New Information in Earth Liberation Front Prosecution

by Will Potter on February 21, 2012

in Terrorism Court Cases

Dave AgranoffAnimal rights activist David Agranoff has agreed to cooperate with government as part of a plea agreement related to Earth Liberation Front crimes in Bloomington, Indiana, more than 10 years ago.

The prosecution is related to an April 30, 2000 arson in Bloomington, Indiana, that destroyed 14 pieces of logging and construction equipment.

According to an Associated Press report at the time: “Gas tanks were filled with sand, which was also packed into oil crankcases, police said. Fuel and hydraulic lines were cut, and a tractor-trailer filled with wood chips was set on fire. On the trailer had been emblazoned the words, ‘Go develop in Hell.’ The letters ‘ELF’ had been spray-painted on several pieces of equipment…”

In March, 2011, Agranoff waived his right to indictment (which means agreeing that the government has reason to bring the charges against him). [Source: waiver of indictment]

In August, 2011, his attorneys filed a motion to push back his sentencing hearing, because: “The Defendant has not yet completed the cooperation he intends to provide to the government in consideration of a motion pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1.” This is the section of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines related to “Substantial Assistance to Authorities.” [Source: motion to continue]

That section of the sentencing guidelines states:

Upon motion of the government stating that the defendant has provided substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense, the court may depart from the guidelines. [emphasis added]

In other words, the sentencing guidelines are explicit that providing information about oneself is not enough. “Substantial cooperation” can only mean implicating others.

According to Agranoff’s attorney, Michael Donahoe, Agranoff cooperated by providing information about Frank Ambrose and Marie Mason.

Marie Mason is currently imprisoned on a 22 year sentence, the longest of any “Green Scare” prisoner, after Frank Ambrose cooperated with the government against her.

Ambrose had provided information about multiple Earth Liberation Front crimes as part of his own plea agreement for a reduced sentence of 9 years.

Agranoff’s attorney said that he agreed to cooperate because Ambrose and Mason are both currently imprisoned.

Five months after filing the motion to push back his sentencing so that he had more time to fully cooperate, Agranoff was sentenced to 1 year and 1 day on January, 2012, for misprision of a felony (knowing about the commission of a felony and failing to report it to the police). The court recommended he serve his time a low-security prison camp. He also received 1 year probation. [Source: judgment in criminal case]

He has been ordered to pay $134,000 in restitution to two companies: $84,000 to John Jones Timber and Cutting, and $50,000 to Crider & Crider, Inc. [Source: judgment in criminal case]

As background, Dave Agranoff has been active in the animal rights movement since the 1990s. In 2005, he was subpoenaed to a federal grand jury investigating a speech by Rod Coronado. He and two other activists refused to testify, and he served 80 days in prison. He was the subject of much controversy for publicly supporting Justin Samuel, a known informant who fellow activists regarded as a “snitch” for cooperating against Animal Liberation Front prisoner Peter Young.

UPDATE 1: This is all deeply troubling news to many in the animal rights and environmental movements, and I do not take this issue lightly. I have been grasping for any bit of information that could help explain these documents in another way.

I have received many emails from others who seem to be grasping as well. These documents were previously sealed, and there is undoubtedly additional information that myself and others have not been able to access. Couldn’t it be possible, one person asked, that Agranoff only provided information about himself, and only himself, in order to get a reduced sentence?

I had genuinely hoped this was the case, but these documents, along with the explicit language of U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1 and associated case law, unfortunately do not leave room for misinterpretation.

The only way Agranoff could have received a reduced sentence without providing information about others is if 1) prosecutors generously agreed to recommend a one-year sentence, without any substantial cooperation, or 2) Agranoff negotiated a deal that would literally rewrite this section of the U.S. sentencing guidelines.

UPDATE 2: Agranoff’s attorney has confirmed that he agreed to cooperate against Marie Mason and Frank Ambrose. He says Agranoff chose to do this because they are both currently imprisoned.

Agranoff’s attorney said Mason was not consulted about this decision.

According to Marie Mason’s former trial attorney, John Minock, prosecutors had previously agreed to not prosecute her for her involvement in the April 30, 2000 arson.

I will post further updates as they are available (and will do so at the end of this post, rather than editing the existing text).

UPDATE November 29, 2012: Agranoff has been released from prison and is back in Portland, Oregon.

The Bureau of Prisons still lists his expected release date as January 3, 2013, but Agranoff has been talking to old friends in Portland, and is back on Facebook. In a status update he wrote, “Still finding the internet to be pretty Toxic at this point. So don’t expect alot out of me.”

Regarding prison, he said: “Lots of stories to tell. It was as awful as I expected but wrote two books, got into Yoga and improved my outside jumpshot. Silver lining I know but after a year shit sandwich you have to try and find the posi.”

As Agranoff attempts to transition back to his normal life in Portland, it’s important to note that additional information has come to light since this article was written. This article focused on Agranoff’s cooperation in the case of Marie Mason, but his cooperation has also appeared in at least one other case.

On July 19, 2012, another individual, Daniel Kruk, appeared in federal court in Indianapolis to plead guilty to his involvement in environmentally-related crimes, and for sentencing. Local attorneys and activists attended this date, and others.

A court report was published by those who attended. It notes in part:

According to the prosecution in Kruk’s case, David Agranoff began “negotiating with the state on various issues” in 2009.

Motions to unseal documents and motions filed by the defense in Kruk’s case were denied by the judge at the hearing on the 19th. This could indicate that other individuals who have not been indicted are named in these documents. It could also mean that there is information in those documents about informants who may or may not be known to the public. [emphasis added]

In other words: the prosecution in Kruk’s case said in court that Agranoff had been cooperating for years before his own sentencing.

We have seen in the recent grand juries in the region that law enforcement places a high value on gathering information on “who’s who” in activist circles. We have also seen in far too many cases that when activists become informants, the true extent of their cooperation does not become known until much later. This is important information to keep in mind as Agranoff returns home, revisits his old stomping grounds and attempts to reconnect with old friends.

Previous post:

Next post: