The October 2001 USA Patriot Act's Section 802 created the crime of "domestic terrorism" (applicable to US citizens) for the first time, applying it to persons engaged in acts "dangerous to human life" in violation of federal or state criminal laws, if such actions:
-- intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
-- influence government policy by intimidation or coercion; or
-- affect government conduct by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.
The Patriot Act gave Washington expansive powers to investigate and prosecute "terrorism," including environmental and animal rights activists demonstrating peacefully or engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience, America's longstanding tradition, now harshly criminalized, those convicted subject to long-term incarceration.
For example, in 2001, several prominent Americans engaged in civil disobedience on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico by unlawfully entering an airbase to protest against regular Pentagon military exercises, including bombings. It's now called domestic terrorism to influence government policy.
Under the Patriot Act's Section 806, with no hearing or notice, the government may confiscate or freeze all foreign and domestic assets of any individual, entity, or organization engaged in, planning, supporting, concealing, or perpetrating any act of domestic or international terrorism against America - even by protesting nonviolently.
Other provisions are just as harsh, using vague language giving authorities wide latitude to twist the law perversely and advantageously, targeting anyone for anything called terrorism.
Eric McDavid is one of many victims, serving a 20-year sentence in federal prison for "thought crime," encarcerated for his political beliefs, targeted by an FBI undercover informant who entrapped him unjustly.
Detailed information on him can be accessed through the following link:
Previous articles described "green scare," the Spirit of Freedom support network calling it "tactics the government and (enforcement agencies use) to attack" environmental and animal rights activists and anyone supporting them - called "eco-terrorists" for engaging in socially responsible protests or civil disobedience against harmful corporate practices. Opposing them is now criminal, repressive laws like the Patriot Act putting innocent people at risk, McDavid one of many.
On January 13, 2006, he, Zachary Jenson and Lauren Weiner were arrested, charged with "conspiracy to damage and destroy property by fire and an explosive," the January 25 indictment stating:
The "defendants....did knowingly and intentionally agree, combine and conspire with each other, and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to maliciously damage and destroy, and attempt to do so, by means of fire and an explosive, (1) a building, and personal and real property of the United States Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture (2) a building, and personal and real property of an institution and organization receiving (government) financial assistance....and (3) personal and real property used in interstate commerce and in an activity affecting interstate commerce...."
Conspiracy alone was charged to commit the following acts:
-- meeting at a Forresthill, CA residence, purportedly to plan their attack, no supportive evidence cited;
-- defendant Weiner ordered a book titled, "Poor Man's James Bond," supposedly with explosive making instructions;
-- defendants visited the alleged target sites "to perform reconnaissance;" and
-- bought the following items: three bottles of bleach, a hot-plate, glassware, a gasoline can, a car battery, and three jars of petroleum jelly.
Yet prosecutors said these activities violated Title 18, United States Code, Section 844(n), even though engaging in them and all items bought are legal and nonviolent. Prosecutors cited no incriminating evidence proving otherwise. How could they? There was no plot or crime, the FBI inventing guilt by entrapment, a scheme used numerous times before, snaring innocent victims in the "war on terror."
A government informant called "Anna" befriended, encouraged, deceived, and entrapped them, earning at least $75,000 for her services, according to Sacramento-based FBI Special Agent Nasson Walker. "She was the glue" said McDavid's lawyer, Mark Reichel, explaining that "Take away Anna, and (the case) would have scattered in the wind like so many tumbleweeds."
In an affidavit filed in the case, Walker said she was used in at least 12 prior cases, entrapping others like McDavid, Jenson and Weiner, provoking them to discuss actions they never committed or wanted to, manufacturing fake crimes. Reichel explained that "when you have someone poking you and prodding, egging you on," you end up saying or going through the motions of things you'd never do, but may seem like it, making defendants vulnerable because jurors are afraid to exonerate.
McDavid's case is especially troubling, according to Reichel:
"There has never been (one like it in America) that has involved this much entrapment, this much pushing by an informant, by the US government and by the FBI behind it."
He was charged with one count of conspiracy, commonly used against activists and others when no real evidence exists, the idea being to intimidate juries, ensure convictions, crush dissent and discourage others. Twice he was denied bail, despite no past criminal record or history of violence.
As a result, pre-trial, he spent two years isolated in Sacramento County Main Jail in "Total Separation," given no contact with other prisoners and allowed out of his cell only a few hours weekly.
McDavid is a vegan. Protesting for acceptable food, he conducted two hunger strikes, and suffered two bouts of pericarditis - an inflammation of tissue surrounding the heart, causing chest pain and long-term complications if not properly treated. Born in October 1977, he's now 32 years old, a shocking condition for someone that young, something he never before experienced.
Under pressure, his co-defendants copped a plea for a lesser sentence, agreeing to testify against McDavid. His case is clear entrapment, his trial defense citing it in vain. Despite no incriminating evidence and proceedings "riddled with errors, lies and blunders," jurors convicted him, many later making "damning statements about the FBI's handling of the case."
Nonetheless, on May 6, 2008, he was sentenced to 19 years, seven months in prison, equivalent to a 2nd degree murder judgment in some states. McDavid committed no crime yet got, up to that time, the longest ever Green Scare punishment, increased by Terrorism Enhancements (TEs) - used against defendants trying to influence or coerce government policy, an act of honor, not a crime, when challenging lawless, harmful practices.
In February 2009, animal rights activist Marie Mason received 21 years, 10 months and a $4 million dollar fine (another travesty of justice), an article on her case accessed through the following link:
In June 2001, environmental activist Jeff Luers was sentenced to 22 years, eight months for burning three SUVs - to raise awareness how gas-guzzling vehicles exacerbate global warming. No one was hurt, $40,000 in damages resulted, and the vehicles were refurbished and sold.
A political prisoner, Luers appealed in January 2002, his hearing held in November 2005, and on February 14, 2007 the Appeals Court remanded his case to the Circuit Court for resentencing. On February 28, 2008, it was reduced to 10 years, a hopeful sign for McDavid, Mason and others like them, wrongfully imprisoned for their activism and honor.
Calling his sentence "fair, just, and reasonable," Judge Morrison C. England found McDavid's talk and items bought "very serious....with respect to the disruption of the Government....There was no question that this....was a conspiracy, and (its) object (was) federal buildings or locations....this is a new world after September 11, 2001...."
"So when taking all of these factors into consideration, it is the judgment and sentence of this Court that in accordance with the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, that the defendant, Eric McDavid, will be sentenced to 235 months in federal prison. (He) will also pay a special assessment of $100 immediately....Upon release from imprisonment, Mr. McDavid will be placed on supervised release for a term of 36 months."
Imprisoned at FCI Victorville, Medium II, Adelanto, CA, McDavid's appealing his conviction and sentence.
A Final Comment
On August 9, the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard McDavid's oral arguments, focused mainly on "the incorrect written response to a question the jurors asked during deliberations....the oral answer (given) was the complete opposite from the written" one, after which jurors quickly reached a guilty verdict.
Afterwards, however, the deception outraged juror Diane Bennett, saying:
"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....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 to the court, we ended our consideration of the issue of entrapment, the vote (being) 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."
To prove criminal conspiracy, prosecutors must show McDavid conspired with one or more others. His codefendants, however, absolved him, testifying that no illegal actions were planned. As a result, it was his word against Anna's, an FBI provocateur, paid to entrap innocent victims prosecutors want to convict.
The presiding appeals judge expressed interest, having previously been involved in reversing a sentence because of erroneous jury instructions. Defense counsel was hopeful, noting other important arguments also raised and likely wait before a decision - on average six months to a year, a long time to perpetuate injustice never easy to reverse in a climate of fear, police state terror, pervasive spying, entrapment, and complicit courts.
It's "a new world after September 11, 2001," not a fair or just one.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.