Coronado’s Attorney Asks for Dismissal of Case on First Amendment Grounds

by Will Potter on November 11, 2006

in Terrorism Court Cases

Rod Coronado, the government’s poster-child for “eco-terrorist” scare-mongering, is involved in multiple court cases right now, including charges under an obscure section of a law dealing with “Distribution of Information Relating to Explosives.” At a speech in San Diego, someone in the audience asked how Coronado committed an arson years ago in the name of animal rights and the environment. He grabbed a plastic juice bottle from a table and said he used a bottle like that one, filled with gasoline and attached to a timer, then went to the next question.

For that he’s facing 20 years in prison under a rarely-used federal statute. The law makes it a federal crime to:

(A) to teach or demonstrate the making or use of an explosive, a destructive device, or a weapon of mass destruction, or to distribute by any means information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of an explosive, destructive device, or weapon of mass destruction, with the intent that the teaching, demonstration, or information be used for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime of violence;

From attorneys I’ve interviewed, it seems the law has only been used a few times. The only other time it has been used against an activist was in the case of Sherman Austin, who ran an anarchist website called Austin, 18 years old at the time, was charged under the law for simply linking to another website, which provided crude information on bomb-making (much like the information in The Anarchist Cookbook, a book widely available on corporate websites like Austin pleaded guilty to avoid a possible 20 year sentence.

This is from Gerald Singleton, Rod’s lawyer in San Diego, posted at

On November 2, San Diego Federal District Court Judge Jeffrey T. Miller heard arguments from Rod’s attorney and the government on Rod’s motion to dismiss the Indictment against him on the grounds that the statute under which he was charged, Title 18 USC sec. 842(p)(2)(A), violates the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution. Rod’s principle argument is that the statute is an unconstitutional infringement upon the freedom of speech because it criminalizes speech without requiring that the speech be likely to incite or produce “imminent” criminal action (as required by the Supreme Court case of Brandenburg v. Ohio). Judge Miller took the motion under submission and is expected to issue a ruling within 30 days.

Rod’s next court date is February 8, 2007. If his motion to strike down the statute is denied, the judge will set a date for a future motion hearing where Rod will bring additional challenges to the Indictment against him and the facts alleged by the government. If the case proceeds to trial, it is anticipated that the trial will occur in the summer of 2007.

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