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Innocent Videographer Sentenced to 300 Days in Cook County Jail – Free Gregory Koger!
“I am astonished by the extreme measures taken against Gregory Koger, all for misdemeanor charges. This is not justice, especially for a person of his moral standing.”
Fr. Robert Bossie, SCJ
“The amount of work and dedication that Gregory has invested in this school and the work he has done with the inner city youth… is beyond measure.”
Chicago inner city high school principal, on behalf of teachers, staff and students
On September 8, Gregory Koger was sentenced to 300 days in jail for videotaping a brief political statement at a public event in Skokie, IL. When Gregory was asked to stop, he put down his video camera. Trespass charges were brought because he started filming with his iPhone. But videotaping is not a crime! Filming has nothing to do with the legal definition of trespass. The trespass law states that you must be ordered to leave, and then show that you intend to remain after you have been given notice to leave. Testimony in court made it clear that Gregory was not ordered to leave until the police were already dragging him out of the auditorium.
Gregory Koger was the only person harmed in this whole episode. He was assaulted and injured by police and then charged – as is often the case for victims of police brutality – with resisting arrest and simple battery. An important issue brief from The American Constitution Society calls these “cover charges” because they are so often used to “cover up” police misconduct. Gregory has maintained his innocence and is appealing his conviction.
As Gregory grew up, he and his family were often homeless. Like millions of others, he got caught up in a life on the streets and was sent to prison at age 17. There he began to question, to study, to understand, and to think beyond himself and beyond the prison walls. Upon his release, Gregory entered college and plunged into social justice activism. He earned his certificate as a paralegal and is employed by a Chicago attorney. Read Gregory’s own words here.
Gregory has inspired many, from current prisoners who see their own potential in him, to people from more privileged backgrounds. Far from being a threat to society, dozens of letters presented to the sentencing judge described Gregory’s contributions to society, as did the testimony of seven character witnesses, including two lawyers, a priest, one of Gregory’s former professors, a businessman, a University of Chicago student whom he mentored, and others. Over 900 people signed a petition urging the judge to give no jail time.
Despite all this favorable testimony, the judge lambasted Gregory, cited his background, and declared that he “absolutely deserved” the maximum sentence. Numerous irregularities in this case have struck many people as politically-driven. Among these were:
-- In April, Gregory was charged with contempt of court because the prosecution objected to his defense committee’s website. Before the written contempt charge was even presented to her, Judge Marguerite Quinn threatened Gregory’s attorney with disbarment two times, because she had heard that his name appeared on that website. A separate hearing was required to defeat this bizarre contempt motion.
-- When the defense submitted evidence before the trial, including Gregory’s video footage from the day of his arrest, the prosecution changed its story. Judge Quinn allowed this, and she also refused to let Gregory’s attorney use the original police report to show the jury that some prosecution witnesses had changed their story.
-- In an extremely irregular move for misdemeanor charges, the judge sent Gregory straight to jail upon conviction, revoking bail even before sentencing. In contrast, the notorious Chicago police detective Jon Burge, who tortured inmates and sent many to death row, and who was found guilty of felonies in June, is free on bond until his sentencing in November.
-- In Illinois the default sentence for misdemeanors is probation. However, Judge Quinn gave Gregory 300 days, claiming he had “chosen the path of violence” and endangered the safety of everyone in the auditorium on the day he was arrested. These claims were never made in the trial by any witness or prosecutor. The judge literally made this up!
What you can do:
Sign the petition below
Donate to Gregory’s legal defense
(online through PayPal) or checks can be made out to "Gregory Koger Fund" and mailed to:
Ad Hoc Committee, 1055 W. Bryn Mawr, #226, Chicago, IL 60660
Join us in court for the appeal of the sentence and reinstating bond on September 22, 9:30am
Cook County Courthouse, 5600 W Old Orchard Road, Skokie, IL
For more information, see dropthecharges.net
Email: adhoc4reason AT gmail.com
The petition below has been signed by:
August Berkshire, President of the Minnesota Atheists*
Father Bob Bossie, SCJ
Pat Hill, Exec. Director, African-American Police League*
Prof. Theodore Jennings, Chicago Theological Seminary*
H. Candace Gorman, Attorney for Guantanamo detainees
Michael Radzilowsky, Attorney
Matthis Chiroux, The Disobedient*
*For identification purposes only