United States v. Buddenberg Historic Case

At a Glance

Current Status 

On June 12, 2010 the Court granted CCR's motion to dismiss the indictments for lack of factual specificity.

Date Filed: 

February 19, 2008

Co-Counsel 

Civil Liberties Defense Center

CCR cooperating attorney Matthew Strugar

Client 

Joseph Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope and Adriana Stumpo, also known as the AETA 4

Case Description 

United States v. Buddenberg was a federal prosecution of four animal rights activists in California for conspiracy to commit animal enterprise terrorism.

On February 19th and 20th, 2008, the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI arrested four animal rights activists as “terrorists.”The indictment against Joseph Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope and Adriana Stumpo (the "AETA 4") charged them with conduct including protesting, chalking the sidewalk, chanting and leafleting, and the alleged use of “the Internet to find information on bio-medical researchers.”These acts are all protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The indictment was made possible because of a little known law called the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA).Passed by Congress in November 2006, the AETA is aimed at suppressing speech and advocacy by criminalizing First Amendment-protected activities such as protests, boycotts, picketing and whistleblowing.It targets animal rights activists, but includes language so broad and vague it could be used to prosecute labor activists who organize a successful boycott of Wal-Mart, or union folks who picket a university cafeteria.Pushed through Congress by a powerful lobby of corporations and research institutions, the AETA is an unconstitutional law 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.On this basis, CCR and the defense team asked the Court to strike down the AETA as unconstitutional.

By filing this motion, CCR attacked the AETA as facially unconstitutional on the grounds of “overbreadth” and “vagueness.”These are doctrines that allow individuals to challenge laws that chill speech and advocacy and require people to guess at a statute's meaning and scope.

Case Timeline

June 12, 2010
The Court granted CCR's motion to dismiss the indictments for lack of factual specificity. The dismissal is without prejudice, so the Government may seek to re-charge the defendants.
June 12, 2010
The Court granted CCR's motion to dismiss the indictments for lack of factual specificity. The dismissal is without prejudice, so the Government may seek to re-charge the defendants.
April 30, 2010
CCR joined with defense counsel to urge the court to dismiss the indictment as factually insufficient. The government responded to this motion on May 21, 2010, and Defendants replied on May 28, 2010.
April 30, 2010
CCR joined with defense counsel to urge the court to dismiss the indictment as factually insufficient. The government responded to this motion on May 21, 2010, and Defendants replied on May 28, 2010.
October 28, 2009
Motion to Dismiss Denied
October 28, 2009
Motion to Dismiss Denied
July 13, 2009
Matthew Strugar, a cooperating attorney with CCR, argued the motion in Federal District Court in San Jose.
July 13, 2009
Matthew Strugar, a cooperating attorney with CCR, argued the motion in Federal District Court in San Jose.
May 22, 2009
CCR joined with defense counsel to file a motion to dismiss the U.S. government’s indictment in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The motion asks the Court to strike down the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as unconstitutional.
May 22, 2009
CCR joined with defense counsel to file a motion to dismiss the U.S. government’s indictment in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The motion asks the Court to strike down the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as unconstitutional.
February 19 and 20, 2008
Defendants indicted
February 19 and 20, 2008
Defendants indicted