First Case Under Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act Heard in San Jose, CA

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jen Nessel, 212.614.6449, jnessel@ccrjustice.org
David Lerner, Riptide Communications, 212.260.5000

 

First Case Under Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act Heard in San Jose, CA

Rights Attorneys Challenge Unconstitutionally Vague Law

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Today, the Animal
Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) was put on trial by attorneys with the Center
for Constitutional Rights, the Civil Liberties Defense Center, and co-counsel
who demanded it be struck down as unconstitutional. The challenge comes in
defense of four animal rights activists who are accused of chanting, making
leaflets and writing with chalk on the sidewalk in front of a senior
bio-researcher's house, as well as using the internet to research the
company whose actions they planned to protest. This case is the first to be
prosecuted under the November 2008 law. Under the AETA, the activists are
charged with acts of animal enterprise terrorism.

"The AETA is so overbroad and vague that picketers
protesting labor practices at WalMart who mount a successful boycott could be
charged with animal enterprise terrorism because WalMart sells lunch
meat," said CCR Cooperating Attorney Matthew Strugar, who argued
the challenge today. "And it is impossible to know from the language of
the law whether your activities might be covered. The AETA is unconstitutional,
and if it remains on the books it will be a genuine threat to free
speech."

U.S.A. v. Buddenberg is a federal prosecution
of four animal rights activists in California. On February 19th and 20th, 2009
the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI arrested four animal rights activists
for conspiracy to commit animal enterprise terrorism. The indictment against
Joseph Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope and Adriana Stumpo (the AETA 4)
charges them with conduct including protesting, writing with chalk on the
sidewalk, chanting, leafleting, and the alleged use of "the Internet to
find information on bio-medical researchers." According to the rights
attorneys, these acts are all protected by the First Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution.

"The First Amendment and the Bill of Rights both
protect the rights of citizens to voice  unpleasant, unpopular sentiments,
or even statements that cause businesses to lose money," said Lauren
Regan
, attorney  and director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center.
"The AETA and the government's prosecution in this case are an attack on
those rights and drastically curtail the constitutional rights of everyone in
this country. We must be vigilant in protecting the sanctity of the rights to
free expression because once lost, they will be difficult to regain."

Passed
by Congress in November 2008, the AETA is aimed at suppressing speech and advocacy
by criminalizing First Amendment-protected activities such as protests,
boycotts, picketing and whistleblowing. CCR and the defense team have asked the
Court to strike down the AETA as unconstitutional because it criminalizes a
broad swath of protected First Amendment activities and is so unclear as to
fail to give people notice of whether or not their conduct is lawful.

For
more information on the case, click here.

For
more information on the AETA click here.

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The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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