Activists Fight “Eco-Terror” Crackdown, DIY Style

by Will Potter on May 3, 2006

in Terrorism Court Cases

As the government’s crackdown on dissent in the name of fighting “eco-terrorism” increases, activists are taking a do-it-yourself approach to the law.

Sound nuts? It probably would to most people, who have only had to worry about speeding tickets, not felonies. But for activists bogged down with trumped-up charges, it’s becoming a necessity. They can’t pay for attorneys, so they defend their rights on their own. Or, their public defenders don’t have the knowledge or drive to fight the charges adequately, so activists do the behind-the-scenes work, and use the attorney as courtroom mouthpiece.

Does it work? That depends on the case. But check out this one from New Jersey. Activists were rounded up at a protest outside the home of an executive tied to Huntington Life Sciences, the notorious animal testing lab (this is the campaign that got activists convicted on “terrorism” charges for running a website). They were charged with disorderly conduct (it seems like that’s the “default” charge when it’s clear that nothing else has a shot at sticking).

All 21 of them were convicted, but only Nick Cooney, 24, appealed. He lost his first appeal, before a Superior Court judge in New Brunswick. He appealed again and won. He did it all himself except for some legal advice from a friend who is a law school student.

The court found that the local charge was pre-empted by part of the state criminal code, and couldn’t be enforced. I’m not sure what impact this will have on b.s. arrests in other states, but it sets a precedent for similar round-ups in small New Jersey towns.

That’s gotta drive government attorneys absolutely nuts. A 24-year-old punk activist with no money and no law degree fighting through two appeals, and winning.

Now, just think what these activists could do with some money and bona fide legal help…

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