Employee of King Solomon’s Reef Katherine Olejnik, known as KteeO was one of the three arrested for remaining silent when asked about a defendant’s political views in front of the grand jury. Others who were jailed for the same reason are Matt Duran and Leah-Lynn Plante.
Olejnik was taken into custody on Sept. 27 for resisting the grand jury. The grand jury was prosecuting defendants who made threats to Congressman Jim McDermott, Senator Patty Murray, and Kirkland Mayor Joan McBride.
No one contacted from the U.S. Attorney’s office would comment about the case, however, their press release states that a person who may have information about the investigation is required to testify. It also says that the secrecy of a grand jury is there in order to protect witnesses. The release reminds citizens that those who are summoned to testify before a grand jury have “the right not to incriminate themselves, the right to consult with counsel, the right to have free court-appointed counsel, and the right to speak publicly about their experiences in the grand jury.”
Olejnik’s released a statement regarding her decision to resist. She said, “For me choosing to resist a grand jury is about humanity – I cannot and will not say something that could greatly harm a person’s life, and providing information that could lead to long term incarceration would be doing that.”
She also said that it violates her First Amendment rights to free speech, Fourth Amendment rights that limits unreasonable search and seizure, and Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent.
The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said that the public needs to understand that they and the federal law enforcement are working to protect the rights of citizens, including the rights of free speech and free assembly.
They said that they “do not investigate or seek to silence lawful free speech, or dissent,” but that when free speech becomes threats of violence, it’s their job to investigate and enforce the laws.
Kris Hermes of the Grand Jury Resistance Project said that the federal government is trying to intimidate and repress political activists. Hermes said the government wants to repress the extremists, and by resisting the grand jury, the activists are showing that they will not be intimidated.
According to Hermes, environmental and animal liberation groups are being targeted (the “Green Scare”). He said that anarchists are also being targeted.
“So instead of having the subpoenaed cooperate, they are resisting in order to show that there’s a united front against the grand jury process,” Hermes said.
The grand jury is different than a regular jury due to their secrecy during trials.
Additionally, the trial is run by a prosecutor and the defendant is not allowed an attorney. The way jurors are chosen is also different. Unlike a regular jury, the jurors are not screened for bias.
Those in support of the Grand Jury Resistance Project say that the grand jury process is being misused. People like Olejnik can be jailed for up to 18 months if they refuse to answer questions about the accused. These questions are usually about the accused’s political views or acts.
“The results of a grand jury is to seek indictment of young people, who end up having to serve years in prison,” said Hermes.
Olejnik’s co-workers at The Reef are in support of what she’s doing. Co-worker Magen Leazer said, “Everyone here thinks this is ridiculous. We understand and support how she’s sticking to her guns and not giving in.”