Scott DeMuth Agrees to Plea Bargain in Midwest "Animal Terrorism" Case
Monday Sep 13th, 2010
Tuesday was supposed to be the beginning of a lengthy Green Scare trial in
Davenport, Iowa, seeking to find Scott DeMuth guilty of conspiracy to commit
animal enterprise terrorism in relation to an Animal Liberation Front action at
the University of Iowa. But on Monday afternoon in federal court, DeMuth agreed
to a deal on a different charge--calling off the trial and leaving the FBI
empty-handed on the 2004 animal experimentation facility raid.
Under the deal, DeMuth pled guilty to a misdemeanor conspiracy to commit animal
enterprise terrorism charge regarding an animal liberation and vandalism at a
Minnesota mink farm in 2006. The agreement calls for no more than six months
imprisonment, to begin in January. He could have faced years in prison if
convicted in the Iowa action, which caused significantly more economic damage.
In this extremely conservative federal district, the court has sided with the
prosecution over the motions of DeMuth's attorney Michael Deutsch at every turn.
After the prison sentence, DeMuth will be placed on supervised probation, but
without electronic home monitoring or a fine. His plea does not implicate
anyone else in the alleged conspiracy, and he will not have to testify against
anyone. The deal also means that Carrie Feldman, previously jailed on civil
contempt in the case, and another person, Sonia Silvernail, are released from
their subpoenas to the trial. The two would have been forced testify for
the government or risk contempt charges.
Monday's resolution was mediocre at best for the federal government's crusade to
criminalize aboveground activity in support of animal liberation and animal
liberation prisoners through terrorism charges. In July, charges against
four California activists indicted under the AETA
were dismissed because the government could not clearly define what crimes they
were being alleged to have committed. The prosecutor there had sought to
vilify such simple acts as protesting and sidewalk chalking by the activists.
superseding indictment against DeMuth--who is not a vegan or vegetarian, as
most animal liberationists are--in April of this year expanded his original
charge to add an alleged but unspecified involvement in the 2006 raid of
Lakeside Ferrets. The former mink farm sits in the central Minnesota town of
Howard Lake, an hour west of Minneapolis.
An ALF communique after that raid said in part, "To all fur farmers, furriers,
and profiteers of death, this is the last warning: close down your businesses,
or with boltcutters, fire, and storm, we’ll do it for you. You can try to scare
us, you can try to imprison us, and you can even try to kill us, but the day we
stop will be the day that the last animal has been freed from its cage."
Peter Young, author of the animal liberation news site Voice of the Voiceless,
On April 29th, 2006, anonymous activists cut holes in the fence, entered the
breeder shed, and released hundreds of mink. ... The Fur Commission USA claimed
after the raid that activists mistook ferrets for mink, and in fact the “mink
farm” was actually a ferret farm. While there is evidence to suggest the farm is
now a ferret farm, the location in Howard Lake was at one time called the Latzig
Mink Ranch. The farm was the site of one of the first-ever mink releases in the
U.S. in 1996, when 1,000 mink were liberated.
Hundreds of animals were also saved from torture and death via the raid on
Spence Laboratories on November 14, 2004. It also left $450,000 in
damages. A communique
after that action said in part,
This was not thoughtless vandalism but a methodical effort to cripple the UI
psychology department's animal research. Only equipment in rooms where animals
were confined and tortured were targeted. Only computers belonging to or used in
the work of vivisectors were destroyed. Only documents of animal researchers
were doused in acid. The acid a deliberately chosen paper dissolving agent. Our
goal is total abolition of all animal exploitation. Achieved in the short term
by delivering the 401 animals from UI's chamber of hell. And in the extended
term by shutting down the labs through the erasing of research and equipment
used in the barbaric practice of vivisection. The entire raid was a careful and
deliberate 5-pronged assault on UI's animal research.
The raid and arson had been a coveted
Green Scare case for the FBI, whose frustration at a lack of leads
apparently led them to find the best target they could muster on shoddy
evidence, much of it gained from an unrelated raid of DeMuth's home during the
the 2008 Republican National Convention.
DeMuth is known for his organizing in the Dakota community and in support of
political prisoners of all stripes, which supporters speculate may well be a
reason he was targeted.
The defense had argued that the indictment on November 19, 2009, shortly after
he and Carrie Feldman refused to cooperate with a grand jury investigation, fell
after the five-year statute of limitations for the crime. But the prosecution
prevailed in their argument that the statute of limitations could be extended
due to a technicality.
In an article in the University of Iowa newspaper the Daily Iowan
morning, UI sociology professor Kevin Leicht said, "It's going to be
interesting to see how the trial unfolds, because it's been quite a while since
the vandalism happened in the first place. It will be interesting to see what
type of information comes out. I'm definitely going to watch."
Professor Jennifer Glanville added, "I would love to see the people who actually
committed this crime be convicted," and also indicated she would watch the
If both had actually been following in the case up to this point, they would
have noted that prosecutor Clifford Cronk's attempted to undermine DeMuth's
academic integrity by seeking information on his own sociological research.
Other scholars, including DeMuth's advisor and many colleagues at the University
of Minnesota, have chosen to stand for academic freedom by supporting DeMuth and
forming the group Scholars for Academic Justice.
After the 2004 raid, the University of Iowa announced that its new $11.2 million
animal experimentation facility would be built underground, indicative of the
fear such universities have of their daily business harming animals coming into
the public light.
Today's developments in court, shutting the door on a conviction over the raid,
ought to rightfully give so-called animal researchers unease in the knowledge
that animal liberationists will not be easily deterred. Ironically, 400
mink were released from a fur farm in Washington state
just last week.
[Quad City Times]
A Minnesota man accused in connection with a 2004 University of Iowa animal
lab break-in pleaded guilty instead Monday to releasing ferrets from a Minnesota
Scott DeMuth, 23, of Minneapolis, entered his plea in U.S. District Court,
Davenport, to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge and faces six months in prison. He
was set to go to trial Tuesday for both crimes.
DeMuth admitted to releasing ferrets from Lakeside Ferret Inc. in Minnesota
in April 2006 and causing damage to computers and records. The charge is a
misdemeanor because the damage was less than $10,000.