activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: animal liberation front

animal rights activists to appeal their convictions due to the involvement of an undercover police officer

Two members of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) have decided to appeal their convictions for planting incendiary devices at department stores, because evidence suggests that former Special Demonstrations Squad officer Bob Lambert played a key role in the events that led to their convictions. Green Party politician Caroline Lucas has named Lambert, who infiltrated the ALF, as the undercover officer who allegedly planted a bomb at a third department store around the same time. According to today’s BBC article,

Andrew Clarke and Geoff Sheppard were convicted of planting incendiary devices at Debenhams stores in Romford and Luton in 1987. An undercover police officer allegedly planted a third device at a branch in Harrow to help convict the men. The officer has denied this and said he would not have committed such a crime.

While posing as an animal rights activist in the 1980s, Lambert also co-wrote a leaflet critical of McDonald’s that led to the longest civil trial in English history. During the four decades that the secret Special Demonstrations Squad existed, police officers infiltrated hundreds of protest groups. Like several other undercover officers in the UK between the mid-1980s and 2010, Lambert apparently deceived women into developing long-term sexual relationships with him.

Though already married with two children, Lambert fathered a child with one of the women before disappearing in 1989. The woman didn’t discover he was an undercover officer until 2012. She is now one of 11 women who are suing for the trauma they suffered after having intimate relationships with undercover officers.

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federal bureau of investigation will use billboards to find daniel andreas san diego

Animal rights activist Daniel Andreas San Diego was allegedly involved in politically-motivated bombings in 2003, targeting two Bay Area corporations because of their ties to the animal-testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences. The bombings didn’t harm anyone. Yet on April 21, 2009, the FBI placed San Diego on its list of most-wanted terrorists.

Having failed to locate San Diego for more than 10 years, the FBI announced yesterday that his image will appear on electronic billboards throughout the U.S. for a week. Although San Diego was indicted in July 2004, he should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. According to a Los Angeles Times article from October 2003,

Rod Coronado, a spokesman for the radical animal rights group Animal Liberation Front and the radical environmental group Earth Liberation Front, said he could understand the frustration that might lead activists to bomb businesses associated with Huntingdon. But he did not believe that San Diego had committed the crimes.

breaking: green scare defendant rebecca rubin sentenced to five years in prison

In the name of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), Rebecca Rubin liberated horses and helped burn down several facilities, including a ski resort in Vail, Colorado. The largest roundup of radical environmentalists in U.S. history subsequently began in December 2005, but Rubin and three others facing charges remained at large. In November 2012, Rubin finally surrendered to U.S. authorities at the Canadian border.

In October 2013, Rubin pled guilty to arson and conspiracy charges. She refused, however, to turn over the names of other people who were involved in the actions she took. This afternoon U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken sentenced Rubin to five years in prison and 200 hours of community service, declining to impose the two and a half year terrorism enhancement sought by the prosecution.

To discredit activists and justify repression, people label politically-motivated property destruction as terrorism. Yet any meaningful definition of terrorism must require an intentional use of physical violence directed against innocent people for ideological, political, or economic purposes. Rubin and other radical environmentalists involved in similar actions have been careful to avoid harming anyone, and in fact prevented others – at least temporarily – from harming animals and the natural world.

Unfortunately this has not prevented judges, including Judge Aiken, from imposing terrorism enhancements in the cases of Tre Arrow, Nathan Block, Marie Mason, Eric McDavid, Daniel McGowan, Briana Waters, and Joyanna Zacher.

green scare defendant rebecca rubin pleads guilty to arson and conspiracy charges

Today Rebecca Rubin pled guilty to arson and conspiracy charges, but refused to turn over the names of other people who were involved in the actions she took in the name of the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front. She will serve at least five years in prison, with the exact amount of time to be decided by U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken at Rubin’s sentencing on January 27, 2014. The prosecution is apparently seeking a terrorism enhancement, which could mean an upward departure in Rubin’s sentence.

Rubin’s plea agreement was reached after many months of argument and discussion between Rubin’s attorney and the Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case. Plea bargaining now plays the central role in securing convictions and determining sentences in the U.S. criminal legal system. According to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Lafler v. Cooper (2012),

criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials. Ninety-seven percent of federal convictions and ninety-four percent of state convictions are the result of guilty pleas.

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.

green scare fugitive rebecca rubin surrenders

Operation Backfire was a federal task force that investigated 20 politically-motivated arsons, committed by about the same number of activists, in five Western states between 1996 and 2001. The investigation fizzled out until one of the activists, heroin addict Jake Ferguson, became a government informant in 2003. This led to the largest roundup of radical environmentalists in U.S. history, beginning in December 2005; but four of those facing charges remained at large.

Yesterday Rebecca Rubin, one of the four, surrendered to U.S. authorities at the Canadian border. Rubin faces arson and conspiracy charges in Oregon, California, and Colorado for liberating horses and helping burn down several facilities, including a ski resort in Vail, Colorado, in the name of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). According to a 2006 Rolling Stone article, “Vail was about to add almost 1,000 acres of new skiing terrain and twelve miles of roads in the last known habitat of the mountain lynx.”

As Matt Rasmussen wrote in an early 2007 Orion Magazine article about these activists, “history is full of social upheavals in which true believers decided the cause was so great that they would step beyond the boundaries of law.” Thankfully the people involved in these actions were careful to avoid harming anyone, and in fact prevented others – at least temporarily – from harming animals and the natural world. Rasmussen concluded as follows:

When I consider the ELF arsonists, I find myself thinking of the militant nineteenth-century abolitionist John Brown. … Over the course of decades, what was first considered lunacy and extremism came to be regarded as courage and righteousness. Years from now, when we have a clearer understanding of the full damage we have done to the Earth, is it possible the ELF arsonists will be remembered in similar fashion?