Second Activist Sentenced in AETA Case

Tyler Lang, an animal rights activist from California, was sentenced Wednesday for his involvement in the 2013 raid of a fur farm in Morris, IL.  In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve called Tyler Lang's actions "counterproductive," noting that hundreds of the minks died and many others suffered.  Judge St. Eve sentenced Lang to three months time already served, six months of house arrest, six months community confinement and one year of supervised release. He is also required to make a $200,000 restitution payment to the farm operators.  "This is a very serious offense that caused a substantial loss to the victim. It wiped out their business and life savings," St. Eve said at Lang's sentencing hearing, reported the Chicago Tribune. "You destroyed their feelings of security and their trust of others, in addition to their business."

Lang and his partner in crime Kevin Johnson (a.k.a. Olliff) were on a cross-country journey to sabotage animal farms when they were stopped by police a few days after the Morris incident. They were arrested in possession of tools and masks while staking out a fox farm near Peoria, which they planned to sabotage as well, authorities said.  The pair was convicted of conspiracy under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA).  Last month, Johnson received a three-year prison sentence and was ordered to make a $200,000 restitution payment.  In a statement, Lang and Johnson's support team said "Tyler and Kevin's case should be a reminder to us all that we have to show each other love and support in the face of State oppression."

Animal Extremist Sentenced to Three Years and $200,000 in Restitution

In federal court Monday, February 29, Kevin Johnson was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay $200,000 in restitution to the fur farm owner victims of his sabotage, according to the Chicago Tribune.  Johnson, 29, pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiring to travel across state lines to interfere with the operations of an animal enterprise, a violation of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve said she was troubled by the "escalation" of Johnson's activism over the years and that previous stints behind bars had not seemed to deter him. She also noted that his actions on the mink farm caused suffering for many of the animals he professed to want to save. In all, more than 550 of the minks died, many painfully, the judge said.  The fur farm owners were forced to close their longstanding business and lost their retirement funds in the process. Before he was sentenced, Johnson choked back tears and apologized for the attack, saying he has finally realized after nearly a decade of arrests that committing criminal acts was not an acceptable form of protest.

“(Johnson) has stalked, stolen, harassed, and threatened to make his point," Assistant U.S. Attorney Bethany Biesenthal wrote in a court filing, "... his past shows an escalating dangerousness."  Records show Johnson has a long criminal record in California starting in 2006. Video from the protests depicted him screaming into a bullhorn outside Pom Wonderful executives' homes, threatening to harm them and their families, according to prosecutors. Three years later, Johnson was arrested after threatening UCLA professors over their use of animals in research. He later pleaded guilty to criminal stalking and served about 1 1/2 years in prison, prosecutors said.  In May 2012, five months after his release on parole, Johnson was arrested for shoplifting and inciting a riot, prosecutors said. Later that year he was arrested again for attempting to burglarize a pharmacy, and when authorities searched a laptop computer found in Johnson's car, they found personal information about scientific researchers and their families, according to prosecutors.

An accomplice, Tyler Lang of Los Angeles, also pleaded guilty last year to the same charge as Johnson.  Lang is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge St. Eve on March 23, 2016.

Two Plead Guilty to AETA Conspiracy Charges; Federal Prison Sentences and Nearly $400,000 in Restitution Expected

Two animal extremists pled guilty to federal criminal charges and entered plea agreements according to the San Diego Unit-Tribune.

Joseph Buddenberg and Nicole Kissane each admitted in San Diego federal court last week to conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). Prosecutors and defense lawyers reportedly plan to jointly recommend a two-year sentence for Buddenberg and six months for Kissane. The pair also admitted that their actions caused more than $100,000 in damage. They have agreed to pay $398,000 in restitution to several victims, including Furs By Graf, a San Diego business that was vandalized, and to seven mink farms and two other businesses around the country.

A previous AETA indictment of Buddenberg was ultimately dismissed for insufficient details.  The same cannot be said about the indictment in this case.  It is extremely thorough, documenting the pair’s four cross-country trips to terrorize fur farms as well as their financial dealings, including selling stolen goods on eBay to pay for their travels, among other pieces of evidence.  A long list of potential prosecution witnesses was also presented.

Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Pens Letter to Science on Researcher Harassment

On May 8, Steven Hyman, President of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) and SfN Committee on Animals in Research Chair Michael Goldberg submitted a letter to Science in response to the article, “Researcher Drops Primate Work.”  The letter was printed in the June 12 issue of Science.

The letter highlights the great value of humane animal research in the endeavor for medical progress in the fields of animal and human health.  Drs. Hyman and Goldberg write, “Research on animals, including non-human primates, provides the basis for breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer, heart disease, and devastating infectious diseases like HIV, Ebola, and influenza. Monkey research played a key role in the development of deep-brain stimulation for treating conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

Most importantly, Drs. Hyman and Goldberg point to the troubling and disruptive actions by extremist elements seeking to derail the hunt for cures and therapies.  “It is unacceptable that researchers worldwide are subject to harassment, threats of violence, illegal taping, and property damage, and we urge aggressive enforcement of laws that protect responsible research, scientific institutions, and scientists,” they write.  This behavior, they continued, “will only lengthen the time needed to better understand complex neural systems, which are crucial to find treatments more than 1,000 disorders.”

To read the letter, please click here.

ALF Destroys Animal Research-Related Trucks in Canada

Canadian Regional Police are investigating claims by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) that it is responsible for setting fire to two trucks in west Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto, over the weekend. In an anonymous email to the ALF Press Office, the organization says it planted incendiary devices under trucks belonging to Harlan Laboratories. The ALF claims Harlan is “owned” by longtime animal rights extremist target Huntingdon Life Sciences, and the company is responsible for supplying research animals and animal feed. Police received multiple calls about a loud bang, flash of light and heavy smoke just after 3 a.m. Sunday. Officers responded and located a transport truck fully engulfed and part of another in flames behind an industrial warehouse unit. Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze before it could spread to the warehouse. There were no injuries and no one was on scene when crews arrived, police report.

A photograph of the burning trucks and the full, anonymous email “communiqué” are available at this ALFPO link. The ALF message says in part, "This action was undertaken in order to eliminate this...company's means of transportation, to disrupt the systematic torture and murder of innocent animals, and to cause as much monetary damage as possible." The email also states, "Fortunately, news reports have said that the devices ignited successfully, damaging one truck and completely destroying the other. Our only regret is that the flames were extinguished before they had a chance to spread to Harlan’s offices."

Another Federal Court Upholds the AETA

On Wednesday, yet another federal court upheld the constitutionality of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), this time in a case where two animal rights extremists with a long history of targeting individuals involved in research are charged with violating the AETA for allegedly releasing mink from a farm in Illinois and conspiring to release foxes from another farm in Illinois.

This latest blow to the animal rights narrative that the AETA is unconstitutional represents a major setback to attorneys representing extremists, who have for years attempted to find a court willing to invalidate the law.

Judge Amy J. St. Eve, hearing the case for the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, was clear that the “AETA is directed at property damage, threats, and violence toward animal enterprises.”  She disagreed with the arguments of Kevin Johnson, a.k.a. Kevin Olliff, and Tyler Lang that the law criminalizes free speech, finding that the law’s history and rules of construction “unambiguously indicate that Congress did not intend for the AETA to infringe upon protected First Amendment speech.”

The court also rejected the argument that the law “targets animal rights activists for arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement” determining that “the AETA strikes a balance between protecting the First Amendment rights of activists and punishing the criminal conduct of extremists who target animal enterprises.”

The two extremists who are being charged under the AETA have a long history of targeting individuals involved in research in southern California and in 2011 and 2012, several research facilities obtained restraining orders against Tyler Lang for allegedly harassing their employees.  The two previously pleaded guilty to state charges of “possession of burglary tools” after wire cutters and other burglary tools were found during a traffic stop.  Tyler Lang is currently out on bail pending the outcome of the case, but his alleged accomplice, Kevin Johnson, remains in prison.

The judge’s decision that the law is constitutional is important to NABR members, as the AETA is a critical tool for law enforcement and is the only federal law specifically designed to protect individuals involved in research from threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass, harassment and intimidation.

The AETA was enacted by Congress in 2006 in response to threats and violence towards individuals involved in research and since its enactment, the frequency and severity of illegal actions in the U.S. has decreased significantly.

For more information about the AETA and the legal challenges to its constitutionality, please visit: http://www.nabr.org/history-of-the-legal-challenges-to-the-aeta/.

 

Australia May Turn to AETA-Like Law in Response to Criminal Acts by Animal Extremists

The Australian government could follow the United States’ example by enacting an Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) to address growing public concerns about animal rights extremists, according to FarmWeekly.com.au. Brisbane-based agribusiness lawyer Trent Thorne made the comment at an Australian Livestock Association meeting after a truck and trailer were recently set ablaze at a south-west Western Australian feedlot and a nearby building was vandalized with the words ‘Stop Live Export’ painted across it. That incident prompted Wellard Rural Exports to reveal a series of similar incidents involving activist-related activity, with the potential to cause serious injury or death.

“For the sake of clarity, I am not advocating the introduction of laws of this gravity in the Australian legal framework,” Thorne said, “but social license issues cut both ways.” He continued, “The live export industry is well placed to provide a first-hand account of what happens when you lose the confidence of parts of the wider population. . . if animal rights lobby groups don’t want to play by the rules expected by most fair minded citizens, donations to these groups will almost certainly dry up. And you can also be certain that consideration will be given to the implementation of these types of laws in the Australian context, to ensure people who are conducting their lawful business are not placed in jeopardy.”

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