Eric McDavid's Codefendants Sentenced
Jenson and Weiner receive time served
On December 4, 2008, Zachary Jenson was sentenced to probation (with 6 months time served) for his conviction on a single count of Conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. Jenson's conviction was the result of a plea agreement with the government, which he signed on July 18, 2006 - 6 months after his arrest. In signing this plea agreement, Jenson agreed to full cooperation with the government against his co-defendant, Eric McDavid, as well as full cooperation in any and all investigations in which the government deemed him useful (his plea agreement is attached). The scope of his cooperation is unclear, and as such, anyone in contact with Jenson should assume that he is still working for the government.
During the sentencing hearing, the prosecutor (Steve Lapham) was as amiable as I had ever seen him be. He started by claiming that the government had not filed a sentencing memorandum (which normally would have carried their recommendation to the judge for sentencing) because they were leaving it up to the judge's "good judgment." He spoke repeatedly about Eric, claiming that Eric - not Jenson - was the leader (a point which a number of juror's would disagree with, according to juror declarations filed after trial, which claimed that Anna, not Eric, was the leader). He said the government was incredibly impressed with the way Jenson had turned his life around, and that it was their position that jail time was not necessary for rehabilitation purposes. He did, however, express uncertainty about the issue of deterrence, claiming that not giving Jenson jail time might send the wrong message to others. After hesitance from the judge about the issue of sentencing disparity between co-defendants and others with similar charges, Lapham again claimed that Jenson was less of a participant, and noted the age disparity between Jenson and Eric - which he claimed might be the basis for a sentencing disparity.
Jenson's lawyer, Shari Rusk, claimed that there were not supposed to be "unwarranted" sentencing disparities, but that probation was not unwarranted in Jenson's case because he has a different background and character than the other defendants, a different level of participation in the offense, and because of his outstanding post-offense conduct. She claimed that no one was more aware of the gravity of the offense than Jenson, and that Jenson himself would have an effect on deterrence through his writing (Jenson claims to be writing a book on his experiences - according to his sentencing memorandum "Mr. Jenson's talents and abilities are much better served by his writing and speaking about the corruption of the movement that he was part of and steering other young people away from that path. He is precisely in a position to reach out and help save someone like himself. His experience gives him credibility with young people attracted by these movements and he could, perhaps, avert a similiar [sic] situation from reprising itself.").
Judge England noted that the acts with which Jenson was charged were "extremely violent" and that they could have caused a great deal of harm to "property and human life" (in that order, of course). He didn't want to make it seem like you could get away with these thought crimes just because you were young.
After brief statements from Jenson's mother, third party custodian, and girlfriend, Jenson himself made a statement in which he claimed that he was very remorseful, that his actions were immature and naïve, and that he "pretty much wants nothing more" to do with the life he led 3 years ago.
England pressed him to clarify the "pretty much" statement, and Jenson said he wants "absolutely nothing" to do with the life he led 3 years ago.
England concluded by saying that consequences for your actions are important, and that there is a need to deter, but this was a unique situation. He said he is impressed by Jenson and that he is glad Jenson is now "doing things within society's bounds and norms." He gave Jenson credit for 6 months time served, probation for 60 months, and supervised release for 3 years.
Lauren Weiner was sentenced on December 11, 2008. Weiner pled guilty in open court on May 30, 2006, but was cooperating with the state by January 21, 2006 - a week after her arrest. She received bail within days of her arrest- a luxury that was not afforded Jenson until 6 months after his arrest, and one which Eric never received. As with Jenson, the scope of her cooperation is unclear, and as such, anyone in contact with her should assume that she is still working for the government.
Weiner's sentencing was incredibly similar to that of Jenson's. The government was making the same arguments as to rehabilitation (that she didn't need any) and deterrence (that jail time might be warranted to get it). They were arguing, however, that her culpability fell somewhere in between that of Jenson and McDavid, which might be grounds for a harsher sentence. The prosecutor also claimed that the big problem with ELF/ALF is that they put ideas out there, tell people how to do it, tell them to take responsibility on behalf of ELF on nameless sites, then fade into the woodwork and don't bear any of the responsibility.
Her lawyer (Jeffrey Weiner) claimed that Lauren's "brave and smart" early cooperation should be rewarded (she cooperated much earlier than Jenson - although the government claimed that Jenson indicated early on his willingness to cooperate but that the delay was due to the government's deciding whether or not they wanted participation from either Jenson or Weiner). He later stated that giving Weiner jail time would be counterproductive to the message of early cooperation (and its rewards, of course). He rambled on and on about her cooperation and how appreciated it was by the prosecution and the FBI. Lauren Weiner met with agent after agent; did a debrief in NY'; met with three special agents (as well as the prosecutor, etc) and supervisors to identify photos, different places she went, etc. Her sentencing memo stated, "Lauren also cooperated with other FBI and law enforcement agents who flew in to meet with her in Sacramento and in New York where she assisted in identifying individuals involved in the "movement" and provided other information. Her cooperation was extensive, immediate and truthful. Lauren's cooperation even extended to a local New York State investigation in which Lauren assisted law enforcement on an unrelated matter."
Jeffrey Weiner also claimed that people from the ELF visited Weiner during her time in Sac County Jail and tried to pressure her to not cooperate, offered to help her pay for a lawyer, etc. He said when he came to Weiner's hearings and saw her parents talking to "these people" that he told them to stop. He went on to say that "they" had been at all of Weiner's subsequent appearances in an attempt to pressure her.
He thanked the judge, the magistrate judge who granted her bail, the FBI, the prosecution. He claimed that Lauren Weiner is not "anti-business, anti-establishment, anti-anything" - she now operates her own place of business - the Sunflour Café in Sleepy Hollow, New York. Her lawyer apparently pressured her into talking to reporters about the case numerous times, and she always told them that it had destroyed her life and that they shouldn't get involved. Apparently Lauren Weiner has already spoken with young people about her experiences.
Weiner called two witnesses during the hearing - the director of a program for the homeless for which she has been volunteering, and a psychiatrist which was hired by her attorney to do an independent evaluation as to why Weiner "became involved." The director of the volunteer group spoke about Weiner's character, her willingness to join society, her reformation, and her newfound entrepreneurship. The psychiatrist spoke repeatedly about Weiner's lack of self-identity, her naiveté, and her bad social judgment at the time of her arrest. Since her release, Weiner's psychiatrist has prescribed her a full regimen of drugs - anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication, and mood stabilizers. The psychiatrist claimed that Weiner now has a sense of identity, an ability to say no, and that she is no longer depressed or traumatized. She claims Weiner has changed her social network , that she is more grounded and realistic, and has a better sense of who to trust (!). The psychiatrist remarked that Weiner now views her arrest as one of the best things to happen to her in her life. She is a law-abiding, productive citizen. She has suffered the punishment of putting her family through public humiliation, a felony conviction, and threats online. Incarceration would only emphasize her separation from society and would not allow her to continue her treatment.
Weiner made a short statement herself at the end of the hearing. She said she was sorry, that she is not the same person she was three years ago, and that she apologizes for all of it.
In the end, Judge England again noted the need for punishment and deterrence. He agreed that Lauren is more culpable than Zach, but went on to commend her on everything she has done since her arrest. He said she is an outstanding citizen. England then said if there are things you don't agree with there are appropriate ways to deal with it. For every action outside the norms of society there will be repercussions. He then gave her time served, 5 months home detention (only out for employment and approved activities), and electronic monitoring (she pays costs). She also received 3 years of supervised release.
Tying it all up
When Jenson and Weiner pled in 06, they pled to a lesser offense than the one Eric was charged with - an offense which carried only a 5 year max, instead of the 20 the original offense carried. Obviously, there would automatically be a huge disparity between their sentences and the 19 years and 7 months that Eric received for his alleged participation in the alleged conspiracy. While we firmly believe that no one should be in prison - especially for bogus charges stemming from what amounts to "thought crime" - the difference in Jenson's and Weiner's sentences and Eric's sentence is completely absurd. This is incredibly telling of the "values" inherent in the so-called criminal justice system. Jenson and Weiner sold their souls (and their friends) to the state.
In a declaration to the court, Jenson wrote, "I have learned that the love of the spirit is far more potent and valuable than the despair and selfishness of the anarchist movement. I have learned that every human being, no matter any distinction, deserves the utmost respect and compassion. During the time I was a part of the movement, I was among peers who accepted and loved me. I found validation and security among these people. However, I would later learn after pleading guilty, after getting away from them to have my own thoughts, that these people accept you for your ideology rather than your essential self. To turn against the ideology of the movement means ostracism and exile. I learned that these people are egotistical, divisive, and short-sighted, and don't consider people that don't help or fit into their ideology. I realized I don't want to be a part of this if it entails hate and anger against others. Thus, I can't consider them my friends anymore after rejecting me for wanting to live my life for myself and not for them." It is quite curious that someone who has acted so selfishly could point fingers at others and accuse them of the same. It is quite strange that someone who has committed the ultimate act of betrayal (of themselves and their friends) could so unblinkingly write of "the love of the spirit." It seems that his love of the spirit is only potent enough to include his own.
In the end, we must remember that while Jenson and Weiner may be free to roam in time and space - this is not the freedom our hearts desire. They paid a great price for his this particular brand of freedom - their integrity, their ideals, their sense of self, and Eric - because Eric is paying for their freedom. But this is not freedom in it's truest sense - although that's what they want us to believe. Their lives are not their own. They have been sculpted and molded by the "bounds and norms" of the state. They have made that Faustian bargain and paid for their lives outside a cage with dishonesty and treachery.
Eric knows freedom. He knows what it means to struggle and to love and to hold on to all that makes him who he is. His life and the choices he's made are his own, and those things can't be taken away.
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