Environmental Activists Given $4.4M
Published on Tuesday, June 11, 2002 by the Associated Press
Environmental Activists Given $4.4M
by Justin Pritchard
OAKLAND, Calif. –– A federal jury awarded $4.4 million Tuesday to two radical environmentalists who accused Oakland police and the FBI of trying to frame them for a 1990 bomb blast that wrecked the activists' car.

After 17 days of deliberations, the jury awarded the money to activist Darryl Cherney and the estate of Judi Bari, who died of cancer in 1997.

Darryl Cherney
Darryl Cherney, right, hugs his lead attorney Dennis Cunningham Tuesday, June 11, 2002, in Oakland, Calif. Twelve years after they were arrested in the bombing of their own car, two Earth First! activists were awarded $4.4 million Tuesday in a federal suit claiming they were framed by Oakland police and FBI agents. After 17 days of deliberations, jurors awarded the money to activist Darryl Cherney and the estate of Judi Bari, who died of cancer in 1997. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Cherney and Bari were injured when a bomb exploded in their Subaru in 1990. Bari, who was at the wheel, suffered a crushed pelvis.

The two Earth First! members were arrested within hours, with investigators saying that Cherney and Bari were carrying the bomb for use in an act of environmental sabotage and that it went off accidentally underneath Bari's seat.

But the case fell apart weeks later and the charges were dropped when prosecutors said there was not enough evidence. No one else was ever charged in the blast.

Cherney and Bari claimed that someone planted the bomb in their car and that they were the victims in the case. They sued police and the FBI for false arrest, illegal search, slanderous statements and conspiracy, accusing them of lying and ignoring evidence to make a case.

"I think the FBI needed to eat some humble pie and we served them up a good slice," Cherney said after the verdict. "We're blockading the FBI from clear-cutting the Constitution."

Attorneys for the FBI agents and Oakland police officers did not immediately return calls for comment.

The officers and FBI agents claimed that they acted in good faith in arresting Bari and Cherney. They argued that at the time of the bombing, Earth First! had a reputation for sabotage – including a dangerous practice called tree-spiking – and that it was not unreasonable to suspect Bari and Cherney of transporting a bomb.

At the time of the blast, Bari and Cherney were organizing Redwood Summer, a series of protests against the logging of old-growth forests.

The activists argued that investigators did not bother to look into an anonymous letter sent to a newspaper shortly after the bombing.

The letter gave details about the construction and placement of the bomb. The writer, claiming to be "the Lord's avenger," said the bomb was retribution for Bari's participation in an abortion rights demonstration.

On the Web: http://www.judibari.org

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press