SF Bay Area Indymedia indymedia
About Contact Subscribe Calendar Publish Print Donate

East Bay | Animal Liberation

Feds Want Animal Rights Activist in Jail
by repost from NJ Star Ledger
Wednesday Sep 8th, 2004 11:24 AM
Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to jail a leader of the indicted animal rights group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, contending the man incited vandalism against a biotech executive's California home.
Feds want animal rights activist in jail

Ex-Jersey man's lawyer denies he incited violence against home of biotech executive

Tuesday, September 07, 2004
BY JOHN P. MARTIN
Star-Ledger Staff

Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to jail a leader of the indicted animal rights group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, contending the man incited vandalism against a biotech executive's California home.

In a motion filed with U.S. District Judge Mary Cooper in Trenton, the prosecutors argue that the Aug. 15 attack at the Orinda, Calif., home of William Green flouted a bail provision banning the activists from committing crimes or contacting victims in the case. Green is general counsel to Chiron Corp., a business partner to Huntingdon Life Sciences, the lab testing company protesters want to shut down.

"There is clear and convincing evidence that the attack on Green's home was coordinated by SHAC-USA, and defendant (Kevin) Kjonaas -- as the president of SHAC -- is responsible for its activities," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles McKenna and Ricardo Solano argued in court filings.

The attorney for Kjonaas, 26, who moved earlier this year from New Jersey to California, called the motion baseless. Isabel McGinty said her client is no longer the organization's president and that neither he nor the group had a role in planning or participating in the California protest.

To jail him until his trial in January would be harsh, unfair and legally unsound, she contended in a reply filed Friday. "This is noise -- political noise, in a charged political season -- without any substance," she wrote.

The sparring is the first volley in what is likely to be a closely watched case as the trial nears.

After a nearly two-year investigation, Kjonaas and six other SHAC members were charged in May with conspiring to commit animal enterprise terrorism, a rarely prosecuted offense punishable by three years in prison. Authorities allege they had crossed the line from civil demonstration by repeatedly threatening and encouraging violence and vandalism against Huntingdon Life Sciences, its employees, clients and associates.

Based in Great Britain, Huntingdon operates a lab in Franklin Township, Somerset County, that uses thousands of rats, dogs and monkeys each year to conduct product safety tests for its clients, mostly drug and chemical firms.

The charges came amid what authorities say is a surge in militant animal rights activism. Last fall, pipe bombs exploded at Chiron and at Shakelee, another California firm with Huntingdon ties. Earlier this summer, the FBI warned the pharmaceutical industry to expect more attacks.

Members of SHAC have denied any wrongdoing, but claim success in pressuring some investors and clients to cut their ties with Huntingdon.

The defendants also have used the indictment to highlight their cause, and this summer launched a national speaking tour. Their attorneys say the trial could determine how far the government can go in policing activism.

The California incident started as a peaceful Sunday morning protest.

Nearly three dozen people descended on Green's neighborhood with signs and banners, according to police and media reports. Green was not home as the group chanted slogans and distributed literature to passersby.

Six or seven of the demonstrators, some wearing masks, then stormed into Green's back yard, smashed windows in his house and tried to flood the house using a garden hose, according to a sworn statement from a neighbor.

They also overturned garbage cans and spread trash on his lawn before fleeing. No arrests have been made in the case.

The government argues that SHAC used its Web site to promote the demonstration at Green's home, that protesters carried a banner displaying SHAC's Web site, passed out leaflets on SHAC stationery and that an organizer at the event had previously served as a SHAC spokesperson.

McGinty countered that the prosecution lacked any evidence for its claims. She said Kjonaas resigned as president of the group 13 days before the demonstration and she noted the protesters themselves said they were from a different group, the Animal Rights Direct Action Coalition.

She said the bail motion, and the indictment in general, was a stretch that would test the First Amendment.

"We note summarily that the Supreme Court case law presents a mammoth-sized obstacle, right in the middle of the road, as the government attempts to go forward with this case," she wrote.

The judge could rule on the bail motions as early as today.

John P. Martin covers federal courts and law enforcement. He can be reached at 973-622-3405 or at jmartin [at] starledger.com.