Regarding Steven Jablonski's Deceptions, Grand Juries and Sensible Solidarity
This is a collaborative statement written by former friends and comrades of Steven Jablonski.
“At the very rare chance that I am being subpoenaed [to] this Grand Jury, I could not find myself in a better situation.” - Steven Jablonski
In July, 2012, following riotous May Day demonstrations in Seattle, WA, several anarchists in Seattle, Olympia, WA, and Portland, OR, were subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury.* The state has historically used grand juries to repress rebels and to map their social and political networks. Though ostensibly investigating the sticks-and-stones attack on the William Kenzo Nakamura United States Courthouse in Seattle on May Day, this investigation came on the heels of years of increasingly combative and contagious anarchist activity in the Pacific Northwest. Thus, it was obvious that May Day was merely an excuse; the real goal was to cast a chill over a situation that was quickly heating up. In response, PNW anarchists joined forces to mount a fierce resistance to the state's attempts to disrupt anarchist organizing and action.
We went into overdrive, learning from and educating each other about grand juries and histories of effective resistance. To say nothing, to refuse to cooperate, to deny the state the answers it wanted—this was the collective strategy. Supporters held public events and demonstrations and raised thousands of dollars to support the grand jury resisters. Actions proliferated across the country and even across borders. Some of those subpoenaed quietly went into hiding while others appeared before the grand jury and refused to testify. KteeO Olejnik, Maddy Pfeiffer, and Matt Duran spent months in prison for their refusal to cooperate. Then there was Steven Jablonski, the self-styled rebel on the run.
Many know Steven Jablonski as the grand jury resister who chose to leave the country in order to avoid testifying after purportedly receiving a phone call from an FBI agent informing him that he was the intended recipient of a grand jury subpoena. Steve spent over a year in voluntary exile in Canada, returning in March, 2014.
Early in his time in Canada, Steve released a statement explaining his choice to flee rather than potentially face prison time and expressing solidarity with the grand jury resisters. A new website launched in May of 2013 with a post calling for support and donations. Then, on September 28, 2013, an update detailing various instances of extreme harassment from Canadian authorities with yet another plea for donations was published on the internet. Throughout his stay in Canada, Steve received thousands of dollars from friends and supporters and was sheltered by comrades in several cities. People also engaged in clandestine solidarity actions, putting their safety and freedom on the line for Steve.
Steve returned to the United States in March, 2014, and moved back to Olympia, WA. Soon after, in June, 2014, Crimethinc published a detailed interview with Steve wherein he chronicled the hardships he suffered while in exile in Montreal. Meanwhile, he continued to report to his friends ongoing and increasingly bizarre harassment by local cops and federal agents, in both Olympia and the Bay Area. Each interaction sent new waves of stress and anxiety through our networks.
Steve was always alone in his stories about being harassed. Despite this, he resisted using a buddy system to ensure that he was never unaccompanied and thus vulnerable. Ignoring suggestions from friends, he refused to document these interactions by claiming he was unable to take photos or video. He also remained steadfastly opposed to seeking legal council. This went on for a year before several people who knew Steve confided in each other that the stories he was telling were beginning to sound outlandish. We became worried that he might be experiencing paranoid delusions and contacted one of his family members to follow up on a recent harassment story that involved this person.
This is why, in November, Steve was caught in a lie and finally confronted. He subsequently sent out an e-mail in which he chronologically listed all the instances of state harassment he previously claimed had occurred over the past several years, admitting to fabricating some of them but still insisting much of it was true. Soon after, however, Steve called a friend and admitted to lying about almost all instances of harassment that had transpired over the past several years.
Between specific instances of harassment and their life-jamming consequences, Steve publicly and/or privately plucked away on our heart strings on over forty occasions, spinning what he ultimately confessed to being a malicious web of unforgivable lies.
Though Steve has stated that he lied to “get cred” in anarchist circles and because of distress, the real reasons behind his campaign of lies and manipulation is unknown. It is also unknown whether he was ever actually a target of the grand jury.
We are releasing this information so that Steve is no longer able to use his reputation as a grand jury resister to insinuate himself into other anarchist circles. He claims to be teaching English in Cambodia.
In retrospect, it is plainly apparent that his chosen strategy of “resistance” to the grand jury was extremely dangerous and should not be emulated by anyone, ever. There is a tendency for anarchists to make martyrs of those experiencing direct repression, and we fear that Steve's tall tale of resistance could influence future resisters to choose a similar path of ineffective, unsafe and romanticized faux-clandestinity.
As mentioned above, several of the PNW grand jury subpoenants disappeared quietly and with little fanfare and managed to avoid both testifying and prison time. In contrast, Steve's whereabouts were known to many, and he continued to use insecure means to remain in contact with his friends back home. He justified this behavior by claiming that since he hadn't actually received his subpoena, a legal loophole meant that he wasn't actually breaking the law.
Steve profited both monetarily and emotionally from anarchists' strong commitment to solidarity and put the people who cared about him at risk. In private, he shamed us for not being more supportive, rarely expressed gratitude, and would even pressure us to put ourselves at various levels of risk for him.
Choosing to go underground is not something that can be taken lightly. True clandestinity requires commitment, and it requires cutting ties. Isolation from friends and family is an unfortunate necessity. We will not pretend that we are experts, but we do know that you can't go underground while simultaneously calling, Skyping, and e-mailing your besties. Notwithstanding supposed “legal loopholes,” this horrible security practice achieves the work of the police.
We want to again thank both the quietly avoidant and the openly defiant Pacific Northwest grand jury resisters. We continue to be inspired by KteeO, Matt, Maddy, Kerry Cunneen, Dennison Williams, and all the anonymous rebels who stuck their necks out in daring solidarity actions. This courage may well have held back a flood of repression that could have sunk several pirate ships.
As recently as February, 2014, PNW anarchists are still being detained and questioned about May Day 2012. Though this news about Steve is terrible, we hope it can serve as a reminder of the strength of silence and solidarity.
Some crucial lessons learned since the truth about Steve came to light:
1. Don't be afraid to respectfully question or challenge those who are being targeted by the state. Moreover, don't look down on those who choose to be critical in a sensitive moment.
2. Encourage those experiencing repression to document (with cameras, with notes written down immediately after, etc.) and make public instances of harassment. This is important for countless reasons, not only to demonstrate that said instances actually occurred.
3. Do not idolize a person or forgive their shitty behavior with the excuse that they are a victim and therefore too fragile to reflect on their actions.
4. Responding to repression is a collective responsibility. Individuals are singled out and targeted but the true goal is often to weaken, destabilize, and spread paranoia among a group of people. Make informed decisions together!
5. Gossip less and practice respectful confrontation between comrades. The better our communication and ability to resolve conflicts, the less the state (or plain manipulative assholes) can exploit our weaknesses.
What To Do if You Receive a Subpoena
If you are served with a subpoena, call the National Lawyers Guild Hotline at 888-NLG-ECOL (888-654-3265) or call a criminal defense attorney immediately.
DO NOT KEEP YOUR SUBPOENA A SECRET. Everyone is safer (including you) if as many people as possible know what is happening and can coordinate support activities accordingly.
IF APPROACHED, DO NOT TALK TO THE FBI. NOT EVEN IF IT’S “JUST A CHAT.” The Feds are trained to manipulate you into sharing information. You are not legally required to talk to them or to open your door to them. Be brave, say nothing, and contact a lawyer immediately.
*What is a Grand Jury?
In the federal legal system, the grand jury is used to decide whether someone should be charged (“indicted”) for a serious crime. The grand jury hears evidence presented by the prosecutor: the U.S. Attorney. The grand jury uses subpoenas to gather this evidence. It can subpoena documents, physical evidence, and witnesses to testify. Grand juries exist to coerce civilians into providing information about themselves and others to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. They operate in secret; no judges or defense attorneys are present, and neither Constitutional rights nor conventional evidence-gathering protocol apply. Grand juries are frequently used to harass activists and dissidents.
Grand juries basically force witnesses to choose between snitching and serving time. “Cooperation” with the Feds is a euphemism for coercion. If a witness chooses to cooperate with a Grand Jury but does not answer their questions (by pleading the Fifth or saying “I don’t know”) they are often found in contempt of court, or later charged with perjury. If a witness chooses not to cooperate, they may be found in contempt of court. Snitches are always promised leniency or a reduction of punishment, but this is almost always a lie. Grand Jury resisters can be incarcerated for as long as the Grand Jury is in session, which can be up to eighteen months, with three opportunities for six month extensions.