Peter Young's Statement to the Court and Updates
Peter Young's Statement to the Court on sentencing
The following is Peter Young's statement to the court at his sentencing on November 8th, 2005. As Peter did a large amount of improvisation, the below text is not a verbatim record, but an approximate account based on his notes and the memory of supporters in the courtroom.
This is the customary time when the defendant expresses regret for the crimes they committed, so let me do that because I am not without my regrets. I am here today to be sentenced for my participation in releasing mink from 6 fur farms. I regret it was only 6. I'm also here today to be sentenced for my participation in the freeing of 8,000 mink from those farms. I regret it was only 8,000. It is my understanding of those 6 farms, only 2 of them have since shut down. I regret it was only 2.
More than anything, I regret my restraint, because whatever damage we did to those businesses, if those farms were left standing, and if one animal was left behind, then it wasn't enough.
I don't wish to validate this proceeding by begging for mercy or appealing to the conscience of the court, because I know if this system had a conscience I would not be here, and in my place would be all the butchers, vivisectors, and fur farmers of the world.
Just as I will remain unbowed before this court- who would see me imprisoned for an act of conscience- I will also deny the fur farmers in the room the pleasure of seeing me bow down before them. To those people here whose sheds I may have visited in 1997, let me tell you directly for the first time, it was a please to raid your farms, and to free those animals you held captive. It is to those animals I answer to, not you or this court. I will forever mark those nights on your property as the most rewarding experience of my life.
And to those farmers or other savages who may read my words in the future and smile at my fate, just remember: We have put more of you in bankruptcy than you have put liberators in prison. Don't forget that.
Let me thank everyone in the courtroom who came to support me today. It is my last wish before prison that each of you drive to a nearby fur farm tonight, tear down its fence and open every cage.
Peter Sentenced to Two Years
The bittersweet news we've all been waiting for is here...
As anticipated, on November 8th in Madison, Wisconsin Peter received a sentence of 2 years in Federal Prison. Before the end of the month, Peter will be picked up from Madison by the U.S. Marshals and begin his trip to prison. After federal prisoners are sentenced, the trip to prison is said to be an arduous one, generally taking 4 to 6 weeks, during this time Peter will spend time at various smaller jails around the country before resurfacing at his designated prison.
For "security reasons" the U.S. Marshals will not reveal Peter's whereabouts at any given time, and Peter will not be able to receive visits or mail. Additionally, the Bureau if Prisons will not reveal the prison to which Peter has been designated in advance- we won't know until Peter does, which won't be known to him until he arrives.
Peter's attorney has formally requested he be designated to the prison closes to his family, and if the BOP complies, Peter will be serving his time in Sheridan, Oregon (near Portland). Ultimately, the decision rests with the BOP. We don't have a specific release date, but accounting for good time and 6 months time served, we expect Peter to be out of prison and in a halfway house in January 2007, and out altogether the following March. We hope to see everyone at Peter's prison release party later that month!
Interview with Peter Now Available from No Compromise!
Peter's first interview with activist media can be read in No Compromise ..28!
Order it http://www.nocompromise.org/
Report from Peter's Sentencing
When the U.S. Marshals escorted Peter into the courtroom at 1:30 on November 8th- he was greeted with a roar of cheers and applause. Over 50 people from across the country had converged to show their support, see Peter off to prison, and be present for a rare event in direct action history- the sentencing to prison of an activist convicted of liberating animals. After the bailiffs ceased threatening to remove the crowd if there were further "outbursts", the proceeding began.
Judge Crocker began by stating that he had received many letters from both sides- supporters of Peter, and fur farmers. Peter was provided with copies, and later told us letters in his defense outnumbered those from fur farmers 6 times.
The first extended phase was the debate over restitution. The prosecution was asking for $364,106 to cover losses for mink releases at the Turbak, Ott, Smieja, and Dittrich farms. It was revealed the prosecution did not feel they had sufficient evidence linking Peter to the Circle K (Sioux City, Iowa) and Fassett Fur Farm (Webster City, Iowa) releases to request restitution. To make their case for over $360,00, the prosecution began calling their witnesses. First to the stand was fur farmer Alex Ott, who attempted to justify what Peter and his lawyer felt were inflated damage claims. He recited usual fur industry script about released mink starving and dying of exposure, despite mink sheds existing outdoors, and the fur industry having yet to produce the body of one "starved mink". Mrs. Smieja was next, taking the place of her husband who we learned was now deceased, followed by Mrs. Turbac, both of whom appeared visibly nervous before a large audience of activists. Peter's attorney, Mr Kelly did a masterful job of attacking inconsistencies in their testimony, bringing both women to lose their composure at various times, and admitting they lied under oath in signed loss statements provided to the FBI. A fourth person- John Dittrich- was listed as a witness, but was also revealed to be among the growing list of deceased fur farmers. The judge expressed his wishes that "Mr Dittrich and Mr Smieja were in a better place" - a sentiment not shared by many of those in the room. After two hours, two recesses, and much debating, Peter's attorney was successful at reducing the order of restitution from $364,000 to $254,000 - cutting the prosecution's request by nearly a third!
The next item of debate centered on "Acceptance of Responsibility" - an important factor in federal sentencing which can bring a significant reduction in time, but in Peter's case it was of no consequence in the expanded sentence of two years. None the less, the prosecution argued that Peter was ineligible for the two-point decrease in his "offense level" citing his statement to the Associated Press in which he explained the necessity of his actions, and expressed that he had no regrets. Peter's attorney argued that a guilty plea and admission of his role in the fur farm raids itself qualified as "Acceptance of Responsibility". Judge Crocker stated his position that cutting fences and releasing mink under the cloak of darkness and disappearing into the night was the opposite of "Acceptance of Responsibility" and the prosecution's request was granted.
After a short recess, in a telling gesture the fur farmers were given sanctuary beside the FBI agents in the front row- normally reserved strictly for law enforcement. Peter's attorney also noted that while one FBI agent was usually present at Federal sentencings, there were four present this day, which he called "highly unusual."
The prosecution then made a request of the judge that as a condition of Peter's probation, he be barred from associating with animal rights activists. Judge Crocker cited First Amendment conflicts, and denied the request unless the prosecutor could offer something "more focused." Rather than refine his request to "AR activists with a criminal record," or something similar, he dropped the ball completely and withdrew the request. Peter intends to resume his (legal) activism upon release from prison, and called the prosecutions request a "close call."
And then it was time for closing statements. Prosecutor Robert Anderson was the first, making his case for imposing "the maximum sentence allowable under the law," citing totally fabricated statements from Peter stating that "he intends to raid more farms in the future!" Anderson's statements offered no surprises and inspired several yawns.
Next was Peter's attorney, who made several crucial points about the hysteria over politically motivated "crimes" and the zeal of Federal prosecutors in targeting people such as Peter for what in the eyes of the law is merely a property crime. He praised Peter's character and argued for leniency while also noting that Peter's co defendant received the maximum sentence despite his cooperation with the FBI, and that Peter expected nothing less than the maximum sentence of two years.
Last was Peter. What else can be said about the statement covered in dozens if not hundreds of newspapers worldwide the following day? It couldn't be said he held anything back. Read Peter's statement here to see what brought the audience to applause so raucous, the judge admonished- "Any more of that and I will clear this courtroom..."
In the end, Judge Crocker said what we were all expecting - "two years" and the gravel fell.
The following is the final breakdown of Peter's sentence:
Two years in federal prison, with the final two months to be served in a halfway house with work release privileges; 360 hours of community service at a charity to benefit "humans and no other species", $254,000 restitution, and one year probation.
That night Peter was able to visit with several supporters and pen pals at the jail, and the following day a small demo was held outside the window of Peter's cell to wish him goodbye...
What could of been a routine passing of another forgotten inmate into prison proved to be an incredible show of support with a larger turnout than anyone expected. Besides supporters who came from all over Wisconsin, activists also came from California, Oregon, Minnesota, Chicago, Ohio, and beyond, exceeding bench space and forcing those in attendance to take a seat on each others laps.
Peter wishes to thank everyone who came to support him on November 8th and invites everyone to make the trip to visit him in prison when he arrives so that he may thank you in person.
We hope a message carries to future activists who will cross legal lines to save animals that if you are caught- we are there for you. Congratulations to everyone who made November 8th 2005 a day to remember.
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