[News] FBI raids Phila. home of animal-rights activist

News at freedomarchives.org News at freedomarchives.org
Mon Nov 1 14:41:33 EST 2004


Posted on Fri, Oct. 29, 2004


FBI raids Phila. home of animal-rights activist

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The raid's focus appeared to be Nick Cooney, who has protested against a 
Princeton animal-testing firm.
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By Robert Moran

Inquirer Staff Writer


More than a dozen FBI agents raided the West Philadelphia home of an 
animal-rights activist yesterday in connection with a federal investigation 
of a harassment campaign against an animal-testing company.

The focus of the raid appeared to be Nick Cooney, 23, a member of a group 
called Hugs for Puppies who has participated in protests against Huntingdon 
Life Sciences, a testing firm based near Princeton. The company has been 
the subject of an international campaign by animal-rights activists who say 
they want to put it out of business.

The campaign includes noisy protests at the homes of Huntingdon employees 
and employees of companies that do business with the firm. Some employees 
have suffered vandalism and threats.

Federal investigators have focused on Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA, 
which runs a Web site that features anonymous reports describing the 
protests after they occur. In May, seven alleged members of the group were 
indicted federally in New Jersey and accused of organizing the campaign 
against Huntingdon.

Paul J. Hetznecker, a Philadelphia lawyer who has represented Cooney, said 
the West Philadelphia raid was part of an intimidation campaign.

"My concern is that the federal government, and in particular this 
administration, has coordinated a war on lawful dissent," Hetznecker said. 
"Regardless of the evidence, you become a suspect because you are dissenting."

Around 6 a.m. yesterday, the FBI agents, including members of the Joint 
Terrorism Task Force, executed a search warrant in the 5000 block of Hazel 
Street, where Cooney rents a room in a three-story house.

The search warrant did not name Cooney, but it sought evidence related to 
Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty and Hugs for Puppies. Cooney said he was the 
only animal-rights activist among the eight people living in the house.

"They ransacked my room," said Cooney, who said he was not home at the time 
of the raid.

Jason Fults, 29, an environmental activist who also lives at the house, 
said the agents searched every part of the building, including the basement 
and attic, and seized items.

Fults said the agents took his laptop computer.

"I was a little bit scared," said Fults, who insisted he was not active 
with animal-rights causes.

An FBI receipt listing the items taken from the house included computers, 
documents, computer disks, pamphlets and a spray-paint can.

Cooney said his passport was among the documents.

Another name identified on the search warrant was "FCC," which some 
animal-rights activists suggested could refer to Focal Communication Corp., 
which is headquartered in Chicago.

A spokeswoman for Focal did not respond to requests for comment.

Earlier this year, Focal and its employees, including some in the 
Philadelphia region, were targeted for reportedly having provided 
telecommunications services to Huntingdon.

The search warrant was approved by a U.S. magistrate in Chicago, and an FBI 
special agent from Chicago led the raid.

"It's part of an ongoing federal investigation being coordinated by this 
office," said Ross Rice, the FBI's Chicago spokesman.

He would not elaborate.

Cooney said he had protested outside the homes of Focal employees and had 
received a police citation at one of the demonstrations.

He recently pleaded guilty to summary offenses in Chester County resulting 
from a demonstration outside the home of an executive of a company that the 
protesters believed was doing business with Huntingdon.

Cooney is facing a felony charge after allegedly violating a court order by 
distributing flyers in Cherry Hill that listed the home address and phone 
number of Howard Pien, the chief executive of Chiron Corp., which has done 
business with Huntingdon.

Pien lives in Cherry Hill and was the target of several demonstrations 
outside his house in January and February, including one in which 
protesters drove up and down his street in a truck with video screens 
showing animals being dissected.

Contact staff writer Robert Moran at 609-9899016 or 
<mailto:bmoran at phillynews.com>bmoran at phillynews.com.


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