“The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is a poorly disguised attempt to chill legitimate advocacy by an unpopular group of activists,” [Center for Constitutional Rights senior staff attorney Rachel Meeropol, who argued for the defendants in court.] “Liberating animals is not terrorism.”
“The recent charges brought against Kevin and me are not only wrong but egregious,” Lang stated last year in response to the charges, on a blog dedicated to supporting the activists. “When we think of terrorism, we think of violence being committed against individuals. The government’s ‘terrorist’ targeting of two friends with a history of speaking out against injustice is an affront to the meaning of what violence really is, and a slap in the face to a public that sadly knows what terrorism actually looks like.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, “Lang and Johnson were accused in the indictment of driving through Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois in August with plans to damage animal farms. On Aug. 14, they stopped at a mink farm in Morris, Ill., that ‘was in the business of breeding, raising and selling mink to fur manufacturers,’ released about 2,000 mink from their cages, and spray-painted ‘LIBERATION IS LOVE’ in big red letters on the side of a barn.”
The day after that incident, the Los Angeles-based activists had their car searched in a routine traffic stop in Illinois. Police found bolt and wire cutters, ski masks, and camouflage clothing—equipment deemed to be ‘burglary tools.’ They were arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to state charges. Lang was released from prison on a plea deal in November and is out on bond, while Johnson remains in custody awaiting the federal trial.
On Thursday, they urged the court to dismiss the case against them, on the grounds that the AETA is a violation of constitutional due process because it applies the term ‘terrorism’ to the nonviolent theft of private property and violates the First Amendment by criminalizing boycotts, picketing, and other constitutionally-protected activity. The motion to dismiss (pdf) argues that the AETA language is vague, overly broad, and “susceptible to discriminatory enforcement.”
“Applied evenhandedly, the AETA would federalize every act of theft, libel, or vandalism against every food or retail store in the country, so long as there is an interstate component,” the motion points out.***
***PD: we seriously doubt that as applied ‘evenhandedly’ the AETA would federalize every act of theft or vandalism with an interstate component.
“An individual who is successfully prosecuted under the AETA will be a ‘convicted terrorist’,” the defendants further note, referring to how the law violates due process by applying a misleading label to a serious crime. “This labeling carries obvious and significant stigma and could potentially prejudice jurors; moreover, it has a real impact on conditions of incarceration.”
PD: haha, should have thought about breaking/entering/stealing/driving across country to do so beforehand?
Finally, the motion reads: “Causing damage or loss to real or personal property is not terror, because it is not inherently violent.” The AETA was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006. A previous legal challenge, Blum v. Holder, was thrown out of federal court by Judge Joseph Tauro in 2013.
PD: In Holder, the activists claimed they were fearful of protesting because they might be arrest for legal conduct under the AETA. In order to prove that, and gain standing to sue, they would have had to be arrested for protesting it would seem, or at least trying to do so. Not surprisingly, the activists, or some of them in Holder, had been imprisoned before, for illegal actions, and some of them were SHAC members.
Court papers filed Wednesday morning say the attack in Morris “devastated the farmers, resulting in a loss of $125,000,” and provides new details about Johnson’s criminal past.
The U.S. Attorney’s office hopes to convince U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur that Johnson should immediately be taken into federal custody next month when he completes a state sentence for possessing burglary tools.
Johnson — who also goes by the name “Kevin Oliff” — has a history of “troubling” animal rights activism that goes back as far as 2006 and has been escalating, they say. In August 2006, he was filmed in Santa Monica threatening the family of a juice business executive he accused of using animal testing, screaming outside their home, “We have pictures of you, we’ve got your address, we’ve got your car license plate and we can do whatever the f— we want,” the filing alleges.
A search of his home later recovered paint bombs, a balaclava (face mask) and Animal Liberation Front literature which encouraged stalking executives at their homes.
“Animal-abusers will consider another line of work when they can’t sleep without fear of reprisals from activists,” one article stated.
Convicted of burglary in 2008, he pleaded guilty in 2010 to stalking for another ALF action outside the home of a UCLA researcher. And in 2012, he pleaded guilty to burglary again. At the time of that arrest, the feds say, articles detailing how to make improvised bombs and zip guns were found in his possession, as was a list of employees of a science research company and their children.
And when he was arrested in 2013 after the attack on the Morris mink farm, police found five bottles of acid, two bottles of bleach and a container of hydrogen peroxide in his car — the ingredients for a fire bomb, prosecutors say.
PD: Hopefully the high Court will never will decide against the AETA. It is the only law that has stopped some of the worst extremists. do you ever wonder how these wack jobs manage to drive all over the country, have no jobs, keep getting caught, and can simply claim they are innocent because the law is wrong? They are lucky they are in the USA otherwise they would have been taken out long beforehand.