SHAC 7 Trial Recap. Best One I Have Read Yet.
This is the best article out there on how the trial for the SHAC 7 went last week. All the defendents were found guilty and given time. Also check out the link to read more about government repression of activists.
> Many people have emailed me to ask why I still haven't posted a recap of
> the SHAC 7 sentencing, and I don't know what to say. That's the problem.
> Every time I have sat down to write about last week's sentencing of the
> SHAC 7, I've failed. I've become paralyzed. I've tried dumping all my
> thoughts onto the page and not worrying about form or content or style,
> but I can't. I simply do not know what to say.
> I still don't, and that terrifies me. The terrorist rhetoric, the
> roundups, the blacklists: I've reported on all of this and the main
> problem I've faced has been time, not a lack of words. But sitting in
> Trenton, N.J., watching the spectacle take place, watching the six
> 20-something defendants in their thrift-store court clothes comfort
> their mothers while standing tall, shoulders back, for their friends... it
> broke me.
> As I sat in the overflowing courtroom, sandwiched between a New Jersey
> activist and a mustached local reporter, I felt like I was watching
> history. I don't mean that in the Red Scare kind of analogy that I often
> use in my work, although that is clearly applicable. I mean that a
> surreal feeling struck me. In 10, 20, 50 years, young people will look
> at this trial, just as we look at past eras of repression, and wonder:
> "How did you let this happen?"
> How did we let this happen?
> Here's how a sentencing hearing for a federal case usually works. The
> judge makes a statement about the federal sentencing guidelines, if they
> apply, and their parameters. The prosecutors then generally ask for
> sentences somewhere in the middle or on the high end of those
> guidelines. Defense attorneys respond with a series of nitpicky points
> about the sentencing recommendations, using legal jargon the defendants
> and family members don't understand, and argue that their client should
> receive a reduced sentence. Sometimes they submit letters from friends
> or family members saying that Johnny is a "fine young man" or that Jane
> is an "upstanding person who made a poor decision." Sometimes defendants
> say they have seen the light, and realized the error of their ways.
> Sometimes they cry.
> Here's how a sentencing hearing for animal rights activists convicted of
> "terrorism" charges for running a website works. The judge made a
> statement outlining the outlandish sentencing guidelines—higher than
> most rapists and violent criminals face. The government asked the judge
> to throw the book at these "extremists." One by one, the defense
> attorneys fight for a month here and a month there, anything to keep
> these activists from spending their 30s in prison. The defendants stare
> ahead blankly. The defense attorneys don't just submit letters of
> support, they submit tomes. The judge raises a bound book submitted by
> Jake Conroy's attorney, with letters from professors, friends, and
> activists that say they have been inspired by Jake's compassion. The
> judge says she has rarely seen anything like this in any case.
> The prosecutors don't give an inch. Charles McKenna, the chief assistant
> U.S. attorney for New Jersey, who was the prosecutor in the case, rises
> from his seat after each speech by a defense attorney, and lets his
> voice reach a nearly vitriolic fervor.
> Some activists laughed, others simply shook their heads at the absurdity
> of it all.
> "Kevin Kjonaas was drunk with power."
> "[Lauren Gazzola] had the bullhorn and was clearly the person in
> "Jake is not a man of compassion."
> Nobody laughed.
> Pressed up against activists in the back row, I could feel their muscles
> tense. A man across the aisle with a freshly shorn head and a sharp
> three-button mod suit bit his clenched fist and flexed the muscles in
> his left hand. I kept the corner of my eye on him, waiting for him to
> jump from the pew and disrupt this spectacle.
> He didn't. The spectacle continued, with McKenna saying that Jake and
> the others had "good homes, good schools," and they "chose to throw it
> all away." He sounded like he was describing bank robbers or meth
> addicts, not individuals using their First Amendment rights.
> Activists lurked around the courtroom after the sentencing. Those that
> were turned away from the overflowing courtroom rushed in to ask what
> happened. Nobody seemed to know what to say.
> The defendants put their game faces back on. They pressed the flesh and
> thanked everyone for coming. They did their best to remain strong and
> lift everyone's spirits. "It could have been worse."
> The local press rushed the defendants and prosecutors with skinny
> notebooks in hand. I felt like such a horrible reporter. What do you say
> to someone who has just been sentenced for "terrorism" charges? It
> reminded me of working the cop shop at The Chicago Tribune, and having
> to write about murders and dead bodies found in storage lockers, and
> having to ask people how it made them feel. What a ridiculous question,
> but reporters always ask it.
> Instead I told Josh and Jake that I strongly disapproved of their pastel
> colored shirts. Josh, who had his sentencing postponed until the next
> day, asked if I knew someone who had a tie: he ran out of clean court
> clothes. I started to take off mine, but he just laughed. "Dude, skinny
> ties are for skinny guys. I've got a little bit more to love."
> Outside the Trenton courthouse was part press conference part family
> reunion. Reporters kept asking activists to talk to them about the case
> and how they felt.
> "Are you a reporter? I'm not going to answer any of your questions."
> "Why?" they always responded.
> This case is all about guilt by association. The defendants are not
> accused of breaking any windows or rescuing any lab animals. They merely
> vocally supported those who did. In this Green Scare, they said, who
> would want to have their picture in the paper at an "eco-terrorism"
> trial? Who would want to be the next victim of this green baiting?
> Activists gave their farewell hugs and it-was-great-to-see-you-agains,
> with the obligatory, "Maybe next time it will be under better
> I tagged along with Lauren, Jake and some activists from New York and
> Los Angeles to Wild Oats, a grocery store 15 minutes away with the best
> vegan options New Jersey had to offer. We ate tempeh salad, hummus and
> non-dairy ice cream with chocolate swirls in little plastic cups, like
> elementary school students get on special occasions in the cafeteria.
> Lauren moved from table to table cracking jokes. She blamed it on a
> sugar rush from an Izze natural soda, but that's just Lauren. She flexed
> her upper arm muscles and told us, "On the upside, I'm totally going to
> come out of prison like Sarah Connor in the Terminator. I'm going to be
> totally ripped."
> An activist from New York took photos with a camera phone. The
> defendants posed with their supporters in the grocery store "café," and
> an attorney from California took a group shot. A woman squeezed and
> sniffed loaves of French bread while her toddler begged for a chocolate
> chip cookie. "Is this some kind of going away party?"
> Silence. "Yes," the attorney said. "I guess it is." She smiled politely
> at the woman, and walked away without explanation.
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