Scott DeMuth, a Minneapolis activist, has been indicted for conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, apparently in relation to a 2004 Animal Liberation Front raid at the University of Iowa. He faces up to 5 years in prison. His indictment marks a continued expansion of the scope of the new terrorism law, which has already been used to target activists who release mink from fur farms, and the AETA4, who are accused of protesting and chalking on public sidewalks.
The indictment comes after DeMuth and another local activist, Carrie Feldman, were found to be in contempt of court refusing to cooperate with a federal grand jury investigated that ALF burglary and vandalism. They were handcuffed and taken to jail for refusing to testify about their political beliefs and political associations.
I have written previously about Feldman’s refusal, and her statement to the grand jury (Activist to Iowa Grand Jury: “We will not be intimidated. We will not cooperate.”).
In a statement prepared prior to the grand jury hearing, DeMuth said:
“Grand juries can be very disempowering for us all, and especially for those targeted by them. We face questioning without legal counsel present or a right to remain silent. We can be threatened, coerced, and jailed. However, no punishment could be worse than surrendering our values. “
There has been some speculation about what, exactly, DeMuth’s conspiracy charges entail. Is the indictment for conspiracy to damage property? Or is it for conspiracy to instill a “reasonable fear”?
The truth: neither.
Bear with me for a moment. The indictment lists sections 43(a) and 43(b)(2) of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, and says the conspiracy was to commit economic damage in the amount exceeding $10,000. Section 43(a) is simply the offense section. Section 43(b)(2) spells out penalties for damages exceeding $10,000. The indictment does not specify whether the charges are for violating
43(a)(2)(A) (damaging property) or 43(a)(2)(B) (instilling fear). Does that make sense? I know it’s a little tedious, but I think it’s important to clear up. (I just spoke with Matthew Strugar, who was quoted on Peter Young’s blog, and he agreed.)
Local press has been speculating. But regardless of what, specifically, DeMuth is charged with conspiring to do, one thing is clear: conspiracy charges have been used throughout U.S. history as a catch-all when prosecutors can’t get anything else to stick. That’s exactly what happened in the case of the SHAC 7, under the previous version of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
I have personally met both Scott DeMuth and Carrie Feldman, on multiple occasions. They were involved in organizing a Green Scare speaking event in Minneapolis. They are both incredibly kind, passionate, activists who are involved in a variety of local issues, including organizing public lectures and supporting the RNC 8. They are lawful, above-ground activists who have organized against the Green Scare. Now they, themselves, have become targets, and they need your support.
You can write letters to Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth, and email them to: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also donate to their legal support at http://davenportgrandjury.wordpress.com/