by Peter Young
In late-2004, morning workers arrived at the Spence Laboratories to find $450,000 in damage to equipment and 401 animals missing. Graffiti left at the scene read “Science Not Sadism” and “Free The Animals”. In a long communique , the Animal Liberation Front (A.L.F.) took credit.
Just before the 5-year statute of limitations was to expire (most federal crimes have an SoL of 5 years), two Minneapolis activists were subpoenaed to testify to a grand jury in Davenport, IA. It soon became clear the grand jury was investigating the University of Iowa A.L.F. raid. Both were jailed after refusing to testify. Soon after, one of the two – Scott DeMuth – was indicted for Animal Enterprise Terrorism.
Those I have spoken to close to the case awe at the bizarre, unprofessional, and legally unsound nature of the entire prosecution. As one person told me: “When all the facts come out, this DA is going to be very embarrassed”.
All indicators are that the government rushed through an indictment they knew would not stand, in order to freeze the clock on the statute of limitations and buy time to build a more solid case. The case has all the markings of a desperate and unconstitutional prosecution motivated by an attempt to save face after 5 years of failing to apprehend the Animal Liberation Front.
Eight Reasons the Iowa A.L.F. Investigation is a Fraud
One. Feldman was 15 at the time of the raid
Carrie Feldman , incarcerated for refusing testimony to the grand jury, was a 15 year old sophomore in high school at the time of the raid. Yet a judge has stated the government admitted.
.it sought Ms. Feldman’s testimony because it believes she had knowledge of “a break-in of the University of Iowa Spence Laboratories in November, 2004.
And in a dissenting opinion on Carrie Feldman’s (denied) motion for release, a judge said:
.I am concerned by the necessary implication raised in this matter that the government is seeking Ms. Feldman’s testimony for the sole purpose of gathering additional information to support its indictment against Mr. DeMuth.
Two. DeMuth was 17 at the time of the raid
Unlike Feldman, Scott DeMuth is accused of direct participation in the A.L.F. action (prosecutors have stated they believe he is featured in a video made of the raid ). 17 at the time, DeMuth is implicated in an action that has the appearance of one of the most complex and expertly executed in the Animal Liberation Front’s history. According the media reports and the A.L.F. communique, activists picked locks, bypassed four layers of security, used stolen key cards to access labs, and removed 401animals from the building undetected. At 17, DeMuth is accused of an action requiring this level of skill.
Three. DeMuth was not told he was a target of the grand jury
Furthering evidence DeMuth’s indictment was reprisal for his refusal to testify, he was not told he was a target of the grand jury when subpoenaed, as required by law. This bolsters the case that DeMuth’s indictment was motivated by spite, and was an afterthought to his refusal to testify.
Four. The statute of limitations had expired
The indictment was issued four days after the five-year statute of limitations had expired. An appellate court judge stated:
The district court abused its discretion when it found Ms. Feldman in contempt of court because it failed to consider a significant relevant factor, i.e., whether the statute of limitations had run on the crime for which the government seeks Ms. Feldman’s testimony..the government itself cites no authority for the proposition it can abuse the grand jury process to compel a witness to testify regarding a crime for which the statute of limitations has expired.
Five. Indictment is unconstitutionally incomplete
Demuth’s original indictment was so “shockingly vague” (defense lawyers), it failed to provide the following basic information: the elements of the alleged offense, supporting facts and circumstances, the law alleged to have been violated, identifying an element of interstate activity, providing a date range of the alleged conspiracy, where the conspiracy is alleged to have taken place, and basic information as to what he is accused of. The one-page indictment was practically void of any information with which DeMuth could prepare a defense, including any information on what crime he is alleged to have committed.
Six. Law DeMuth charged under did not exist in 2004
Scott DeMuth is charged under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a law that did not exist until 2006 – two years after the University of Iowa raid.
A quote from the motion to dismiss the indictment:
..respectfully moves that his indictment be dismissed since the charges brought against him are under a statute which was not the law at the time of the alleged offense.
Seven. Only evidence is DeMuth’s “resemblance” to person in grainy film
The only evidence the prosecutor has stated to support DeMuth’s involvement is his “resemblance” to an individual in a video of the raid. The video of the rescue , taken by the A.L.F., is a grainy black and white film showing activists loading animals onto carts and taking them from the lab. Video would be damning evidence.. were all activists on the video not wearing masks.
Eight. DeMuth is not a vegetarian
In perhaps the most absurd example, the government made the folly of charging someone for an A.L.F. action who is not even a vegetarian. In fact, the man accused of conspiring to rescue rats from a lab is a bow-hunter.
Conclusion : The jailing of Carrie Feldman and indictment of Scott DeMuth appears to be motivated by the following factors: desperation, spite, and / or a need to freeze the statute of limitation and buy time to build a substantive case.
The combined factors make the University of Iowa A.L.F. case among the most egregious examples of prosecutorial overzealousness in the animal liberation movement’s history.