Eric McDavid was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison on Thursday, as a “terrorist,” for conspiring to sabotage federal facilities in the name of the environment.
Nearly 20 years.
That number is shocking enough, considering that the average sentence for violent offenders, in 2004, was about 7.6 years.
That number is shocking enough, considering that Jeff “Free” Luers was sentenced to 22 years and 8 months for sabotaging SUVs (not “conspiring” to do so, like McDavid, but actually doing it)—a sentence that made international headlines and was finally reduced.
And that number is shocking enough, considering that his codefendants will likely receive only five years in prison in exchange for becoming government informants.
But it is even more surprising in light of the disturbing chain of events that led to McDavid’s conviction, including an FBI operative who provided the group with bomb-making recipes; at times financed their transportation, food and housing; strung along McDavid, who had the hopes of a romantic relationship; and poked and prodded the group into action.
“There has never been a case in America that has involved this much entrapment, this much pushing by an informant, by the U.S. government and by the FBI behind it.”
But, as Judge England said in justification of applying the “terrorism enhancement”:
“It’s a new world since Sept. 11, 2001.”
It is indeed a new world. One where fears of “terrorism” are used to justify sweeping police powers, government spying and entrapment. Perhaps most damaging of all is that the press has largely swallowed the “War on Terrorism” rhetoric, labeling activists as “eco-terrorists” at every turn, often long before they even have a foot in the courtroom.
The U.S. Attorney’s office wasted no time in patting themselves on the back for landing such a hefty sentence for a “terrorist,” issuing a press release headlined, “ECO-TERRORIST GIVEN NEARLY TWENTY YEARS IN PRISON.” The release, of course, doesn’t mention anything about “Anna,” the FBI operative. Instead, it only references a “confidential source,” in passing.
United States Attorney Scott said:
“Today’s severe punishment of nearly 20 years in federal prison should serve as a cautionary tale to those who would conspire to commit life-threatening acts in the name of their extremist views.”
A former juror in the case tells of a much different “cautionary tale.” One of the dangers of unchecked police powers and kangaroo courts.
In a rare declaration to the court, made even more rare by its candor and unrestrained outrage, Diane Bennett described how she and other jurors were mislead.
During deliberations, we asked the court to please clarify for the jury the issue of whether Anna was a government agent, and if so, when did she become one… The written answer was from the court and stated “no” that she was not a government agent, yet we were told orally that she was. With the written response of “no,” and after reading the other written responses from the court, we ended our consideration of the issue of entrapment, the vote was 7-5 to consider the entrapment issue as a defense. Once the written response advised Anna was not a government agent, we then changed to a guilty verdict soon thereafter.
In other words, in case this is all getting confusing, prosecutors needed to show that McDavid conspired with at least one other person to destroy these government facilities. His codefendants, Jenson and Weiner, testified that there was no conspiracy among the three of them to carry out the illegal actions. That left just McDavid and “Anna,” a paid FBI operative. Yet jurors were led to believe that “Anna” wasn’t a government agent, and so they convicted him.
Bennett goes on to call the FBI an “embarrassment”:
…specifically by allowing this case to develop the way it did using Anna and providing all of the essential tools for the group; the cabin, the money, the idea, the books, everything, and by letting Anna “string Eric along” when she should have terminated the relationship clearly with him.
Then again, as Judge England said, “It’s a new world since Sept. 11, 2001.”