Josh Wolf: 81 days inside, Scrabble Master

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By Sarah Phelan

Spoke to jailed freelance videographer/blogger Josh Wolf by phone on his 81st day at Dublin Federal Correctional Institute. (Wolf clocked 31 days during his first stint, was released on bail, only to get sent back inside when the 9th Court rejected his appeal.)
“This is like the world’s worst summer camp,” joked Wolf, who keeps busy with lots of reading, writing and Scrabble-playing. “Though the people I play Scrabble with keep leaving.”

Wolf hopes to be free when the Democrats take over Congress in January 2007, in part because Martin Garbus, a big shot First Amendment lawyer, is now his lead attorney.

“I’m lucky to have such illustrious counsel. Garbus had been referred to me before I went to jail the first time, but I wanted to meet him face-to-face. Then, while I was inside, an inmate had a copy of Garbus’ 300-page long book, Heroes and Traitors. I read it in four hours straight.”

Another reason for hope: On October 11, Wolf’s legal team filed paperwork with the 9th Circuit in the hope of a rehearing, given that the panel’s decision in his case appears to conflict with a prior decision of the court, in which sessions in which a police officer sought counseling following a contentious and fatal shooting were given protection from investigators’ prying eyes.

In Wolf’s case, he’s being asked to produce video-out takes of a July 2005 anarchist protest turned violent--something he fears the police want to access so they can profile members of the anarchist community.

“The alleged arson of a police car is serious, but so is the chilling effect of trying to get a reporter to work as an arm of the government,” says Wolf, who has only 14 days to go before he tops former New York Times’ reporter Judith Miller’s 95-day stint inside.

“I’m looking forward to being out in the fresh air, walking around –and meeting you face to face,” says Wolf, who believes TV coverage of his case has been adversely affected by Dublin’s ruling that he can only give interviews by phone and that they can’t be taped.

“TV news doesn’t want to report what Josh Wolf says if there’s no voice and no face to go with it,” he observes. As for the fact that the two Chronicle reporters who printed leaked grand jury testimony in the BALCO steroids scandal remain outside, while Wolf remains inside playing Scrabble, is that evidence of preferential treatment of the corporate media, or evidence that the feds had something to gain in their “war on drugs’ by the leaked testimony getting out in print? Stay tuned.