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He referenced comedian Dave Chappelle when speaking about refusing to testify, but Jordan Halliday isn't laughing now.
The founder of an animal-rights group ordered to spend 10 months in federal prison for refusing to testify about attacks on mink farms has lost an appeal in his case.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Friday affirmed the sentence handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart in 2010 to Halliday, who pleaded guilty to contempt of court for refusing to testify about attacking the mink farms.
By refusing to testify, he did not comply with an order by U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell to go before a grand jury.
Halliday, the 24-year-old founder of the Animal Defense League of Salt Lake City, was indicted on the contempt charge, which stemmed from his appearances before a federal grand jury on March 4 and March 13 of 2009. The panel was investigating the release of hundreds of minks at the McMullin farm in South Jordan in August 2008; the release of minks at the Lodder farm in Kaysville in September 2008; and an attempt to damage the operations of the Mathews mink farm in Hyrum in October 2008.
Prosecutors say Halliday either responded with "no comment" to most questions or invoked a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to other questions.
Later, Halliday sent a text message to a friend about the experience of going before the grand jury and referenced a Dave Chappelle skit.
"Well, after my Dave Chappelle ... I plead the 5th routine today. I was making some fo [sic] the gj [grand jury] laugh. I was sayin' like '1-2-3-4-5th!,' " Halliday wrote in the text message. Halliday also said in a text that the prosecutor was "pissed" that he refused to answer the grand jury's questions and wrote that "every activist I know ... would have resisted grand juries," court documents state.
At Halliday's civil contempt hearing, prosecutors granted Halliday immunity for his grand jury testimony after the court determined the man couldn't claim a Fifth Amendment privilege. Despite the immunity promise, Halliday still refused to testify, court documents state. Halliday was then found to be in civil contempt and was incarcerated for 108 days. A criminal contempt charge followed, in which Halliday was ordered to prison for 10 months.
Halliday argued to the appeals court that the 10-month prison sentence was "extreme." He argued the district court should have sentenced him for failing to appear as a material witness, instead of being sentenced for obstruction of justice, which would have potentially resulted in less prison time.
But the 10th Circuit, in its opinion, wrote that the punishment was fair for the crime.
"We cannot conclude that the defendant's sentence was manifestly unreasonable," the appeals court ruled, citing other cases in the U.S. where defendants were incarcerated longer than Halliday for contempt.
Halliday, a West Jordan native and graduate of Copper Hills High School, has attracted a following, including admirers who operate a Web page at http://supportjordan.tumblr.com/ as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts with information about Halliday's case. The Web page includes a YouTube video of a song by Halliday called "Why I am going to prison."
In an interview given to www.motivecompany.com earlier this month, Halliday said he became a vegan when at age 8 he enrolled in a summer camp at a local farm, where he witnessed the birth of a calf. The calf was named "Jordan" in his honor and Halliday said he returned to visit the animal on occasion, the interview states. During one visit, however, the animal wasn't there, Halliday said in the interview.
"They refused to tell me what had happened to him. I told my parents, and they could see how upset I was. So they asked farm and were told he was sold to an animal dealer. I learned the males are either crated up for veal or sometimes sold into rodeo entertainment," Halliday is quoted as saying in the interview. "That night or a night soon after during a steak dinner, my parents joked that 'we could be eating Jordan.' I immediately realized the connection, pushed my plate away and refused to eat meat ever again."
Halliday said in the interview that he refused to testify as "a form of civil disobedience against the grand jury system." Halliday accuses the FBI in the interview of intimidating and harassing him during the investigation process. He claims to be only the third person in the U.S. who will be serving time for a criminal contempt charge after "serving time civilly for the same act of recalcitrance," the interview states.
Two men, Alex Jason Hall and William James Viehl, were charged in the attacks at the McMullin and Mathews farms. They pleaded guilty to the mink release at the McMullin farm. Hall was sentenced to 21 months in prison and Viehl to 24 months.