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May Day Grand Jury Resister 'Still Has Nightmares' About Solitary Confinement

Paula Wissel
Matthew Duran spent nearly 6 months in the Federal Detention Center at Sea-Tac.

The May Day violence that happened in downtown Seattle two years ago is still affecting how one Olympia man is living his life.  Matthew Duran, a political activist, wasn’t even in Seattle when windows were smashed in the Nakamura Federal Courthouse in 2012. But he paid dearly for his refusal to talk about who might have been involved. Silence Landed Him In  Solitary

For refusing to testify before a federal grand jury looking into vandalism at the federal courthouse on May 1, 2012, Matthew Duran was charged with civil contempt by Judge Richard Jones and spent nearly 6 months in the Federal Detention Center at Sea-Tac.

Duran spent 70 days of that in solitary confinement and says he’s never received an answer as to why he was kept in isolation.

“I still have nightmares about being in solitary confinement,” Duran said.

He was released from the detention center in February of 2013.

Case Files Kept Secret

Kim Gordon, Duran’s attorney, says the high level of secrecy in this case is unprecedented. All of the files related to what happened to Matthew Duran were sealed.

The Stranger sued to unseal the files, but Judge Jones, while granting part of the newspaper’s request, denied the rest. The Stranger appealed and a ruling is expected soon from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Gordon says when a reporter with The Stranger went to try and verify what Duran had told him, he was unable to get any information, it was as if the case never happened.

"What he discovered is, he couldn't find a court file," Gordon said.

Read The Files

Kim Gordon says, for a while, even she wasn’t allowed to share or talk about aspects of the case. Now, although the files have not all been made public, Gordon is no longer obligated to keep them secret and she shared them with KPLU. See links below:

Motion to Quash Grand Jury Subpoenas

Appendices to Motion to Quash

Opposition to Motion to Quash

Duran's Reply to Government's Opposition to Motion to Quash

Order Granting Duran's Release from Confinement

The Stranger Motion for Reconsideration on Sealing of Filings

Federal Judge Richard Jones Granting in Part, Denying in Part Request to Unseal

9th Circuit Motion to Unseal Records

9th Circuit The Stranger Motion to Unseal

9th Circuit U.S. Attorney Response

9th Circuit The Stranger Response

9th Circuit Duran's Brief

9th Circuit The Stranger Motion to Appeal

9th Circuit More from The Stranger Appeal

9th Circuit Duran Response

9th Circuit The Stranger Petition For a Writ of Mandamus

There’s a lot here, including, in the “Opposition To Motion To Quash Grand Jury Subpoenas” the admission  by the U.S. Attorney that the government:

“has told counsel that it is deliberately giving them vague and incomplete information to avoid revealing the details of the investigation.”

The government, according to the filing, didn’t want to give Matthew Duran and the other witnesses “a window into the ongoing investigation.”

Information on Olympia protests from 2010, FBI raids on houses in Portland among the files

The appendices to the Motion to Quash Grand Jury Subpoena includes court records regarding FBI raids on suspected anarchist homes in Portland and Olympia as well as law enforcement response to Port of Olympia protests in 2010.

Duran says it has all had a chilling effect on his activism

Matthew Duran says spending time in detention and still facing the possibility of being put behind bars again, because the statute of limitations won’t run out for four more years, has had a chilling affect on his political activities. In the past, he would often take part in protests for immigration reform or against police brutality.

This May Day, Duran is working and taking photos of himself every hour in order to be able to prove it, if he has to, in court.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.