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Sentencing Dates Set for “Eco-Sabotage” Defendants

Today, in the federal courthouse in Eugene, Oregon, Judge Ann Aiken set sentencing dates for ten individuals who earlier this year pled guilty to charges stemming from the FBI's "Operation Backfire" prosecutions.
Civil Rights Outreach Committee

For Immediate Release: December 14, 2006
Contact: Lauren Regan, Civil Liberties Defense Center, Eugene, OR, 541-687-9180

Sentencing Dates Set for "Eco-Sabotage" Defendants
Government will Seek Terrorism Enhancement

Today, in the federal courthouse in Eugene, Oregon, Judge Ann Aiken set sentencing dates for ten individuals who earlier this year pled guilty to charges stemming from the FBI's "Operation Backfire" prosecutions.

The 2007 dates are: Stanislas Meyerhoff, April 10; Kevin Tubbs, April 17; Chelsea Gerlach, April 18; Darren Thurston, April 19; Suzanne Savoie and Kendall Tankersley, April 20; Nathan Block and Joyanna Zacher, April 25; Daniel McGowan, April 26; and Jonathan Paul, April 30.

Despite the fact than none of the defendants in the case were ever charged with the crime of terrorism, federal prosecutors have announced that they will seek terrorism sentence enhancements of up to 20 years at the time of sentencing for all the defendants, despite the fact that they pled guilty to crimes of property damage. (It has never been alleged that any defendant injured another human or animal as a result of their politically motivated acts of sabotage.) A discussion of the overarching issues regarding the constitutionality of the proposed terrorism enhancement, as it applies to all defendants, will tentatively take place during Meyerhoff's hearing. Other sentencing hearings may be pushed back as a result. An additional status hearing was set on March 2 to check-in with the court and parties to determine if the dates set will still be viable.

Beyond additional time in federal prison, any terrorism enhancement would have potentially Draconian consequences for defendants upon release. Such a finding by the courts may prohibit them from being able to travel outside the U.S., open a bank account, or otherwise successfully reintegrate into society.

"The sentencing provision at issue, entitled 'Acts of Terrorism Transcending National Boundaries,' simply does not apply to the facts of this case and is a blatant attempt by the government to label citizens as terrorists for political gain and to manipulate and exploit Americans' concerns after 9/11 - which was a true act of terrorism," stated Lauren Regan, executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center. "In a case where only property damage occurs, and where citizens took illegal action to stop environmental destruction and animal suffering within the U.S., this federal law was not meant to apply and is unconstitutionally applied to these defendants."

Copies of a press packet with a synopsis of the prosecution, related articles, background information, historical examples of sabotage in the U.S., and a history of FBI repression of political activism, are available upon request.

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