Environmental Activist Who FBI Entrapped & Charged with ‘Eco-Terrorism’ is Released Over Withheld Evidence
A 37-year-old environmental activist, who was convicted of “eco-terrorism” in 2007 and sentenced to 19 years in prison in 2008, has been released from jail after he uncovered evidence that the federal government withheld documents that would have been useful to his defense at trial.
The release was a result of Eric McDavid pleading guilty to a lesser charge of “general conspiracy” to destroy “by fire or explosives one or more targets in the Sacramento area,” including the Nimbus Dam, US Forest Service Institute of Forest Genetics and local cellular telephone towers.
Defense attorneys and the Justice Department came to a settlement and agreed to release him because he had served 9 years jail (four more years than the maximum sentence for a “general conspiracy” charge. United States District Court Judge Morrison C. England granted the request for McDavid’s release on January 8.
According to a habeas petition filed in 2012 [PDF], McDavid made a pretrial request under the Freedom of Information Act for “all files the FBI maintained on him.” The FBI claimed their were none. He made a similar request years after his trial. This time the FBI produced “approximately 2,449 pages,” most which seemed to have never been seen by his defense. All seemed to be “generated before McDavid’s trial.” They offered a more complete picture of “Anna,” the informant who the FBI deployed against him (and other activists). They also revealed other informants had been working on McDavid’s case, which his defense had not known.
Between November 6 and December 12 of last year, the government disclosed more documents showing McDavid had sent love letters to “Anna.” The government concealed the love letters and other correspondence until providing McDavid one letter and ten emails in November. Records showed the FBI provided the withheld correspondence to a “special unit” to “analyze…for behavioral insight into Eric McDavid,” according to McDavid’s attorneys.
“Anna” had admitted at trial that the FBI had trained her to exploit “McDavid’s romantic feelings” by explaining to him, “We need to put the mission first. There’s time for romance later.” But she was able to downplay the extent to which McDavid loved her at trial because the government was concealing evidence.
The government also did not provide McDavid with a document showing that the FBI had put in an urgent request for a “polygraph exam” on “Anna” in November of 2005. The Assistant US Attorney concurred and the request indicated the “purpose of the requested polygraph examination [was] to confirm the veracity of [confidential witness] reporting prior to expenditure of substantial efforts and money based on source’s reporting.” It was then “inexplicably canceled.”
Documents obtained also showed that “extensive government surveillance of McDavid prior to Anna’s influence over him failed to reveal any predisposition to commit the charged offense.”
“If the government had provided the missing information to Eric’s trial counsel, as should have been done, counsel would have used it to question Anna’s veracity and to show Eric was entrapped. He never would have had to spend nine years in prison,” Mark Vermeulen, attorney for McDavid, declared.
“Anna” was a pink-haired 17-year-old who the FBI recruited after she infiltrated a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) protest as part of a paper for a class project at a Miami area community college. Her work impressed a police officer in the class, which led to the FBI “grooming her” to infiltrate protests “against the G8 Summit in Georgia in 2004, and against the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in New York and Boston” that same year.
The FBI had her disguise herself as a “street medic,” despite the fact that she had no medical experience at all. She was tasked with going undercover to keep her “eyes and ears open for anyone that would possibly get ready to commit vandalism, property destruction or harm to another individual.” In other words, she was to uncover thought crimes that could be exploited to the FBI’s advantage.
When “Anna” met McDavid, he was a 24-year-old college student. He left his home in northern California to backpack across the country and attend various conferences and protests. There was nothing “Anna” found to be threatening about him. The two even developed a “physical relationship” with each other. But, since McDavid and friends he was living with, who would be charged as “co-conspirators,” fit the profile of individuals the FBI wanted “Anna” to target, she kept after them.
“Anna relentlessly pressured McDavid and his friends to plan ‘an action,’ literally herding them together for this purpose,” his lawyers maintain. “She implanted ideas, hounded them, and plied them with money, food, and shelter. When the group showed a lack of enthusiasm for her schemes, she would hound them to stay focused, and pout, sulk, belittle and berate them, calling them names like ‘dilly-dallyers.'” And the “FBI’s behavioral analysis unit trained her to make Eric ‘wait’ until ‘after the mission,’ before she would consummate their love in reward for his faithfulness to her plan.”
Through “Anna,” the conspiracy was manufactured:
…[B]y working assiduously to provide the logistical means and encouragement for the group to meet, and reuniting them when they drifted. The FBI/Anna purchased plane tickets, arranged car trips, rented the cabin where the group lived before their arrest, bought food, provided all necessary living supplies, and ultimately provided the recipe and the chemistry set they used to try to mix an explosive (unsuccessfully as it turned out), along with the money to purchase the materials for a device (which was never built)…
To ensure McDavid’s conviction, Jenson was coerced by the government into lying about what had really happened in return for a guarantee that he would not face the same lengthy sentence as McDavid.
The government also benefited from two key developments at trial: the district court instructed the jury that “Anna” had not been a “government agent” and also that the “first contact” McDavid had with “Anna” was in July 2005, after “Anna” had already started to romantically induce him to engage in an environmental terrorism plot.
Jenny Esquivel, who is McDavid’s partner and helped organize his support committee, reacted to his release, “Since 9/11, the United States government has mercilessly entrapped people, destroying their lives just to make political examples of them, especially in Muslim communities. The government has targeted leftists and anarchists with similar fervor. This, like so many other alleged conspiracies the public hears about, are FBI inventions from the start.”
This is what happened when the FBI targeted Occupy Cleveland and convinced five young men to plot to blow up a bridge and had an informant connect them with an “arms merchant” and even drive them to the “bomb site.”
The COINTELPRO-style infiltration of activist social circles and the targeting protest groups is not limited to the federal government. For example, police spied and infiltrated protest communities in the cases of the “NATO 3” and Occupy Houston protesters, who were setup on felony charges by undercover Austin police officers.
The government is obsessed with “anarchism,” “anarchists,” “anarchy” and anyone who engages in lifestyle habits that are believed to be habits of “anarchists,” like “dumpster diving.”
Anarchist chasing is a historic tradition of law enforcement in the United States, going all the way back to the days of the Palmer Raids, but now, with all the resources the government has to wage a “war on terrorism,” law enforcement has immense power, resources and discretion to target individuals with beliefs they think may inspire them to commit some act of violence possibly in the not so distant future.
Will Potter, author of the Green Is the New Red, who has diligently documented the “Green Scare” against environmental activists, wrote, “McDavid’s release is a victory, and should be celebrated. But it is also a reminder of how the FBI’s obsession with “eco-terrorists” — who have never injured anyone — and the relentless drive to proclaim victories in the War on Terrorism, have robbed McDavid and his family of years of his life.”
“The brutal reality is that there will be more cases like this, and the FBI’s rogue operation will continue, until there is a full scale government inquiry into how “terrorism” resources are being used to persecute political dissidents. Without a massive change in oversight and accountability, the FBI will be allowed to continue sabotaging the lives of those who dare to speak out.”
The FBI, Justice Department and various police departments across the United States engage in this repression because they know they will rarely be held accountable for their actions or stopped. The “War on Terrorism” has made them adept at packaging certain types of Americans as unsavory dangerous people the public has to fear, and most of the time, as evidenced by the failure of entrapment defenses, the public believes the narrative fed to them.
Only when more start to see this persecution of political dissidents as an assault on all Americans’ collective freedom to dissent—to speak out against the government when it is most important to them to speak out—will there be any real constraints placed on the government’s ability to destroy the lives of these Americans.
Photo of Eric McDavid is a screen shot from “Support Eric” defense website.