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Activist Peter Young pleads not guilty to domestic terror charges
by foa
Thursday May 26th, 2005 9:53 AM
Be sure to attend the SF: EMERGENCY GRAND JURY TEACH-IN, Tuesday May 31st, 7pm. Details below.
Activist Peter Young pleads not guilty to domestic terror charges

Tuesday May 24th, 2005, 3:10 PM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - An animal rights activist pleaded not guilty Tuesday to domestic terrorism charges that he freed mink from Midwestern farms in 1997, causing thousands of dollars in damage and spreading fear through the nation's fur farmers.

Peter Daniel Young, 27, made the plea in U.S. District Court in Madison as he appeared for the first time on the charges after eluding authorities for more than seven years.

Judge Theresa M. Owens ordered Young held without bail, saying he is "a flight risk and danger to the community."

Investigators say Young is part of the Animal Liberation Front, a radical group that aims to destroy animal-related industries. An FBI official said last week ALF and similar groups are the nation's top domestic terrorism threat.

Prosecutors say Young and accomplice Justin Samuel set out to cripple the fur industry in 1997, freeing more than 7,000 mink from their cages at five farms in Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

The two were indicted in 1998 on four counts of interference with commerce by threat or violence and two counts of animal enterprise terrorism. Young, originally of Mercer Island, Wash., faces 82 years in prison.

Authorities in 1999 picked up Samuel, who agreed to cooperate in exchange for a two-year prison sentence. Young was a fugitive until March when he was arrested on a shoplifting charge after stealing some CDs from a Starbucks in San Jose, Calif.

Authorities extradited Young on Monday to Wisconsin, the nation's largest mink producing state.

Young said nothing during his court appearance but smiled and waved at more than 30 supporters as he left the crowded courtroom. Sympathizers have started a Web site to raise money for his defense (

Teresa Platt, executive director of Fur Commission USA, a trade association for mink farmers in 28 states, said the attacks terrorized Midwestern farmers.

"It's really sad that he made one bad decision after another and compounded it with fleeing for eight years," she said. "He has thrown his life away. As one of my farmers said, he has succeeded in simply caging himself."

Platt noted that ALF claimed responsibility for releasing 58 pens of foxes from a farm in Illinois in April to show solidarity with Young. She urged farmers to be vigilant.

Defense lawyer Chris Kelly, who entered the plea of not guilty, criticized federal prosecutors after the hearing "for seriously misusing the word terrorism."

"What's been charged here isn't close to flying a plane into a building," he said.

Bob Anderson, an assistant U.S. attorney, said Young committed "an act of terrorism" by trying to impose his will on others by using violence. He said the crime spree cost farmers $569,000 in lost livestock and other damages.

Anderson said the prosecution will send a "message to persons either considering these actions or perpetrating these actions that this is not a legitimate form of free expression."

"Sometimes there's a cost to being a folk hero," Anderson said.

Mary Ann Sveom, an animal rights activist from Beloit, said the "government is overreaching in this particular case." She said the case was about "the cruelty of mink farming," not terrorism.


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