FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 4, 2007
Civil Rights Outreach Committee
Lauren Regan, Civil Liberties Defense Center, Eugene, OR, 541-687-9180
Karen Pickett, Civil Rights Outreach Committee, 510-316-2722
Final Two Sentencings in Eco-Sabotage Cases
Property Damage Leads to "Terrorist" Label
Eugene, OR -- The last two defendants in the Oregon eco-sabotage cases will likely be sentenced to federal prison this week by U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken. In the past two weeks, Aiken has ordered the other eight defendants in Oregon to serve sentences ranging from 3 to 13 years. Just before the sentence hearings, Aiken determined that, despite no injury caused to any living being, some of the arsons constituted "terrorism" under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines: the Romania car dealership, the Jefferson Poplar Farm, a Eugene police substation, and the destruction of a Bonneville Power Administration transmission tower. The two remaining defendants are Daniel McGowan and Jonathan Paul. McGowan has admitted involvement in the action against Jefferson Poplar.
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 potential assaults from the most violent criminals. The nonviolent defendants' crimes were committed nearly ten years ago. They have been contributing members of society since then and include a volunteer firefighter, an abused women's law clinic worker, and a 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." Her rulings place economic damage to corporations on the same level as the terrorist attacks in Oklahoma City and New York.
"Using a word associated with Al-Qaeda to describe environmentalists raises serious civil liberties questions that reach far beyond these cases," said Will Potter, a journalist in Washington, D.C., and author of GreenistheNewRed.com. "The T-word is being exploited to push a political agenda and instill fear in the American public. The F.B.I. and the Justice Department should focus on real 'terrorists' targeting human beings not SUVs."
"The federal crime of arson already carries with it the potential punishment of a life sentence," stated Lauren Regan, executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Eugene. "The government didn't need the Terrorism Enhancement to punish these nonviolent defendants. Clearly the terrorist label is being used as political fodder for the beleaguered Bush administration."
McGowan's hearing is at the federal courthouse in Eugene today, and Paul's is tomorrow. Both start at 9 AM.
Copies of a press packet with current related articles, background information, and the history of F.B.I. repression of activists are available from email@example.com. For more information, go to www.cldc.org.