Eric McDavid found guilty; ecoterror plot foiled; US citizens and planet breathe easy

Environmental Radical Guilty in Calif.
September 28, 2007

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A federal jury found a 29-year-old environmental activist guilty Thursday of conspiring to burn down or blow up a northern California dam, a genetics lab, cell phone towers and other targets.

Eric McDavid of Foresthill, Calif., faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for what FBI agents said was as an ecoterrorist plot in the name of the Earth Liberation Front, a shadowy, loose-knit group that has claimed credit for arsons throughout the West.

McDavid and two others were arrested in January 2006 after buying bottles of bleach, a car battery, potassium chloride and other items prosecutors said were being used to build plastic explosives.

The Nimbus Dam on the American River near Sacramento and the U.S. Forest Service’s Institute of Forest Genetics in Placerville, in the foothills east of Sacramento, were among the suspected targets.

McDavid’s two co-defendants pleaded guilty last year and testified against McDavid. Jurors listened to them and testimony from an FBI informant before deliberating for 11 hours and returning the guilty verdict.

McDavid’s attorney argued he was a victim of entrapment because the informant provided money and help to buy the items.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott called the verdict a message that the ELF “is misdirected in its tactics and a danger to the community.”

“Eric McDavid and others like him choose to put innocent civilian lives in jeopardy for the sake of advancing their own extreme views,” Scott said in a news release.

See also : Bomb plotter found guilty, Denny Walsh, Sacramento Bee, September 28, 2007:

…In post-verdict interviews, eight of the jurors, who refused to identify themselves by name, had comments generally favorable to the defense.

“The nail in the coffin was his lack of reluctance,” one juror said of McDavid. “Not once did he try to back out of” the conspiracy charged in a grand jury indictment.

“If he had,” said another juror, “we’d still be in there now” deliberating.

From notes sent by the panel to U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr., it was clear the jurors were confused about how to apply the evidence to the question of whether McDavid had a predisposition to violence.

This was a critical element in the trial, with the prosecutors arguing he was predisposed to the intended violent acts, even without the active role played by an FBI informer who was embedded with McDavid, Weiner and Jenson, and who was the government’s key witness.

Defense attorney Mark Reichel argued vehemently that the FBI-supplied resources the informer, known only to the jury as “Anna,” brought to the plot, plus McDavid’s infatuation with her kept the group’s plan for a bombing campaign alive and entrapped his client.

In an additional instruction on the law given to the jury Thursday morning, England recited five criteria that should be considered in weighing predisposition. He then told the jurors the most important of the five is “reluctance.”

Reichel said in a hallway interview after the verdict that an important part of an appeal of the conviction will focus on England’s instructions regarding entrapment.

The judge told the jury that “contact” between a government informer and a defendant in the context of entrapment is the first time the two discuss the charged crime. In this case, that was in July 2005.

Reichel contends case law says it means the first contact between an informer and a defendant. In this case, that was August 2004. At that time and before then McDavid was not disposed toward violence, the defense lawyer argues.

The jurors agreed that if the judge’s instructions had allowed them to place the relevant time period from August 2004 forward, they would have acquitted McDavid.

“This was a good jury,” Reichel said. “They followed the rules they were given. I think the rules they were given are wrong. It’s not the law of entrapment.”

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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