Dec 18, 2005
Delgadillo goes after animal activist group
The L.A. city attorney files 14 misdemeanor charges for
harassment but says the actions are "criminal."
By David Zahniser
Copley News Service

Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo filed 14 misdemeanor charges Friday against the Animal Defense League, saying the group violated state law by repeatedly harassing and intimidating a manager of the city's animal shelters.

The 19-page filing against the animal rights group came one day after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa fired Guerdon Stuckey, the head of the Animal Services Department, who was also a victim of threats and vandalism by animal extremists. None of the charges in Delgadillo's case focused on Stuckey, however.

Delgadillo accused the league -- a group that has picketed the homes of several shelter employees -- of trespassing, vandalism, violating noise ordinances, intimidating the child of a public employee and using threats or other methods to prevent animal shelter worker David Diliberto from performing his duties.

The league faces fines of up to $120,000 if convicted. But Delgadillo said he also may use the case to strip the league of its nonprofit status and dissolve it as a corporation.

"What they're doing is criminal," he said. "They are a criminal enterprise. And this action is against the enterprise of the ADL."

League spokesman Jerry Vlasak -- who also serves as a spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front, which claimed credit for setting off a smoke grenade in Stuckey's apartment building -- called Delgadillo's case a publicity stunt timed to occur weeks before another league case goes to trial.

Vlasak said neither he nor his wife, ADL activist Pamelyn Ferdin, is worried about losing the group's nonprofit status.

"From a practical standpoint it wouldn't mean anything to the ADL, other than the $40 it cost us to become a corporation," he said.

Delgadillo has had a mixed track record of prosecutions against league activists. Ferdin and a second league volunteer, Natalie Norcross, were acquitted last year of charges that they illegally protested within 100 feet of the San Pedro home of then-Mayor James Hahn.

The two activists filed a lawsuit seeking $3 million in damages earlier this month. Next month Delgadillo will go to trial on a case in which Ferdin and Vlasak are accused of trespassing on Diliberto's property and protesting within 100 feet of his home.

Delgadillo's latest case focuses largely on accusations that the Animal Defense League targeted Diliberto, the department's director of field operations, between January 2004 and December 2005. League members left obscenities and other messages on Diliberto's home answering machine, including "Resign or we go after your wife," according to Delgadillo's filing.

The league's representatives chanted "We know where you sleep at night" outside Diliberto's home, placed the names of his four children on the group's Web site, typed a "666" text message on his cell phone and showed up at his home at 3 a.m. posing as mortuary workers seeking to pick up a dead body, the lawsuit states.

Villaraigosa, who appeared at the Delgadillo press conference, warned that Police Chief William Bratton and other city officials will become increasingly creative as they crack down on groups that try to intimidate municipal employees.

"I expect him to use whatever resources necessary to deal with these kinds of people who don't understand there's a right way to protest and then there's unacceptable activity," he said.

The Animal Defense League has spent four years waging a vocal campaign against the city's practice of euthanizing dogs, cats and other animals that come into the animal shelter system. In recent months, Vlasak has voiced verbal support for violence as a way of protecting animals.

Vlasak restated some of those comments Friday, praising the activities of the Animal Liberation Front, a group that took credit for harassing several city employees.

But he repeated his assertion that ALF is a separate entity, and that ADL does not engage in illegal activities.

"There is no link at all between Animal Defense League and the Animal Liberation Front, other than that we support them ideologically," he said.