Hot Action, a post running on wwire each Tuesday that aims to explore political action and activists, debuts this week with Lauren Regan, director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Eugene, Oregon.
Regan works on the legal team defending Joyanna Zacher, Nathan Block, Daniel McGowan and Jonathan Paul. Those four people pled guilty to arson and conspiracy charges last week in Eugene as part of an ongoing federal “eco-sabotage” case, involving 13 members of the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front.
The arsons, at venues such as the Vail Ski Resort in Colorado and the Cavel West meatpacking plant in Redmond, took place in four Western states from 1996 and 2001, causing an estimated $30 million in property damage—but no harm to human life.
Between court appearances and a multitude of meetings, Regan found a little time to chat with us by phone about arson and integrity.
WW: Why did Zacher, Block, McGowan and Paul change their pleas to ‘guilty' when they originally said they were not involved in these crimes?
Lauren Regan: I can't speak for them individually, but generally I can say that they chose to accept responsibility as long as accepting responsibility did not mean informing on others and cooperating with the federal government. Their co-defendants became federal informants almost immediately. In a nutshell, they basically wanted this to be the end of this investigation. The informants have given a lot of information about people and movements that does not necessarily have a direct connection to this case. All four definitely did admit in open court that they participated in the arsons that they were accused of.
Three months ago, it looked like contesting the government's warrantless wiretaps in this case could change the whole outlook. Why did you and your clients ultimately decide not to pursue this challenge?
Initially, the government admitted that they didn't know if there had been any illegal wiretap involved in this investigation. After months of negotiating, [the defendants] agreed to withdraw the NSA [National Security Agency] motion in exchange for the government accepting any change of plea. They basically got the same outcomes as the non-cooperating defendants as those that were offered to the cooperating defendants. The non-cooperating defendants will get 18 months more. In essence, there's an 18-month tax for not becoming a snitch, which these defendants were more than happy to accept in order to keep their integrity and their ethical views intact.
No one has yet been charged with “terrorism” in this case. Is that likely to change?
No one has been charged with terrorism, but the government will be seeking a terrorism enhancement for all defendants and we're going to fight like hell to oppose that. The government is seeking this enhancement, in my opinion, not because they're seeking to increase the potential jail time (even though it can enhance it up to 20 years). We believe the government is seeking this enhancement because that way they can say, ‘we haven't caught any real terrorists—Osama or anything—but we did catch these ‘eco-terrorists' in the Northwest.' JULIE SABATIER
Check out Hot Action, WWire's weekly post about activists, demonstrations and other hot political action in and around Portland every Tuesday.
UPCOMING HOT ACTION EVENTS
Tuesdays in November
First Amendment Screenings
Proper Eats Café is hosting three film screenings about Hot Actions past and present during the month of November. Films include “Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World” about the toxic long-term effects of aspartame, and “Buried in the Backyard,” a documentary that looks at home-built bomb shelters and the people who love them. November 14, 21 and 28 at 7 pm at Proper Eats Cafe and Store, N Lombard and N Alta Streets, across from Saint Johns Theater. For more information go to www.propereats.org
Thursday, Nov. 16
Nigerian Human Rights Advocate Speaks at PSU
Omoyele Sowore has been imprisoned eight times and tortured for promoting democracy in Nigeria. He will speak about the human impact of corporate oil interests in Nigeria. 6 pm, November 16th Smith Center Ball Room at PSU. Free.
Friday, Nov. 17-Sunday, Nov. 19
Students for a Democratic Society Conference
Students for a Democratic Society, one of the largest and most vocal campus protest groups of the 1960s, reformed at the beginning of 2006. A sister organization, Movement for a Democratic Society, was also created for those who did not consider themselves students. The first Northwest SDS/MDS conference will be held at Reed and Lewis & Clark College this weekend. For more information, go to http://www.newsds.org/nwregional.
Thursday, Dec. 7
National Day of Solidarity for “Green Scare” Defendants
On the first anniversary of the day the FBI began arresting people in connection with “Operation Backfire,” folks will be organizing rallies, teach-ins, film screenings and other actions. Find out more at www.greenscare.org.