Saturday, February 27, 2010

Court moves to make public documents in activist's contempt case

Court moves to make public documents in activist's contempt case
The case involves a Minneapolis woman jailed since November for refusing to testify to a federal grand jury.

By ABBY SIMONS, Star Tribune

Last update: February 25, 2010 - 8:12 PM

A Twin Cities journalist won a partial victory Thursday in a battle to open the court record involving a Minneapolis activist jailed in Iowa for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury.

The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a motion on behalf of Sheila Regan of the online publication Twin Cities Daily Planet to unseal most records related to a contempt of court case against Carrie Feldman.

However, the appellate court gave federal prosecutors three weeks to propose which parts of the record they want redacted. Prosecutors say some information may need to be withheld to protect the "secrecy and integrity" of the grand jury process.

Feldman, 20, was jailed in November for refusing to appear before a grand jury examining a 2004 break-in at a University of Iowa laboratory targeted by animal rights proponents.

Feldman said she knows nothing about the break-in and refused to testify because she believes grand juries are used to abuse power. Under the law, she could be jailed until October if she maintains her silence.

Her former boyfriend, University of Minnesota graduate student Scott DeMuth, 22, was charged in November with conspiracy to commit animal enterprise terrorism in connection with the break-in. He was released pending trial.

In Thursday's ruling, Eighth Circuit Judge Kermit Bye expressed frustration that the government will get additional time to submit proposed redactions when Regan's motion to unseal the record was filed more than a month ago.

"The public's rightful access to the majority of the records in this appeal has already been delayed by two months," Bye wrote.

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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