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NLG Calls "Terrorism Enhancement" Chilling to Free Speech

June 5, 2007 New York. The National Lawyers Guild calls the terrorism sentencing enhancement issued to Daniel McGowan yesterday an unnecessary and excessive government tactic to discourage the exercise of free speech. U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken sentenced McGowan to seven years in prison, calling one of the fires an act of terrorism because of a communication issued after the first that referred to potential legislation aimed at activists (which would indicate an attempt to influence the government). Ten activists plead guilty to committing property crimes-most of which were arsons-that carry average sentences ranging from 5-8 years in prison. The terrorism enhancement, Section 3A1.4 of federal Sentencing Guidelines, can add 20 years to each of the sentences laid out in the plea agreements. Formal sentencing began on May 22 and continued through today.

National Lawyers Guild Executive Director Heidi Boghosian says, "Is this what a terrorist is? Applying terrorism enhancement to property crimes where the perpetrators went out of their way to minimize the risk to human life makes little sense as a matter of law or common sense. Americans know the different between Daniel McGowan and Osama bin Laden, and this effort to subvert the fairness of the judicial system is an affront to the values they hold dear."

National Lawyer's Guild, NYC Chapter

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