Convicted 'Eco-Terrorist' Released From Prison After Discovery Of 'Thousands Of Pages' Evidence Withheld By The FBI
from the Build-your-own-terrorist!-Instructions-not-included! dept
Ladies and gentlemen: your Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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Eric McDavid was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for alleged eco-terrorism, becoming the first person ever indicted for ELF (Earth Liberation Front)-related charges. WAS. He’s now free to continue his interrupted life, thanks to the FBI’s dishonesty.
Then, the government changed its mind, conceding that thousands of pages of evidence that should have been given to McDavid’s defense attorney years ago – including love notes to a young woman who turned out to be an FBI plant – had instead been secretly held in an FBI file in Sacramento until recently. The best course of action, the government ultimately decided, was to set McDavid free.
“I’ve never heard or seen of anything like this,” said U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr., who originally sentenced McDavid. The judge ordered him released in accord with an unusual agreement between prosecutors and his appellate attorneys.
The judge demanded answers from the prosecution as to how this could have happened. From what’s reported by the Sacramento Bee, it appears those answers — like the previously-missing evidence — were nowhere to be found.
“I sat through the 10-day trial of Mr. McDavid,” a clearly exasperated England said, sometimes stopping to hold his head in his left hand.
“I know he’s not necessarily a choirboy, but he doesn’t deserve to go through this, either. It’s not fair.”
Officials from the US Attorney’s office joined Assistant US Attorney Andre Espinosa, but the brain trust came up with nothing.
Espinosa and John Vincent, chief of the U.S. attorney’s criminal division, said the documents had remained in the FBI’s possession in a file in Sacramento.
“We don’t know exactly why they weren’t turned over,” Vincent told the judge.
Great answer. Even better, the government contends that even if it had managed to turn over the evidence in a timely fashion, it still probably could have secured a conviction. But actions speak louder than this attempt to wedge an undeserved last word in sideways. McDavid is a free man after pleading guilty to a single conspiracy charge. And even that’s questionable. From what’s been turned over, it appears McDavid was another one of the FBI’s “homegrown terrorists.”
Despite Thursday’s guilty plea, his supporters say McDavid was never guilty of anything more serious than falling for a comely 18-year-old woman he met at an Iowa meeting in 2004, a woman who later prodded him to take violent action against government targets with promises that they would later consummate a romantic relationship.
The woman, named in court documents and at the trial only as “Anna,” turned out to be an FBI informant and played a critical role in McDavid’s arrest, as well as his release Thursday… Court documents spell out in detail how “Anna” provided money, transportation, housing and food to McDavid and his two co-defendants over an 18-month period, evidence his lawyers say shows the entire case was about entrapment rather than stopping terrorist attacks.
McDavid’s lawyer got in his own last word, a bit more deserved than the US Attorney General’s office.
“I hope she’s not ruining someone else’s innocent life.”
Keep hope alive. This is has been the main component of the FBI’s counterterrorism efforts: plots designed, built and put into motion by FBI informants and undercover agents, utilizing whatever weak-willed or weak-minded individuals they happen to talk into participating. Feeling any safer, America? Self-motivated terrorists roam free while the FBI plays dress-up with the easily-flattered and easily-duped.
The three targeted in this investigation were urged on by “Anna.” None of them had previous convictions. The arrests followed the purchase of household chemicals, supposedly for bomb-making. This was the culmination of a two-year “investigation” during which “Anna” repeatedly pushed the three men towards bombing targets in the area. Much of what was presented to the jurors was personal testimony by Anna that could not be corroborated by video or audio recordings (Anna frequently wore a wire and many of the meetings took place in her cabin, which had surveillance cameras installed). So, the FBI presented plenty of hearsay while withholding thousands of pages of evidence. Our words against yours.
In the end, “our word” wasn’t enough. McDavid — more lovestruck fool than eco-terrorist — is free and the world is no more dangerous than it would have been if he was incarcerated. Any bets that the FBI will be more forthcoming in the future? I’m guessing it won’t. Why should it? All it lost here was someone it had groomed for arrest. It didn’t lose a threat, or a public enemy. Win a few, lose a few. It will continue to play terrorist charades because it pays as much as real investigative work, but has a much higher chance of success.