Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Eric McDavid Story

By Sacremento Prisoner Support

On January 13, 2006, Eric McDavid, Zachary Jenson and Lauren
Weiner were arrested in Auburn, California, and charged with
one count of conspiracy to destroy public or private
infrastructure by means of explosives or fire. Twenty months
later, Eric went to trial alone to fight this charge. In the
interim, both Weiner and Jenson had agreed to cooperate with
the government in a variety of ways, including testifying
against Eric at his trial.

Weiner began talking to the FBI a week after her arrest and was
released on $1.2-million bail. Six months later, having previously
been denied bail twice as an alleged public danger and flight risk,
Jenson agreed to cooperate and was released on $40,000 bail. Eric was
denied bail twice and remained in jail, struggling for vegan meals.
After four months of pressure from supporters and a two-week hunger
strike, he was finally able to gain access to vegan food—but a week
before trial, the jail cut off his vegan meals once again, in an
apparent attempt to weaken him. He has not received vegan food since
that time. Eric has been in solitary confinement since his arrest.

After months of delays, Eric’s trial finally began on September 10.
The trial was fraught with clearly biased and improper rulings, and
lies were rampant.

The trial opened with the government’s star witness: cooperating
witness “Anna,” a young woman who was paid $65,000 by the FBI to
befriend and entrap Eric and his codefendants. Anna, who was 17 at
the time she began working for the FBI, admitted repeatedly during
her testimony that she was a liar. At one point Eric’s attorney, Mark
Reichel, said to her, “All lies, all the time, 24-7 would be the ad
in the phonebook, right?”

“When I was undercover, in my role, correct,” she responded.

Despite the government’s best attempts to obscure the truth, Anna’s
testimony proved that she was the driving force behind the
“conspiracy” and that without her and her FBI masters, it never could
have happened.

The other two key witnesses for the government were Eric’s former
codefendants, both of whom admitted that they had agreed to cooperate
because of the “75-percent-off sale,” as Reichel dubbed it—the 75
percent reduction in prison time they were promised in exchange for
cooperating. They also both stated that their sentencing had been
delayed until after Eric’s trial so that the government could see how
they performed first. Weiner seemed visibly shaken throughout her
testimony. She also seemed relieved, when Reichel cross-examined her,
to finally have the opportunity to speak something more closely
resembling the truth. This was not the case with Jenson, who behaved
like a trained monkey.

After six full days in court, the jury left the courtroom, and both
sides began to argue over the instructions that the jury would
receive. These instructions would guide the members of the jury in
making their decision about Eric’s innocence or guilt, but the judge
issued devastatingly incorrect instructions. The first blow came when
the judge denied the inclusion of the “lesser included offense”
instruction. This instruction would have allowed the jury to find
Eric not guilty of the crime he was charged with, but guilty of the
charge that Weiner and Jenson had pleaded to. While this clearly
would not have been an outstanding victory, if Eric had been found
guilty only of the lesser offense, it would have capped his sentence
at five years, instead of 20.

The other huge point of contention in the jury instructions was the
definition of “predisposition.” For the government to prove beyond a
reasonable doubt that a defendant was not entrapped (and is therefore
guilty), it first must prove that the defendant was inclined to
commit a crime prior to contact with a government agent—in this case,
Anna. After a series of intense arguments, the judge instructed the
jury to examine the question of predisposition beginning in June
2005—the moment at which the government claimed the conspiracy began,
and almost a year after Eric and Anna had met and remained in
contact. This ruling was in clear defiance of not only logical
reasoning, but also of case law, which says: “Quite obviously, by the
time a defendant actually commits the crime, he (sic) will have
become disposed to do so.... The relevant time frame for assessing a
defendant’s disposition comes before he has any contact with
government agents, which is doubtless why it is called predisposition
(US v. Poehlman).”

Armed with a set of faulty instructions, the jury returned after two
days of deliberation with a guilty verdict.

The Aftermath

After the delivery of the verdict on September 27, Reichel conducted
informal interviews with members of the jury. Here is a rundown of
what they had to say:

•They wanted to acquit Eric, but felt that they could not because of
the instruction the judge had given them about “first contact” and

•They thought that Anna was despicable, and they didn’t believe a
word she said unless it was on tape.

•They were appalled at the behavior of the FBI and told the agents so
to their faces.
While much of this information is validating for Eric and his case,
it’s also maddening to know that Eric would be free today if not for
one jury instruction. However, this bodes well for Eric’s chances of
appeal, which will be the next step in his struggle for freedom.
Unfortunately, this process will take at least a year, and Eric will
remain imprisoned in the meantime.

Lies, Lies, Lies

Not surprisingly, the media and the government have made a number of
inaccurate and misleading statements about Eric and his case. Perhaps
the two most egregious lies made during the trial were that Eric
threatened to kill Anna if she was a cop and that she awoke one night
with him waving a knife over her. There was absolutely no evidence to
support either of these claims, other than the word of an admitted
professional liar. During the time that the second incident was
alleged to have happened, Eric and Anna were in a cabin completely
wired with video and audio surveillance. Yet despite repeated
requests from Reichel, the government never produced any documentary
evidence. When Anna told this story during her testimony (after a
lunch break, after it was clear that the government was grasping at
straws), Reichel asked her if she had gone right back to sleep after
the alleged incident, and she said yes. If you wake up with someone
waving a knife over you, do you fall right back asleep? Both of these
outrageously slanderous statements were clearly meant to smear Eric
in front of the jury.

After the trial, US Attorney McGregor Scott was quoted as saying,
“Can you imagine what would happen if they succeeded in blowing up
Nimbus Dam? It would make New Orleans look like a Sunday pancake
breakfast.” But both Weiner and Jenson testified that Nimbus Dam was
not a target at the time of the group’s arrest in January.

The list of falsehoods, hyperbole and fear-mongering statements made
by the government over the last two years is far too extensive to
detail here. The bottom line is that the government has no qualms
about spouting off the most malicious of lies in its desperate
pursuit to convict innocent people.

A Bit of Context

Eric was arrested amidst the whirlwind government crackdown on
radical environmentalists known as the “Green Scare.” What sets
Eric’s case apart from the majority of these others, however, is that
Eric was not actually charged with carrying out a crime—rather, he
was charged with “conspiracy” to commit one. In essence, Eric was
pursued and arrested for “thought crime.” Nothing makes this more
clear than the prosecution’s non-ironic invocation of association
with CrimethInc. as proof of in itself of criminality. It is unclear
whether the prosecutors are aware that the word they constantly
uttered has the same Orwellian roots as the case itself.

A quick glance at the criminal complaint against Eric and his former
co-defendants (which can be viewed on his web site) reveals the
extent to which the charges against him stemmed from the state’s
targeting of certain lifestyles and political beliefs. The 15-page
complaint uses the words “anarchist,” “anarchy” or “anarchism” 26
times and makes multiple references to CrimethInc., train-hopping and
hitchhiking while tracing Eric’s path across the country to various
political protests and gatherings. The focus on anarchism and
political thought extended into trial, with a rather heavy focus on
the works of one author, Derrick Jensen. At one point, the prosecutor
actually confused Derrick Jensen with co-defendant Zachary Jenson and
claimed that the author had visited Zach’s mom in Tennessee over the
Winter! Derrick Jensen was probably mentioned in the trial more than
anyone other than Eric and his co-defendants.

This case makes it clear how far the government is willing to go to
spy on and repress people based on their politics and lifestyle. Eric
met Anna in August 2004 and the two remained in contact after that
time. It was made clear during trial that Eric had fallen in love
with Anna and that she used his feelings to keep him hooked and,
eventually, to entrap him. Anna manufactured this “crime” by
providing the means for it to occur and by manipulating the three
into doing things that would allow her employers to arrest and
prosecute them. She constantly pushed and cajoled Eric, Weiner and
Jenson when they showed resistance to her plans. She paid for their
entire existence—the cabin they lived in, their travel across the
country, the car they used, the computers they used (which the FBI
later confiscated), groceries and supplies. Weiner testified that
Anna pulled $100 bills out of her pocket and gave them to Eric so
that he could purchase groceries and supplies—leading to Anna’s
outlandish statements during trial that the money the group used came
from Eric and Lauren’s pockets!

Eric was not released on bail because the government said that he
train-hopped, hitchhiked and “lived off the land.” The most the
government had to say about Eric’s predisposition is that he read an
interview of Derrick Jensen and shared it with others. This case is
clearly meant to terrify people who are seeking a way to be free in
their minds and in their lives—to get them to police themselves and
each other in order to avoid persecution.

And Then....

Eric’s struggle is far from over. He is committed to continuing his
fight against these charges through the appeals process. Due to the
many legal errors made by the judge during Eric’s trial and to the
response from the jurors during the informal interviews, we remain
positive about Eric’s chances for appeal.

But this will not be an easy battle. Much work needs to be done in
preparation, and Eric needs support now more than ever. There are a
number of things that you can do to help Eric make it through his
coming months in prison and actualize his freedom. First of all,
appeals are not cheap. Unfortunately, we will need to raise many
thousands of dollars to cover Eric’s legal fees. We need everyone’s
help with this—please start working on fundraisers now and visit
Eric’s web site to make a donation online.

Second, Eric is still without vegan meals. Please call the jail and
request that they resume feeding him meals he can eat.

Third, Eric’s sentencing is scheduled for December 6. We would love
to see the courtroom full of supporters for Eric on that day. Eric is
facing 20 years in prison, and the government has indicated that it
will be pushing for the maximum time. The government also continues
to dangle the threat of a terrorism sentencing enhancement over his

Finally, please take a few minutes and write Eric a letter of
support. Hearing from everyone around the world who keeps him in
their hearts and minds helps keep Eric going day to day.

Eric is an amazing individual. Those of you who know him know how
compassionate and caring he is—how full of integrity and courage he
is, and how he embodies these qualities in his day-to-day life. Eric
has taught us all so much, especially in these last two years. Most
of all, he’s taught us what it means to choose life—to keep pushing
forward and doing what’s right, despite substantial obstacles, and to
infuse every moment with joy and love. After the jury delivered its
verdict, Eric turned to all of us sitting behind him as he was
leaving the courtroom, a look of concern on his face, and reminded us
all: “Breathe....”

Let’s all keep breathing... and keep fighting.

For more information, contact;

Send letters of support to Eric McDavid, X-2972521 4E231A, Sacramento
County Main Jail, 651 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Sacramento Prisoner Support is based in Sacramento, California, and
has been doing support work for Eric McDavid since his arrest in
January 2006.

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