[Ppnews] Brooklyn activist faces life in prison
Political Prisoner News
PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Dec 9 13:32:43 EST 2005
Brooklyn activist faces life in prison on 16-count arson indictment; Is $1
million in bail enough?
By Jed Brandt
BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Federal marshals arrested six environmental activists in
a series of coordinated raids in four states yesterday, Dec. 8, in
apparent response to a string of arsons in Oregon and Washington
attributed to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), including simultaneous
attacks in 2001 at the University of Washington's Urban Horticulture
Center and the Jefferson Poplar Farms in Clatskanie, Oregon.
Daniel McGowan, 31, was arrested in New York City while working at
WomensLaw.org, an advocacy organization that provides legal information
for victims of domestic violence. He was held overnight, and brought
before a judge in the Brooklyn Federal Court to determine whether he would
be released on bail pending his arraignment and trial in Eugene, Oregon.
The hearing is currently adjourned until Friday, Dec. 9 at 2 pm, while the
judge will review a surveillance recording that an arresting detective
alleges demonstrates McGowan is a flight risk.
-- -- -- --
McGowan is better known to the New York media as Jamie Moran, a pen name
he used to protect his private life while acting as a rowdy spokesperson
for anti-Bush protesters in the lead-up to the 2004 Republican National
Convention (RNC). Several stories were written about his good-humored
activism in Rolling Stone and the New York Times, as well as The
Indypendent. "Jamie," as many New York activists came to know McGowan, was
always ready to encourage others to stand up for what they thought was
Outspoken with his anti-authoritarian politics, McGowan challenged NYPD
Commissioner Ray Kelly and the Daily News rumor machine on their claims of
a violent "anarchist menace" that was supposed to rain chaos on the city.
McGowan's good humor and total rejection of the institutions of government
were plain-stated and heartfelt.
Despite all the pre-RNC fear-mongering, the main anarchist contributions
to the historic anti-Bush protests were a bike ride, housing out-of-town
activists and a day of entirely non-violent protests with 1,800 arrests.
Almost all the charges were eventually dismissed as baseless and a civil
suit against the city is still pending, but police repression throughout
the convention was justified by the blanket of fear that they themselves
Fast forward to today...
McGowan is under a 16-count indictment related to his alleged involvement
in the 2001 Poplar Farms arson, and a separate incident earlier in the
same year at the offices of a lumber company. Federal prosecutors are
further alleging that he is a member of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF),
a decentralized direct-action movement responsible for over $100 million
in damages to urban "sprawl" developments and SUV dealerships. The ELF has
made the top of the FBI's list of domestic threats.
McGowan faces mandatory minimum sentences of 30 years each on two major
charges, which, if pressed to trial, threaten a life sentence. Stanislas
Meyerhoff, 28, was also charged in the tree farm fire and is being held in
Virginia. According to the Dept. of Justice, he also faces life in prison.
Additional arrests and raids happened in Prescott, Arizona and Springfield
Oregon in related cases.
McGowan and Meyerhoff are facing the most severe sentences for non-violent
sabotage in United States history.
McGowan totally denies any involvement with arson, and denies membership
in the ELF. This reporter has no information about Meyterhoff beyond what
has appeared in the media and on the DoJ's website.
One activist familiar with government prosecutions directed at the
militant wing of the animal rights movement, present at the Brooklyn
Federal Courthouse, noted that prosecutors routinely "throw the book" at
defendants during pre-trial motions in order to deny bail to the accused
and spread panic among the like-minded, but that the most serious charges
often can't be backed up and are dropped once trial proceeds.
In recent months, he has worked to popularize the case of Jeffrey "Free"
Luers, an alleged member of the Earth Liberation Front who was sentenced
to over 20 years in prison for a fire at an SUV dealership that destroyed
several vehicles. It wasn't just environmentalists outraged at the 20 year
sentence, and the Luers case is widely seen as a travesty of justice, but
McGowan's activism in spreading the word about Luers may have contributed
to the government's interest in him.
-- -- -- --
National Lawyers Guild attorney Martin Stolar is representing the defense
in his New York court appearances.
Stolar informed the presiding judge that McGowan's father, a retired
police officer, mother and sisters were all willing to put their homes and
co-ops up for bail -- worth up to an estimated $1,000,000 -- and that
McGowan was confident of an acquittal, the wet-behind-the-ears prosecutor
went into the audience benches to consult with a white-haired man who
turned out to be the federal prosecutor responsible for Eugene, Ore.
After whispering for a few minutes. the prosecutor spoke with a Eugene
detective working on the case, who is also deputized as a federal marshal.
and asserted that the detective had heard "recordings" of the defendant
saying he had been "hiding out" in Canada several years back, though not
necessarily in relation to any particular event, or from any particular
The recording was not a phone tap, but had been made at a location in
"northern Manhattan" in 2005.
Considering this alleged recording made by an undisclosed source and the
severity of the charges, the judge said that she was inclined to deny
Stolar immediately noted that this had not been introduced into the
hearing before bail was offered, and that this was hearsay.
Following this, the detective took the stand under oath saying that he
heard McGowan say he had been "hiding out," or that he "hid" in Canada.
During the time he is alleged to have been hiding, there were no charges
pending or warrants outstanding against him. For his part, McGowan said
that he was on a vacation in Canada and has lived openly in Eugene and New
York, as well as taking trips to Canada.
On cross-examination, Stolar asked the detective if the recording was made
by a "cooperating witness." The prosecution objected and the judge
sustained the objection.
The source of the recording remains unknown. The prosecutor said that more
information on the recording could not be shared in court because this is
an ongoing investigation, with further arrests pending.
Stolar noted that this alleged recording could have been of anyone, and
insisted that before the judge deny bail, that she should at least hear
the recording to verify that the detective had testified truthfully. The
detective said that the recording was in his hotel room, and noting the
lateness of the day, adjourned the hearing until 2 p.m. tomorrow (Friday,
The prosecution also insisted that defense council not be allowed to hear
the recording, as it would compromise the ongoing investigation of this
5-year old case.
Speaking outside the courthouse, Stolar was optimistic that if the
recording is inconsistent with the detective's testimony, the chance of
bail being granted was "better than what it was."
Whether McGowan is released on bail or not, the next venue for arraignment
and possible trial will be in Eugene, Oregon.
Aside from two dozen supporters and friends, McGowan's immediate family,
girlfriend and co-workers were in attendance. Many were shocked at the
severity of the charges, with co-workers saying that he is the "nice guy
who cracks everyone up" at the job.
McGowan's girlfriend was visibly distraught, having come home to their
apartment and finding it torn apart by police and her partner facing life
Supporters of McGowan gathered at a nearby diner after the hearing to
discuss the events.
From the Department of Justice's announcement of the nationally
"These indictments and arrests were the result of a nine year
investigation of numerous arsons in the Northwest and other states. In
many of the fires the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation
Front (ELF) claimed responsibility. Participating in the extensive
investigation were the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the Eugene Police
Department, the Portland Police Bureau, the Oregon State Police, the U.S.
Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, the Oregon Department of Justice and the Lane County
Sheriff's Office. The investigation is continuing."
By Jed Brandt
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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