[Ppnews] The Disturbing GreenScare Case of Briana Waters

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 6 11:49:26 EST 2008


http://www.counterpunch.org/rosenfeld02062008.html

February 6, 2008


The Informant Game


The Disturbing GreenScare Case of Briana Waters

By BEN ROSENFELD

Tacoma, Washington.

On February 11, trial begins in the federal government's case against 
Briana Waters. Ms. Waters is accused of conspiring to burn down the 
University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001. 
Specifically, the government accuses Ms. Waters of acting as a 
lookout. The Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the 
fire, along with another one the same day, at the Jefferson Poplar 
Farms in Clatskanie, Oregon, saying that the poplar research posed 
"an ecological nightmare" for the diversity of native forests. Ms. 
Waters, a violin teacher and 32-year-old mother of a three-year-old 
daughter, steadfastly maintains her innocence. Federal sentences for 
arson, including those motivated by greed, insurance fraud, and even 
racial hatred, typically fall within the 5-7 year range. But if 
convicted of both counts, Ms. Waters faces a mandatory minimum 35 
years behind bars (five for the arson charge, and 30 for the 
destructive device charge).

The government has no physical or even direct evidence against Ms. 
Waters. It's "case" rests entirely on the testimony of two 
informants, Jennifer Kolar and Lacey Phillabaum, who confessed to 
participating in the University of Washington arson, and who will 
receive leniency (3-7 year sentences) in exchange for their testimony.

On December 26th, 2007, attorneys for Ms. Waters filed a motion 
arguing that the government engaged in criminal activity by 
concealing important exculpatory information and by creating at least 
one fraudulent FBI report. According to the motion, when informant 
Jennifer Kolar initially identified her accomplices, she pointedly 
did not name Ms. Waters. An FBI agent's handwritten notes of the 
interview confirm this. Moreover, in another interview some months 
later, Ms. Kolar confirmed her earlier account. On another occasion, 
She also told her handlers that she never saw Ms. Waters with the 
second informant, Lacey Phillabaum.

It is well known in the informant game that informants must trade new 
names for favors, not names the government already has. Inevitably, 
this leads to the risk that informants will implicate innocent 
people. In addition, police can easily mold the information they 
receive from informants into what they want to hear. According to 
former FBI agent Jack Ryan, who was fired for refusing to go along 
with the FBI's counterintelligence program against the Plowshares 
Movement in the 1980s, the FBI would simply make up the information 
it wanted to hear and put it in the mouths of informants, real or 
fictitious. (1)

According to Ms. Waters' attorneys, the feds have refused to provide 
the defense with the original "302" form--the FBI's report 
memorializing the interview with informant Kolar in which she 
identified her actual accomplices, not Ms. Waters. Rather, they 
passed off a doctored 302 as the original. According to the motion, 
it is evident that the government falsified this document because (a) 
it alters the information contained in the handwritten notes, and (b) 
the government refused to provide it to the defense for many months 
after it was requested. The defense contends that it was during this 
period that the government falsified it. The government has refused 
to allow the defense attorneys supervised access to the FBI's filing 
system, which would likely expose this egregious misconduct.

According to the motion, the federal agents' and prosecutors' 
misconduct not only violates Ms. Waters' constitutional rights and 
undermines her defense, it constitutes the crimes of perjury and 
obstruction of justice. However, the federal judge, Franklin Burgess, 
has shown no interest in disciplining the government or repairing the 
damage to Ms. Waters' defense. In his January 7, 2008 order denying 
the motion, the Judge wrote without explaining or substantiating his 
findings: "Nothing in Defendant Waters' assertions about the timing 
and content of the FBI agents' 302s convinces the Court to conclude 
that there has been misconduct, intentional failure to disclose, 
production of a fraudulent 302, or untimely production of discovery."

Then, on January 29, Judge Burgess held yet another closed hearing 
(Judge Burgess closes all of his hearings in this case to the public, 
in violation of the fundamental principle that court proceedings 
should be open and transparent) in which he ruled that the defense 
may not present its own expert to rebut the government's expert 
testimony that the delayed incendiary device used in the arson was a 
bomb. In so doing, the Judge has deprived Ms. Waters of a crucial 
part of her defense to that charge which carries the harshest penalty 
(a mandatory 30 years), in violation of her fundamental 
constitutional rights. The defense has filed a motion for 
reconsideration, but Judge Burgess, who has shown extreme partiality 
to the government throughout the case, is not expected to reverse his ruling.

According to one of Ms. Waters' attorneys, Bob Bloom, "The government 
hand-picked this Judge by manipulating court procedures. This is a 
classic case of a corrupt prosecution, and a Judge who apparently 
chooses to look the other way."

Briana Waters is a victim of the "Green Scare"--the federal 
government's hysterical, post-911 witch-hunt against environmental 
activists, and its overzealous charging tendencies. Shortly after the 
government revealed the indictment, former U.S. Attorney General 
Alberto Gonzales stood up and proclaimed Ms. Waters guilty in the 
media, prejudging the case for the jury, and demonstrating that the 
government is more concerned with public relations and declaring 
victory than with truth or fairness. If Ms. Waters is convicted, then 
the government, which pretends to want to prevent violence, will have 
inflicted the biggest casualties in the crime which it purports to be 
investigating, and done immeasurable harm to this gentle young woman, 
and especially her three-year old daughter.

People are encouraged to show support for Briana Waters by attending 
her trial in Tacoma, Washington, which is expected to last several 
weeks. For more information, or to make donations, visit www.supportbriana.org.

Ben Rosenfeld is a Civil Rights Attorney. He lives in San Francisco.

Notes

(1) Former Agent Ryan provided this information to attorneys, 
including this author, for use in environmental organizer Judi Bari 
and Darryl Cherney's historic lawsuit against the FBI and Oakland 
Police, for attempting to frame them for transporting a car bomb 
which the evidence plainly showed a would-be assassin had planted 
under Bari's car seat in an attempt to kill her while she drove 
through Oakland in 1990. (For more information, visit 
<http://www.judibar.org/>www.judibar.org.)




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