SAN JOSE (BCN)
March 19, 2009
Four animal rights activists pleaded not guilty in federal court
in San Jose today on charges of threatening professors who use
animals in biomedical research, saying their actions are protected
as free speech.
The two men and two women are charged with violating the U.S.
Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of 2006, an antiterrorism measure
that expanded prior laws to protect the people and organizations who
perform research on animals. Members of the group's legal team said
this is the first time someone has been prosecuted under this law.
Joseph Buddenberg, 25, of Berkeley; Maryam Khajavi, 20, of
Pinole; Nathan Pope, 26, of Oceanside; and Adriana Stumpo, 23, of
Long Beach were arrested in February on charges of threatening
professors from the University of California, Santa Cruz and the
University of California at Berkeley in 2007 and 2008.
According to the indictment, the defendants are charged with two
counts: conspiracy to damage or interfere with an operation of
animal enterprise, and using force, violence and threats to place
researchers "in reasonable fear of death." Each count carries a
possible maximum of five years in prison and fines upon conviction.
U.S. law defines an animal enterprise as a commercial or academic
entity that uses or sells animals for one of several purposes,
including testing and research.
The indictment, issued by a federal grand jury in San Jose March
12, alleges that these charges stem from demonstrations on Oct. 21,
2007 and Jan. 27, 2008 at biomedical researchers' homes in the East
According to a prior criminal complaint, the group joined others
in demonstrating at the residences of six UC Berkeley professors in
El Cerrito, Berkeley and Oakland.
Demonstrators allegedly dressed in black, covered their faces
with bandanas, marched, chalked insults on the sidewalk and chanted
slogans that called the professors murderers and terrorists.
The indictment also states that on July 29, 2008, Pope and Stumpo,
along with another person, used the Internet to locate personal
information on biomedical researchers at UC Santa Cruz. The two are
engaged to be married, their attorneys said.
At a small rally after the arraignment, members of the group's
legal team said they will challenge the constitutionality of the
"They are clearly, 100 percent, issues of free speech,"
Buddenberg's attorney, Robert Bloom, said of the charges.
After the hearing, Khajavi read a prepared statement, calling
herself "a victim of free speech suppression."
Khajavi said she graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2008 and is
applying to law schools in hopes of becoming a civil rights
Her attorney, Tony Serra, described his client as young and
idealistic, engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment.
"I will vigorously defend her right to dissent," he said.
The group will return to court April 13 at 9 a.m. for a status
hearing before Judge Ronald M. Whyte, who is assigned to preside
over the case.
Dozens of animal rights and free speech supporters turned out,
holding signs to express solidarity with the activists, dubbed the
Michael Budkie of the Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! group said
researchers at University of California facilities deprive monkeys
of water for long periods of time and "force electrodes into their
brains," among other practices.
"We continue to send a message to the University of California
that we're not going away," he said.
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