portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting united states

green scare | human & civil rights

Daniel McGowan's Statement to the Court

This is the ataement that was read today in court by Daniel McGowan prior to sentencing. He was sentenced to 84 months, and the terrorism enhancement was applied for the Jefferson Poplar action. Full notes will be posted as soon as they're transcribed.
Your Honor,

Thank you for letting me address the court today.

A lot of horrible things have been said about me today and I would like to offer some additional information. I do not blame anyone else for my actions or words. It is not anyone else's fault that I engaged in burning Superior Lumber and Jefferson Poplar Farms. Not my codefendants, either living or dead, nor my parents. No one forced me into it and I was fully cognizant of what I was doing at the time.

However, this does not mean I am ok with what I did. I am not. I feel deep regret for the actions because they have frightened people. Although I now know it is hard for people to believe, my intention at the time was to be provocative and make a statement, not to put individual people in fear. It pains me now to think that I did not see at the time that these arsons would obviously cause fear. I have read in the newspaper and heard from my lawyers about the victims who testified and talked about how scared they were. This was very upsetting and it made me quite ashamed of myself. I thought of my sister Lisa and how she would feel if someone burned down her place of employment-how pictures of my niece and family would be destroyed, and it stung. To the workers at Jefferson Poplar and Superior Lumber, I am truly sorry for the damage I did and the fear I caused you.

I was a lookout for the arson at Superior Lumber and while I am as responsible as anyone else, I was insulated in some ways from the incident. While I saw the actual building, I did not set the devices nor was I involved in their creation. It made it seem less real to me. Even when I heard the alarm over the radio, it still did not seem real. My participation at Jefferson Poplar, a few months later was completely different - it freaked me out badly. I remember standing there in the middle of the vehicle shop feeling dizzy from the fumes emanating from the gasoline and wondering, "how did I get to be standing here right now"? My decision to leave the Earth Liberation Front was crystallizing in that moment. I attended a meeting weeks later but I was so disenchanted by my involvement in that action, by the real world ramifications of the arson at Romania and how it affected my friend and discussions about violence.

It is hard to hear tapes of conversations I had with Jacob Ferguson, where I speak with false bravado about our past together. There are no tapes of some of my most private thoughts, about how I got sick to my stomach before these acts, about the fear and discomfort I hid from my friends and family. None of it is an excuse, but I want you to know, Judge Aiken, that when I became involved in the arsons, it was after being involved in environmental activism for a few years, and at a time when I felt utterly desperate as my attempts to change anything failed almost always. Moving to Oregon changed my life as it is so beautiful and the forests are amazing. There is nothing like it on the planet and it caused me great pain to see the old growth forests being logged. I wish I had the answers for how to fix this problem but I didn't and I took the easy way out. I allowed myself to choose extreme tactics because I felt the environmental situation in the world was getting more and more dire by the day. Things I spoke about and thought about how to fix 7 years ago are being discussed on television and online now and it gives me some hope. At the time though, I was feeling quite hopeless. This seems now to be a hollow excuse for my actions. But it is the truth.

When I got back from a trip to Canada, I made a resolution to myself. I wanted to settle down in a community and do above-ground and community based activism. I had been already been engaged in this sort of activism while I was destroying property. I now wanted to stop the illegal actions and concentrate on positive, solution-based activism. I am lucky to have met my wife Jenny when I was visiting home. I decided to move back home to NYC, I quickly found employment at a rainforest and indigenous rights foundation, organized computer recycling events and open air free markets. Since 2005, I have worked as a website assistant for a domestic violence organization that helps women escape from horrible situations.

My life since my arrest has been tumultuous and I have been trying to make the best of a bad situation. Although I had to abandon my acupuncture program, I recently was accepted to Antioch University McGregor's distance learning masters program and I will be finishing my first quarter on June 15th. I hope to apply my education in ways that will further my goals of environmental preservation and protection of human rights. I also intend to make the best of my incarceration and utilize my education to help my fellow prisoners with legal, educational and translation issues.

Your honor, I hope you can see that I have turned away from a path of destruction a long time ago. I accept the fact I will be imprisoned and will do in prison what I do out here-try to make the lives of those around me better. After all this is done, I hope to be released and continue positive activism in my community once again and be a good role model and uncle to my two nieces and a good husband to my wife Jenny.

I want to thank my family, friends and community for standing with me through this very difficult time.

Thank you

Jenny Synan's Statement on behalf of Husband Daniel 04.Jun.2007 23:17

Jenny Synan via Gumby

Your honor,

I would like to thank you for allowing me the time to say the most important words I have ever needed to say.

I met Daniel in May of 2002 in New York City. He was in town to visit his sister Lisa for her 35th birthday party. When we met I was in the middle of a particularly bad allergy season and it was pretty obvious I was suffering. After talking for a while that night, we decided to meet up the next day for our first official date. The following day, instead of bringing me flowers, Daniel greeted me with a bottle of allergy medicine. This example of unique thoughtfulness was the first of many more to come. Over the last 5 years, Daniel has displayed to me the kind of person he truly is. He is compassionate, loving, respectful, selfless, and he always admits when he is wrong.

Daniel is the closest person to me, as I am to him. While I would like to illustrate how Daniel has changed over the last few years, I feel this transformation had really already happened before I met him. When I read (reed) news articles or the government's briefs it's as if I'm reading about someone else. In all the time I have known him, I could never see Daniel participating in those actions today. I know he would never do anything to intentionally hurt anyone. I don't even consider him militant or extreme. I am not an activist, nor do I consider myself as part of any movement, yet I respect his views and he always respects mine. He is an intelligent person who has always been willing to see things from other people's perspectives. I am a smoker and have been one for years. Daniel has never smoked a cigarette in his life and has a definite aversion to them, but he has accepted that is my choice and has not forced his beliefs on me. He is open to opposing ideas, open to new perspectives, and most importantly open to change.

I come from an upper middle class family and have a respectable education. I have always considered myself a fairly intelligent and compassionate person, but I have learned a lot about compassion from Daniel. Before I met Daniel, I thought one's intentions were adequate enough to make one a good person, an exemplary citizen in our society. If you donate to charities and give a homeless person money once in a while, you were doing good. One thing I had never even considered was stepping outside of that comfort zone. Before Daniel, I had never heard of the concept of prisoner support. My first thought of this had been "Why would I spend my time and effort for people that did something bad?" Looking back, I am embarrassed that I had such an ignorant and callous perspective on it. The idea that people in prison should be treated with love and support had never actually occurred to me. My assumption was that they did something illegal and something that hurt someone else so they didn't deserve anything from me- or anything at all. I have been amazed at the care and dedication Daniel has put into trying to make other people's lives better. He has done this through his work to support Jeff Luers and he has also contributed to others by writing letters to complete strangers. I admire this about Daniel and have never met anyone else in my life so selfless who spends so much time in order to help the lives of others. This, of course, extends way beyond political realms. This is Daniel in his personal life.

I used to just put all my recycling together somewhat sloppily and in the garbage and recycling room in my building. But Daniel would take time to separate out those things that were worth money for the return deposit and bring them outside around the corner to the machines where the homeless people in my neighborhood could use them. I don't know a single person who has ever done that, let alone think about doing it.

The day that Daniel was arrested I felt such shock and anxiety that there are moments of that day I can't quite remember. I do remember how gut wrenching the whole experience was and feeling so afraid that Daniel was going through pain and was feeling utterly hopeless and alone. I had no idea what was going on or why he had been arrested until the hearing on the following day. When I heard the prosecution say that I may lose the most important person in my life forever, I felt completely devastated. I was confused and angry, I felt helpless because I was not able to say anything or do anything to let everyone know who Daniel really was. Even now, it's impossible to entirely convey all the wonderful things about him.

Following his arrest, I never once asked Daniel whether he did or did not do what he was being accused of. It's not that I don't have a problem with people committing crimes, it is that I knew what kind of a person Daniel was and I had every bit of confidence in his character. If he was indeed guilty, I knew that he had changed and that the time would come when he could explain it to me. I know everything about how he lives his life today. We have seen each other almost daily since the day we met. For over 5 years, I have seen the person that Daniel is very clearly. About a year ago, we had our first frank conversation about Daniel's involvement in these actions. He told me what had happened and of his deep regrets. Initially I was incredibly hurt that he hadn't previously told me about it. This was a severe blow to the trust I have always had for him. I thought that he should've been able to put full trust in me and in our relationship. He told me that he did not want me to be involved with his terrible mistakes from the past. We have both been working on all of our issues together and how we can move forward. Daniel began therapy while on house arrest and has been committed to the sessions and getting himself to a good place mentally. This is where he has gone through a lot of dealing with the past. I can see how much he regrets his actions just by looking at him everyday.

Daniel has talked to me about how he felt about these actions. He has talked to me about how much he regrets everything he did and how it terribly it affected all of the people involved. If he could go back and change those years he spent in the Northwest, he would. I would like to say to the victims that despite what you know about Daniel from his crimes against you, despite how much he hurt you, I hope my words can convey to you that he is NOT that person now and that can mean something to you. I too am sorry you were harmed and frightened. In a much smaller way, I now know how horrible that feels.

Aside from working on his emotional growth, over the last year and a half Daniel has continued to work at both his job and school. His boss at womenslaw allowed him to pick up where he left off, first while at home on house arrest and up to now back in the office. Last summer Daniel accumulated more credits for his acupuncture degree by taking two intensive classes. He was excited about continuing to feed his passion for learning an alternative way to help others. Most recently Daniel was accepted into a challenging masters program that will be completed while in prison. The application process was taxing but he got through it, in part by his dedication to making the very most out of his time incarcerated. I have witnessed Daniel spend many hours recently working on the first quarter of his program. He has spent time meeting with potential mentors and professors and set up a special education group - a group of friends in graduate programs or with graduate degrees - to help guide him through the process.

I've also been fortunate to experience the time he has spent time with his father since Daniel's arrest. Today they are closer than they have ever been. This has also brought our families together, they've gotten to know each other and have developed relationships. It pains Daniel that he has put myself and his family through so much. I have seen him breakdown in a stream of apologetic tears, but I have also seen a lot of strength in him during this time - the ability to accept his own personal responsibility and face the consequences, however difficult they are. He has had a tremendous amount of courage in dealing with his ghosts. I know that this courage has in part come from us - his friends and family - who will be here for him to the end. These relationships mean the world to him now, and they always have.

For the two of us, this has been the ultimate test of our relationship. Neither one of us ever saw marriage as something we were interested in. This all changed after Daniel's arrest. We decided to get married because we wanted to go through everything together and be there for each other for better or for worse. I am so thankful that we made that decision and that we were able to celebrate with our first year together.

Your honor, I kindly yet desperately ask for your fairness in Daniel's case. I am about to lose my partner and lose the life that I know, for more years than I can bear to think about. Please consider my words and understand that Daniel is not just a good person, he is an exceptional human being who has contributed positively to so many people's lives. He made some terrible choices in his past and he and I both know there is a price to pay. He has moved on to making the kind of choices that reflect his true character. I beg you to please consider all of these things.

Thank you for allowing me this time to speak.

--Jenny Synan

This is sickening 05.Jun.2007 08:38


Sickening. Not Daniel, but the fact that he is expected to recite drivel like this in exchange for the possibility of getting some of his own life back.

"Path of destruction"? He's turned away from a "path of destruction"? HE was not the one tearing out the forests and planting GE trees that threatened the very fibre of life. I guess when your actions are motivated by greed, it is legal. But when they are motivated by principle, then you are a terrorist.

He has nothing to apologize for, other than perhaps sucking up to the government like this and pretending that it is what he did that was a crime, rather than what he was preventing. I cannot say, though, that I would not have done the same thing under the circumstances. He has a family he loves, and a life that he deserves to have. And the system is allowed to just take that from him if he does not jump through the right hoops in this dog and pony show. He weighed it out and took this road. But he did not turn in his comrades, and that is what is important.

I support Daniel, and will write to him in prison. But I will also fight against a system that would make a man kneel like this before it for the crime of caring about the earth, even as it allows others to strip the last forests from the tender skin of the planet and reach their filthy, money grubbing hands deep into our very gene pool in order to extract more wealth.

yeah, pretty sad 05.Jun.2007 21:30


pretty bad that the establishment is innocent.

Destruction of the environment is ok?

Now this man is made to grovel.

sick of this s--t! 06.Jun.2007 10:36


It makes me crazy that Scooter Libby gets 30 months and Daniel McGowan 7 years. The prison industry loves it - more money for them.
I went to hear Sasha Abramsky speak at Powell's and this industry is absolutely bi-partisan. We are killing the souls of our own people.