After spending five months in a SeaTac detention center, much of it in solitary confinement, two grand jury witnesses from Olympia will be released from federal custody by 4 p.m. Thursday.
The U.S. District Court of the Western District of Washington found Katherine Olejnik and her roommate, Matthew Duran, to be in civil contempt in September last year after they refused to testify in grand jury hearings. The hearings were reportedly connected to the investigation of anarchist demonstrations during the May Day violence last year. The federal order does not say what was being investigated in the hearings.
Though the court order releasing them notes that both Duran and Olejnik could be held in detention for 18 months under the Recalcitrant Witness Statute, it says there is no point to keeping them longer if detention does not coerce testimonies from them.
Both Duran and Olejnik spent several weeks inside the federal detention center’s special housing unit, where, with the exception of one monthly 15-minute phone call, they were in solitary confinement 24 hours a day with “exceedingly limited access to reading and writing material,” according to the federal order. Duran spent his first two weeks in detention in solitary confinement, then returned to it Dec. 27 and has been there since. Olejnik spent her first six days of detention there, returned to it Dec. 27 and was kept there until at least Feb. 12.
“Their physical health has deteriorated sharply and their mental health has also suffered from the effects of solitary confinement,” the order says. “They have suffered the loss of jobs, income and important personal relationships.”
After both are released, though, they still could be convicted of contempt of court.
According to an Oct. 3 affidavit, signed by a member of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, federal agents began tracking a small group of dedicated anarchists in Portland in April. They followed members of the group as they first drove to Olympia in a rental car on April 30. The group is suspected of committing conspiracy, destruction of government property and interstate travel with intent to riot, according to the 34-page document.