Another Appeal Filed Claiming AETA is Unconstitutional

In a 115-page brief filed on May 9, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) attorney Rachel Meeropol seeks to convince the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) is unconstitutional. A previous CCR case challenging the AETA as a violation of free speech on behalf of five activists (Blum v. Holder) was dismissed by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014. A request for the U.S. Supreme Court to review that decision was denied. CCR also argued the AETA was unconstitutional in defense of Kevin Olliff (aka Johnson) and Tyler Lang. The federal court in Chicago rejected that argument, and Olliff and Lang were tried and convicted of AETA conspiracy. They entered non-cooperating guilty plea agreements, which did not waive their right of appeal.

Court House News Service reports Meeropol said it is irrational to punish nonviolent property damage as terrorism, and her clients have a liberty interest in avoiding being labeled terrorists when they have committed no violent crime. "Designating people who release animals — in order to save them from being killed and made into coats — as terrorists is not only preposterous, it is unconstitutional." "This criminalizes all interstate animal rights advocacy," Meeropol wrote, and "reach[es] a vast amount of protected speech and expressive conduct."

Two previous and similar challenges questioning the constitutionality of the AETA have failed.  Please continue to check your email for NABR's member newsletter, the NABR Update, or visit www.NABR.org for updates on this issue.

Newsweek Profiles Convicted Animal Rights Extremists

On March 23, Newsweek published a report about the conviction under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) of Kevin Johnson (a.k.a. Olliff) and Tyler Lang, “Mink on the Run: Animal 'Terrorists' Smacked by Federal Prosecutors.”

The article outlines the events leading to the arrest and prosecution of Johnson and Lang, including the release of 2,000 mink and the aftermath of their attack.  Not only were dozens of the released mink killed by roadway traffic, but the victims were forced to close their business and lost their retirement savings.  Unfortunately, the article does not include a statement from victims about the destruction of their business and minimizes the nature of the crimes committed by the pair, their criminal histories, and the evidence presented against them.

You will recall that 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. Johnson received a three-year prison sentence and was ordered to make a $200,000 restitution payment.

To read the Newsweek article, please click here.

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.