July 1, 2010
Anti-tax activist and former prosecutor Douglas Bruce today agreed to testify before a grand jury after the District Attorney’s office granted him immunity.
The agreement comes after Bruce’s initial appearance before the grand jury Wednesday night ended in an impasse that resulted in prosecutors again asking that he be held in contempt of court.
But in a last minute compromise, Bruce agreed to answer questions before the grand jury on Tuesday after 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May agreed that nothing Bruce has to say will be used against him in a criminal proceeding.
May previously had stated that Bruce was not the target of the investigation, but rather a witness. May also said the grand jury case had nothing to do with Bruce’s political activities.
The agreement – reached in a private 30-minute meeting between May and Bruce this morning – resulted in prosecutors withdrawing a request that Bruce be held in contempt of court for his actions during his initial appearance before the grand jury, which took less than an hour.
Grand jury proceedings are secret, so exactly what happened is not known. However, going into the courthouse Wednesday night, Bruce said he would balk at taking a grand jury oath swearing him to secrecy on the grounds that it infringed on his First Amendment right to free speech.
Previously, Bruce also said he would not answer questions before the grand jury and would invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.
However, during a brief hearing today before Chief Judge Kirk S. Samelson, Bruce indicated he will answer questions about the person who is the target of the grand jury investigation and only those questions.
“I’m going to be asked about Mr. X,” Bruce told the judge. Bruce said he would not be asked questions that would involve “an illegal suppression of my free speech.”
“As far as I’m concerned, we’re here to talk about Mr. X.” he said. “It’s about Mr. X, not about my personal life for purposes of embarrassing me in front of 12 strangers.”
Bruce also asked for an opportunity to explain to the grand jurors that he was not a “recalcitrant witness.”
May told the judge that Bruce had been offered immunity from prosecution for his testimony.
“Mr. Bruce and I had a chance to talk,” May said. “We’ve been able to discuss everything.”
Samelson – who intervened by telephone Wednesday night – said he was willing to allow the District Attorney to withdraw the contempt proceeding.
“Nothing you say in front of the grand jury can be used against you,” Samelson said. “Nothing derived from the grand jury can be used against you.”
For more on this case plus video, visit “The Sidebar” blog at gazette.com.