activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: animal enterprise terrorism act

federal judge dismisses lawsuit challenging the animal enterprise terrorism act

Yesterday U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro dismissed the lawsuit five animal rights activists filed to challenge the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which criminalizes protected First Amendment speech. Judge Tauro decided that the activists did not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the 2006 law. The activists’ attorneys say they will appeal. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights press release,

The judge’s ruling was based on a narrow interpretation of the AETA as criminalizing only property destruction and threats, despite the law’s broad prohibition on causing an animal enterprise any loss of property, which is generally understood to include the loss of profit.

The AETA was first used on February 19, 2009, when four activists were charged under the law for allegedly participating in threatening demonstrations at the homes of University of California researchers who conducted tests on animals. (Full disclosure: I assisted the activists’ attorneys as support counsel.) U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte dismissed the charges on July 12, 2010; but other activists charged under the AETA have been less successful.

guilt by association: legal trouble for relatives of phoenix and minneapolis activists

Yesterday agents arrested the mother and adult brother of immigrant rights activist Erika Andiola in Phoenix. They were suspected of being in the U.S. illegally, but Andiola and other activists reasonably questioned whether her relatives were in fact arrested due to her high-profile activism. This morning, after countless people called federal officials, signed petitions, and issued statements, the government released them. Andiola posted on Facebook that her mother was on the way to Mexico when the driver received a call and turned around:

They told her that the reason why she was returning was because her daughter was mobilizing the whole country to get her to come back.

Also today, the father of a Minneapolis organizer and writer pled guilty to obstructing a federal officer, a charge brought against him for bumping shoulders with a prosecutor two years ago. His son, Scott DeMuth, had joined activist Carrie Feldman in resisting a grand jury, was jailed for contempt of court in November 2009, was indicted on conspiracy charges under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (related to a 2004 Animal Liberation Front raid at the University of Iowa), and had been released pending trial despite a government motion labeling him a terrorist:

Defendant’s writings, literature, and conduct suggest that he is an anarchist and associated with the ALF movement. Therefore, he is a domestic terrorist.

Scott DeMuth ultimately pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge, unrelated to the University of Iowa raid, and U.S. District Judge John Jarvey sentenced him to six months of incarceration. Judge Jarvey surprised DeMuth’s attorney and family, however, by ordering that he be taken into custody immediately, consistent with prosecutor Cliff Cronk’s recommendation. When DeMuth’s father subsequently bumped into the prosecutor as they left the courtroom, this resulted in the obstruction charge, which was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor as part of today’s plea.