AETA 4 charges dropped! »
Have you ever grinned so hard you could hardly type? I wouldn’t have thought it possible either, but having just read the breaking news over on Green Is The New Red that the charges against the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) 4 have been dropped, that’s pretty much what’s going on over here.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the case, the AETA 4 are a group of four animal rights activists from the Santa Cruz area charged with violating the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act section 371 by “conspiring to use a facility of insterstate commerce to damage and interfere with the operations of an animal enterprise in violation of 18 U.S.C. s. 43, the AETA.” The prosecution accused the defendants of having placed a person connected with an animal enterprise (in this case, animal researchers from UC Santa Cruz) in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury through a course of conduct involving threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass, harassment, and intimidation, though they were tight lipped about the particulars (probably because the particulars consisted of accusations of such heinous acts as chalking slogans on sidewalks and handing out fliers).
Now, over two years after charges were filed, Joseph Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope, and Adriana Stumpo can breathe a sigh of relief—for now.
The charges were dropped due to the prosecution’s failure to adequately specify the acts allegedly performed by the four defendants. According to the ruling by District Judge Ronald Whyte, filed today, the prosecution “allege[d] no facts identifying what each defendant is alleged to have done, to whom, where or when… Any defendant—constitutionally presumed to be innocent—would be hard-pressed to discern from [the indictment] what it is that he or she has done that is alleged to have violated the law.” Wa-bam! Whyte goes on to point out how the prosecution failed to cite authorities for many of its arguments and in some cases cited authorities that didn’t actually support their argument. Pow!
It’s a great outcome, and while the AETA 4 could still be re-indicted, I’m raising my glass to the justice system for having gotten this one right—for now.
Your weekly paranoia »
Just in case anyone was feeling complacent, the ACLU is here to remind us that our civil liberties are still (even increasingly) under attack. It’s old news that intelligence and security agencies gather assloads of information about people from the internet, and these agencies are usually interested in racial and religious minorities, political activists (cough cough *green scare* cough), and immigrants; now, the ACLU has helpfully put together a new web resource, the Spy Files, to help keep us up worrying at night.
Terrifying and angering it may be to read, this is important information to have, particularly since, according to the ACLU, 1) it’s not just intelligence and security agencies that are monitoring your info; and 2) they’re not only targeting criminals. This new kind of surveillance is increasingly directed at the general public, and that could mean hard times for both animal rights activists, and vegans and vegetarians generally, whose information could be sifted from the vast pool.
In a political and legal climate where animal rights activists are being thrown in front of grand juries for such dangerous activities as chanting, leafleting, chalking on public sidewalks in front of animal researchers’ homes, and using the internet to conduct research on the activities of the protested company (as was the case with the AETA 4), we all need to be keeping an eye on our rights. Take charge, vegans! Know your rights!