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U.S.A. v. Buddenberg

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Synopsis

U.S.A. v. Buddenberg is a federal prosecution of four animal rights activists in California—being referred to as the AETA 4—for conspiracy to commit "animal enterprise terrorism." The four were charged with a course of conduct that includes First Amendment protected activities such as protesting, chalking the sidewalk, chanting and leafleting.

Status

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

Description

U.S.A. 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.

For more on the AETA and what you can do, click here.

Timeline

February 19 and 20, 2008
Defendants indicted.

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.

July 13, 2009
Matthew Strugar, a cooperating attorney with CCR, argued the motion in Federal District Court in San Jose.

October 28, 2009
Motion to Dismiss Denied.

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.  You can read these documents by following the links below.  The issue is set for argument on June 7, 2010

On July 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.