OAKLAND – An animal rights activist accused of freeing mink from mink ranches and vandalizing businesses pleaded not guilty in federal court in Oakland Tuesday to a charge of conspiring to violate the U.S. Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
Joseph Buddenberg, 31, of Oakland, entered the plea before U.S. Magistrate Donna Ryu.
Buddenberg and Nicole Kissane, 28, of Oakland, were indicted on the conspiracy count by a federal grand jury in San Diego last Thursday and were arrested by the FBI in Oakland on Friday.
Kissane pleaded not guilty before Ryu on Friday afternoon.
Ryu today ordered both transferred to the jurisdiction of the federal court in San Diego to face the charges there. They will have an initial appearance before the trial judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Larry King, in San Diego on Sept. 9.
Both Kissane and Buddenberg were released by Ryu Friday on $100,000 personal bonds with a requirement for electronic monitoring and an additional requirement of home confinement for Buddenberg.
At today’s hearing, the magistrate lifted the electronic monitoring request for Kissane, but turned down a request by defense attorney Brian Berson to end the monitoring and home confinement requirements for Buddenberg.
Berson said outside of court that he plans to ask Ryu to ease the home confinement conditions in about three weeks.
The indictment alleges that as part of the conspiracy, the pair drove 40,000 miles around the country between June and December 2013 to free more than 5,600 mink from mink ranches in Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
They are also alleged to have released a bobcat from a fur farm in Montana, vandalized a fur store and the homes of the store’s owners in San Diego, slashed tires of vehicles of a Bay Area meat distributor, and glued the locks of unidentified Bay Area animal enterprises.
If convicted of the conspiracy charge, they could face up to 10 years in prison.
Berson said today he could not comment specifically on Buddenberg’s case, but said, “To call this terrorism is a little bit of an overstatement.”
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy of San Diego said on Friday, “The conduct alleged here, sneaking around at night, stealing property and vandalizing homes and businesses with acid, glue, and chemicals, is a form of domestic terrorism and can’t be permitted to continue.”
The 2006 Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which strengthened a previous law called the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, makes it a crime to damage or interfere with an animal enterprise, or to place a person in reasonable fear of injury.
Buddenberg and three other activists were previously indicted by a federal grand jury in San Jose in 2009 on charges of violating the law by threatening or intimidating University of California at Berkeley biomedical researchers during demonstrations at their East Bay homes in 2007 and 2008.
Two of the defendants, but not Buddenberg, were also accused of using the Internet to gain information on biomedical researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
At the time, the case was believed to be one of the first times people had been prosecuted under the 2006 version of the law.
In 2010, U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte of San Jose dismissed the charges on the ground that the indictment didn’t set forth the facts of the alleged crimes specifically enough to meet the requirements of the Constitution.
CONTACT: Brian Berson, attorney for Buddenberg in Oakland proceedings (415)788-2702
Assistant Federal Public Defender Angela Hansen, attorney for Kissane in Oakland proceedings (510) 637-3500
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kaplan, prosecutor in San Diego proceedings (619) 546-7927