How the FBI Manipulates Grand Juries to Criminalize Activists

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

In April 2013, activist Gerald Koch was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury regarding the 2008 Times Square Bombing for a second time, where his refusal to testify led to his imprisonment.

Grand juries have long been used to target political activists, operating in secrecy to identify activists and their support networks. Koch was not charged with the bombing and is not believed to have been involved. The only public information regarding his subpoena is that he was believed to be at a bar where a conversation between other people about the incident took place. However, Koch’s efforts as a volunteer legal aide for Occupy Wall Street activists makes him a knowledgeable source of other political dissidents, even though he was not involved in this incident. His silence acts as an assertion of his rights and a protest against the secretive model of grand juries. Over the past year grand juries have seen a resurgence as the FBI has cracked down on activist communities. Koch’s case was preceded by a high-profile grand jury in the Pacific Northwest, where four people from Washington and Oregon were imprisoned for refusing to testify.

The New York Times reported Koch’s refusal to testify in April (see Colin Moynihan, “Man Refusing to Testify Before Grand Jury in Times Square Bombing Case,” New York Times, April 28, 2013, As of November 2013, there is no corporate coverage of his 6-month incarceration, yet independent news sources continue to follow his situation.


A.M. Gittlitz, “Double Jeopardy: New York Activist Subpoenaed for Secret Grand Jury Again,” Truthout, May 10, 2013, new- york-activist-subpoenaed-for-secret-grand-jury-–-again.

Will Potter, “Gerald Koch Hasn’t Been Accused of a Crime, but the Feds Put Him in Jail Anyway,” Vice, June 4, 2013, being- an-anarchist.

Anna Simonton, “How the FBI Manipulates Grand Juries to Intimidate Political Dissidents and Radicals,” AlterNet, October 9, 2013,

Will Potter, “New York Anarchist Has Been Imprisoned Nearly Five Months, Not Charged With Any Crime,” Green is the New Red, October 13, 2013,

Student Researcher: Katelyn Parks (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)