Court Report September 10, 2007
2.Government's Opening statements
3.Defense Opening Statements
4.First Government Witness
5.Anna to testify
6.Vegan food for Eric
Yesterday (Monday) was was the first day of Eric's trial. The morning was taken up by jury selection and then a break for lunch. After lunch we heard both sides' opening statements and the first prosecution witness.
To select jurors the judge asked them a variety of questions about their background and whether or not they could be fair and impartial as jurors.
The most notable question was when the judge asked the jurors if they were members of PETA, the ALF or the ELF, if they were supporters or if anyone they knew are members or supporters. After the judge finished questioning the jurors, the lawyers were allowed to do their peremptory challenges, the process that allows each side to dismiss a set amount of jurors without cause. Twelve jurors (7 men and 5 women) and two alternates (men) were instructed on their obligations as jurors and empaneled and then the court recessed for lunch.
Government's Opening Statements
After lunch the US Attorney Steve Lapham began his opening arguments, which he describes as a preview of the government's case. The US Attorney (USA) began his preview with the words "this case is about an ecoterror plot to use fire and explosives to attack targets in Northern California". He said that Eric was the leader of this conspiracy and that he recruited the three, pumped them up and provide "philosophical indoctrination". Not long after that he described the ELF, which he claims Eric is a part of, as a "leaderless resistance". He then went on to describe "Anna" as "a person who managed to make friendships and acquaintances in the anarchist and radical ecoterror movement". "Anna" apparently turned 21 last month. According to the government, Anna's involvement with the FBI began in 2003 when Anna was 17 year old sophomore at a community college in Florida. She decided to do an undercover project infiltrating a group of people preparing for the FTAA protest in Miami. Allegedly, an investigator who was enrolled in her class was impressed by her report which he showed his supervisor. His supervisor apparently offered her work for "over a year attending protests where illegal activities were expected to take place". The US Attorney claims that she believed she was done after that, but then was called up by the FBI in Philadelphia and asked if she would work undercover at the biotech protest in Philadelphia in 2005. The US Attorney talked about her interactions with Eric at Biotech in Philly, Crimethinc in Bloomington and Pointless fest in Philly during the summer of 2005. The USA said that the conspiracy began over the course of these three events. The USA said that Eric, Zach, Lauren and Anna came out to California in November of 2005 to discuss their alleged bombing campaign. Anna bought Lauren a plane ticket to California. The USA says that to convict someone of a conspiracy they have to prove these three elements:
1)that there is an agreement between two or more people to do something
that the law forbids
2)became a member of the conspiracy knowing its object and intending to
3)that there was an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy
The USA says Eric/Zach/Lauren/Anna talked about claiming their action for the ELF and going underground afterwards. The USA states that Anna furnished the three with recipes to make explosives, but that they were fake recipes and could never have made an explosives device "the FBI would never give them a real one". USA said they planned go down to an "anarchist commune" in Fresno but that the FBI didn't want to "lose control" of them, so she got them a cabin in Dutch Flat wired by the FBI with audio/video bugging devices. USA discussed how Anna introduced the "burn book" to the group. This was supposed to be a book where they could write down all their ideas, that would get burned at the end. USA says that Zach and Lauren downloaded google maps to look at satellite photos of possible targets and that this was one of the overt acts. USA says another overt act was boiling bleach in a pyrex container that eventually broke.
This was allegedly to make explosives from Anna's fake bomb recipe. USA says they targeted Nimbus Dam. He says they visited it to do reconnaissance but "I believe they looked at the Dam and decided they did not have the wherewithal to do it". He also said they target unspecified cell phone towers and power stations and the Institute of Forestry Genetics (IFG). USA says they visited IFG and used fake names and a fake stories to get a tour and do reconnaissance. Then USA said it was "important to talk about why this case comes to a termination when it does".
According to him this was a series of three "stressful" events. The first is that they got pulled over by the CHP and she was afraid her cover was going to be blown. The second is that Eric found a small recording device in her car attached to her tape player, though she was able to convince him it was just a component of her car. Apparently the final decisive incident was that Anna had an argument after a pyrex bowl in which the 4 boiled bleach broke. The stress of the day caused a huge argument with the other three because she felt they were not moving fast enough and did not have a plan. This led to her leaving the house for two hours and telling her FBI handlers that she was through. Apparently they convinced her to go back for one more night and agreed to end the operation and arrest Eric, Lauren and Zach.
Defense Opening Statements
"What is essential is often invisible to the eye"
Mark Reichel, attorney for Eric McDavid, began his brief opening statement with the above quote from the French children's story "The Little Prince". He went on to explain to the jury that they had been hearing the government's version of the facts, but to grasp the true story they would have to look at these facts in context and approach this case from a different perspective. Nothing exists in a vacuum and we have to know what has gone on before. He compared Eric, Lauren and Zach to tumbleweeds, saying that there has to be a powerful, horrific force at work to keep them on the same path. He said that the true beginning of
the story was in August 04, when Anna met Eric. The jury, Mark said, would have to focus on intent - where it came from and whose it was.
Where does everything originate?
First Government Witness
The government's first witness was Bruce David Naliboff, a Lt. of criminal investigation with the Yolo County District Attorney's office since 2002. He was a police officer for 20 years before that, with 16 years on the UC Davis police force. His testimony consisted primarily of information he had gleaned about the ALF, ELF and anarchism from surfing the internet and putting thing in binders since 1997. Mark moved to bar his testimony because it was prejudicial but was denied by the judge. Then Mark moved to bar his testimony because he his testimony was about what the "ultimate truth" of the case was about - which experts are not allowed to do because that is for the jury to decide. The judge denied Mark's motion again, stating that Naliboff was not an expert. This, despite the fact that after much debate Judge England seemed to have decided at last Friday's hearing that Naliboff was an expert (at the hearing he said, in reference to Naliboff being an expert "if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck..."). When cross examined by Mark, Naliboff admitted that one did not have to be an anarchist to be vegan or be a criminal to be an anarchist. He also described discussing his testimony with the prosecutor and the FBI agent the day before and receiving instruction from them. He originally said that to law enforcement "direct action means illegal activity". He later clarified that by saying "in my mind it is a misdemeanor crime to further your cause". He was very reticent to define anarchism after Mark asked him about famous anarchists and veganism and finally described it as "a people's philosophical way of life".
Anna to testify
It was revealed in court yesterday that Anna was supposed to testify today. But then the government revealed that they had 13 pages of notes from Anna that they claim they have never heard about or seen. The USA said that Anna thought she had gotten rid of them, but then just found them on her computer. The notes cover some of the periods of time when Anna says Eric made incriminating statements that cannot be corroborated by any electronic surveillance. This delayed Anna's testimony until Tuesday, September 11.
Vegan Food For Eric
Please continue to call the jail and politely insist that Eric be given vegan meals. We have been told that Sgt. Ilg is responsible for the decision to deny Eric food. You may want to request to speak to him when you call.
Apparently the jail has been telling people a variety of stories that range from "Eric is getting commissary" to "no one is getting commissary". These statements are both false. Eric has money in his commissary account and was inexplicably denied access to commissary while others received it. Do not be deterred by lies. Just request that the jail resume giving Eric vegan meals immediately and resume his access to commissary.