes, jobs, just to name a few. But we can say without hesitation that our clients' resolve not to testify is stronger than ever. In fact, every day that our clients suffer under these conditions makes them more confident that their suffering should not be in vain.
Second, we have brought our motion now because we have obtained further, publicly available documents (the search warrant affidavit and supporting materials that The Stranger successfully fought to unseal) that show that the government has already identified, compellingly, who was responsible for the vandalism.
This suggests that the government does not need whatever tangential information our clients might have. The search-warrant affidavit also strongly suggests that the government still has other alternatives to investigation and do not need to rely on our clients. We believe that the law governing civil contempt compels a court to consider both of these things when making a decision about whether confinement has lost its coercive value.