Two animal activists appeared with their attorney, in a federal court in Chicago this week, to complete their defense for the alleged release of thousands of mink and foxes from fur farms in the Midwest in 2013 in violation of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
Kevin Johnson, 27, and Tyler Lang, 25, face up to 10 years in prison for violating the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) “which criminalizes protected speech and protest activities that cause an ‘animal enterprise’ to lose profits,” reports commondreams.orgnews.
The men were indicted in July 2014 on federal charges of conspiracy and interstate travel to damage and interfere with the operations of an animal enterprise.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the government’s indictment stated the men released about 2,000 animals as they drove through Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois in August with plans to damage animal farms. In August 2013, the men released the animals from their cages and spray painted “LIBERATION IS LOVE” in red on the side of the barn in Morris, Ill. Some of the released animals were killed on the road. Many of the animals did survive and were subsequently trapped and returned to the farm.
Both men pleaded guilty to the state charges. Lang was sentenced to 30 months of probation; Johnson served a 30-month sentence in state prison. If convicted of federal charges, the men face ten years in a federal prison.
The AETA was passed eight-years ago in response to the pharmaceutical, fur and farming industries. Under the act,
“anyone who damages the property or the profit line of an animal business and who uses ‘interstate commerce’ such as a cellphone or the internet to carry out the action can be convicted of terrorism even though no violence is involved.”
And this past week, Rachel Meeropol, of the Center for Constitutional Rights, argued on behalf of the two men against the AETA stating the obscure 2006 law, is an inappropriate use of the concept of terrorism and threatens to stop free speech across the animal rights movement. This is the first time that the law, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), has been legally challenged as a violation of the United States constitution.
“These charges demean the definition of terrorism. They not only violate the defendants’ individual rights, but also serve to chill the first amendment rights of an entire movement,” said Rachel Meeropol in the Guardian.com.
In their blog, Support Kevin and Tyler.com stated:
“The Honorable Judge Amy St. Eve appears to be considering the matter in a genuinely balanced and thorough manner. It seems that she does not find terrorism to be an operative concept to describe the actions in this case. However, that is no indication that she will determine that AETA is unconstitutional. Statutes are rarely stricken down as unconstitutional at this district level within the federal court system.”
A decision is expected from the judge by March 25. The entire indictment can be read by clicking here.
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