Civil Rights Outreach Committee
May 25, 2007
Lauren Regan, Civil Liberties Defense Center, Eugene, OR, 541-687-9180
Alejandro Queral, NW Constitutional Rights Center, Portland, OR, 503-295-6400, 202-491-6204
Defendants Sentenced in Eco-Sabotage Cases
Property Destruction Leads to "Terrorist" Label
Eugene, OR - The first two defendants in the Oregon eco-sabotage cases have been sentenced to federal prison this week after U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken determined that, despite no injury having been caused to any living being, some of the arsons constituted "terrorism" under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Judge Aiken concluded that Stanislas Meyerhoff and Kevin Tubbs' involvement in the arsons that caused property damage to a car dealership, experimental tree farm, and horse slaughter house qualify as "terrorism." Application of the terrorism enhancement will be argued at each individual sentencing hearing. They were given sentences of 156 months and 151 months respectively in federal prison. Defendant Chelsea Gerlach will be sentenced today.
The application of the terrorism enhancement to any of the defendants allows the Bureau of Prisons to place them in the harsh environment of maximum-security prisons, including 23-hours-a-day lockdown and assaults from the most violent of criminals. Numerous studies point to long-term psychological problems inflicted by maximum security confinement. The defendants' crimes were committed nearly ten years ago. They have been contributing members of society since and include a volunteer firefighter, engineering student, and health clinic worker.
Activists, lawyers and civil libertarians decried Judge Aiken's ruling as a dangerous precedent that could be exploited by the federal government to brand political activists engaged in acts of civil disobedience as "terrorists."
"From the very beginning, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department engaged in a public relations campaign to brand the saboteurs as 'terrorists,' even when no one was injured and no imminent and substantial risk of injury existed," said Alejandro Queral, executive director of the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center in Portland. "After this ruling, the government wields the hammer of a terrorism enhancement that will have a chilling effect on political speech and acts of civil disobedience, like those of the Boston Tea Party or American revolutionaries. In a time when political expression and discourse is most important to our democracy, the government is busy suppressing dissent."
"The punishment does not fit the crime," stated Lauren Regan, executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Eugene. "While clearly illegal and punishable as a felony, burning SUVs at a corporate car dealership simply does not equate with an act of terrorism like 9/11 or the Oklahoma City bombing. Judge Aiken even acknowledged that these defendants don't fit the commonly held description of 'terrorist.'"
Sentencing hearings for each defendant will run through June 5.
Copies of a press packet with current related articles, background information, and historical examples of sabotage in the U.S. are available from email@example.com. For more information, go to www.cldc.org.