Animal rights activist jailed

Man refuses to testify about mink releases

Published: Saturday, March 14 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Jordan Halliday waits outside the Federal Courthouse in Salt Lake City prior to his February grand jury appearance. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Jordan Halliday waits outside the Federal Courthouse in Salt Lake City prior to his February grand jury appearance. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

An animal rights activist has been jailed for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury apparently investigating a series of raids on local mink farms.

Jordan Halliday was found in contempt of court and taken into federal custody until he testifies.

"Mr. Halliday, you are the one who can get yourself out of this," U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell told him as federal marshals handcuffed the 21-year-old man at the end of a hearing in federal court on Friday.

As he was led away, supporters who filled the courtroom broke out into applause.

"We absolutely support what he's doing," Harold Rose told the Deseret News. "We support Jordan."

Halliday was one of two activists subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury last month, but he said he refused to answer questions from federal prosecutors. During Friday's contempt hearing, it was revealed that the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah had offered him immunity in exchange for his testimony. Halliday's attorney tried a number of defenses — including his First Amendment right to free association — that were rejected by the judge. The attorney also suggested that the government may have employed illegal surveillance tactics.

"We're trying to ask Mr. Halliday who reported to him on these crimes that occurred," assistant U.S. attorney John Huber said.

Part of the hearing was closed while an FBI agent and Huber took the witness stand. Grand jury proceedings are typically secret and witnesses who are called are not entitled to appear with attorneys present.

"What is going to happen when he next appears?" Campbell asked Halliday's attorney.

"I understand it's not going to change anything," James Mouritsen replied. "He's adamant about his position."

"Is that correct, Mr. Halliday?" Campbell asked him.

"Yes, it is," Halliday replied.

Halliday has denied involvement in last year's raids on Utah mink farms, but it is apparent that prosecutors believe he had some knowledge of it. Two activists, Alexander Jason Hall, 20, and William James Viehl, 22, were indicted on charges of damage and interference with animal enterprises. Halliday previously acknowledged to the Deseret News that he knows both men.

Federal prosecutors accused Halliday of "making a mockery of the rule of law" and pushed for jail over a fine. Halliday will have a chance to break his silence when he is called before the grand jury again next week.

Mouritsen said he will appeal the judge's ruling. Prosecutors had no comment.

The FBI has said it is bracing for the possibility of "sympathy attacks" as it pushes forward with its prosecutions for the release of hundreds of minks from a South Jordan farm and an attempted attack at a Hyrum farm. A raid on a Kaysville mink farm, where thousands of minks were released, is still unsolved.

Rose, a fellow animal rights activist, denied that he or any of his associates participate in any violent action but said there are some in the animal rights movement who might, quoting President John F. Kennedy: "Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable."

E-MAIL: bwinslow@desnews.com

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