Feds Across Country Move to Smash 'Eco-Terrorists'
In a variety of cases stretching from one coast to the other, federal authorities in recent months have moved aggressively against radical environmental and animal rights activists accused of arsons, bombings, terrorism and other major crimes.
In March, a closely watched trial in New Jersey ended with the convictions of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) and six of its members for using the group's Web site to incite violence against people associated with Huntingdon Life Sciences, a firm that tests drugs on animals. Victims, who had personal information about them and their families posted on the Web site, testified that they had received death threats, seen their windows smashed and cars overturned, and had their children threatened, among other things. The six, who now face up to seven years in prison, were the first ever charged under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, a law that was amended in 2002 to include "animal enterprise terrorism."
SHAC, which had managed to frighten many other firms away from doing business with Huntingdon, was ordered to close its Web site by March 13.
One of those convicted was Kevin Kjonaas, who was president of SHAC until his indictment in the case in 2004. Jurors heard evidence that Kjonaas had made a call to Daniel Andreas San Diego just hours after San Diego allegedly bombed two California businesses in August 2003, although Kjonaas was not charged with any crimes in connection with the bombings. The FBI has offered a $250,000 reward for the arrest of San Diego, who has tattoos of burning buildings on his chest.
On Jan. 19, another major case was brought against 11 people accused of terrorist attacks in Oregon, Wyoming, Washington, California and Colorado on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). In a 65-count indictment returned by a grand jury in Oregon, the 11, who called themselves "The Family," are accused of 17 attacks, including sabotaging a high-tension wire and destroying a Vail, Colo., ski resort, in a $12 million arson.
Another person accused in the Vail arson, Arizona bookstore owner William C. Rodgers, committed suicide in jail shortly after being arrested late last year.
Also in January, the FBI arrested three people in California who they said were plotting to blow up power plants, cell phone towers and other targets on behalf of the ELF. Those three and a fourth person who was a government informant stayed for several days just before their arrests in a cabin that the FBI had rigged with recording equipment. Prosecutors alleged one of the suspects had suggested that they add anti-personnel shrapnel to their planned bombs, while a second allegedly warned the informant that he would be killed if he were with law enforcement.
In February, in an unrelated case, federal agents in San Diego, Calif., arrested Rodney Coronado, a well-known radical who had served four years in the 1990s for burning down an animal testing lab. Coronado gave a speech in 2003 in San Diego in which he explained how to start arson fires. His lecture came 15 hours after an unknown arsonist set a $50 million fire that destroyed a huge apartment complex just a few miles from where he was speaking. The ELF took credit for the attack.
Coronado, described as national leader of the ELF, was charged under a rarely used 1997 law making it a crime to describe how to make a destructive device with the intent that those listening commit a federal crime. Coronado could face 20 years in prison if convicted. He also faces up to seven years in another recent case, in which he was convicted of interfering in an effort to relocate Colorado mountain lions.