Brother Behind Bars

updated 04/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

OUTSIDE THE JAIL IN SPOKANE, WASH., Alexandra Paul walks briskly back and forth in the chilly spring air, thrusting leaflets into the hands of passersby. Most days, as Malibu lifeguard Stephanie Holden on the hit syndicated series Baywatch, Paul, 29, does her parading in a bathing suit. But for the past five months, Alexandra, along with her identical twin sister, San Francisco firefighter Caroline, has devoted several days each month to hitting the pavement outside the jail. "We figured out which window he could see us from," says Alexandra, glancing up toward the 6-by-10-foot cell where a young man paces four floors above, "so that's where we stand." She grabs a megaphone and shouts, "Free Jonathan Paul!"

Jonathan Paul, as anyone who comes within earshot now knows, is Alexandra and Caroline's 27-year-old brother. He has been jailed since Nov. 3, when he was summoned before a grand jury investigating a 1991 Animal Liberation Front raid at Washington Stale University. He was cited for contempt of court when, questioned about acquaintances who might be involved in the movement, he insistently invoked the Fifth Amendment—even alter prosecutors offered him immunity against self-incrimination. Jonathan, a private investigator, claims he was on the East Coast at the time of the raid, which caused $100,000 in ransacking damage to a WSU research lab (liberating 7 coyotes, 6 mink and 10 mice in the process). Nor, he says, is he a member of the radical group. The person the prosecutors are really interested in is an animal-rights activist named Rod Coronado, Jonathan Paul's former housemate and business partner.

Four years ago, Jonathan and his friend Coronado had launched Global Investigations, a firm hired by activist groups to look into alleged animal-rights abuses. Shortly thereafter, Coronado disappeared—went "underground," according to press accounts. (Shortly after the WSU raid, he sent the Associated Press a statement denying any participation.)

The day Jonathan was scheduled to appear before the grand jury in Spokane, he was joined there by both Caroline and Alexandra, who flew in from her home in L.A. "He was nervous," says Alexandra. And obstinate: Late that afternoon, says Alexandra. U.S. district Judge William Fremming Nielsen offered Jonathan a last chance to explain his silence, which he did. "This is a free country," Jonathan told him moments before he was handcuffed by U.S. marshals, "and this is what I choose."

The judge agreed. "You hold the key to the jail," he told Jonathan. But Jonathans defender. Spokane attorney Aaron Lowe, doesn't expect him to use it: "This environmental movement is like his religion," says Lowe, "and he will not denounce it." (The two U.S. attorneys involved in the case, Bill Hyslop and his second-in-command, Frank Wilson, refuse to comment.)

Jonathan learned his love for nature growing up on a 14-acre farm in West Cornwall, Conn., where he was raised by an investment banker father and a social worker mother (since divorced). And he and his sisters were strongly encouraged to examine the laws and institutions of the land. "We had a mom who was a very liberal Democrat and a father who was a very conservative Republican," says Alexandra. "No one told us what to think. What was important was that yon did think.

And what you did counted. Alexandra, a former model who made her television debut in 1982 in the ABC-TV movie Paper Dolls, says she has protested at nuclear sites and refuses to do ads for companies that lest their products on animals. Caroline, while studying communications at Stanford in the 1980s, used her dorm to provide sanctuary for Central American refugees. And in 1987, Jonathan, who became a strict vegetarian after a family trip to a game preserve in Africa when he was 7, helped organize the Hunt Saboteurs, a now defunct Southwest group that harassed hunters by scaring away the prey.

But the most important fight for the family (including both parents, who have visited Spokane with the sisters) is their impassioned defense of Jonathan. "They've tried to coerce me into talking by taking away my freedom," says Jonathan. "But what's happened is that I've grown even stronger in my resolve." He may have to cling to that resolve until next Dec. 7, when the grand jury's term ends and he will have to be released (although he can always be summoned again if the jury reconvenes). The Pauls are with him all the way. "We were always a close family," says Alexandra. "But Jonathan's being in jail has made us even closer."

JOYCE WAGNER in Spokane

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