[Ppnews] RNC activist pleads guilty - Informants and Undercover Agents
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Mar 17 18:00:35 EDT 2009
Two articles follow
Man in RNC Molotov cocktail case pleads guilty
© 2009 The Associated Press
March 17, 2009, 2:26PM
MINNEAPOLIS One of the men accused of making
Molotov cocktails during the Republican National
Convention reversed himself in court Tuesday and
pleaded guilty to federal charges.
David Guy McKay, 23, of Austin, Texas, pleaded
guilty to three counts, including one count of
possession of an unregistered firearm, one count
of illegal manufacture of a firearm and one count
of possession of a firearm with no serial number.
Previously he had fought the charges, claiming he
was entrapped by a government informant, but on
Tuesday he told a federal judge that he and
Bradley Neal Crowder would have made the bombs with or without the informant.
"I think we would've done it anyways," he said.
McKay's trial ended with a hung jury in January.
A retrial was scheduled to start this week, but he avoided that with his plea.
Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis ordered
McKay into custody. McKay had been free on bond following his mistrial.
McKay had tried to plead guilty on Monday. He
said that while he wanted to take responsibility
for what he did, the government informant, Brandon Darby, also had a role.
Davis refused to accept that plea agreement and
adjourned the hearing until Tuesday. By then,
McKay decided to tell the judge that Darby played
no role in the decision to make the Molotov cocktails.
He claimed he, Crowder and Darby had discussed
making firebombs, but that he couldn't remember
who came up with the idea first. McKay said he
and Crowder intended to do violence.
"We didn't need Brandon there to make them," he said of the bombs.
The men were part of a Texas group that came to
St. Paul to protest at the convention, which was
held Sept. 1-4 at the Xcel Energy Center. McKay
was arrested Sept. 3 during a raid on an
apartment in St. Paul during which eight Molotov
cocktails gasoline-filled bottles with improvised wicks were seized.
Prosecutors claim that McKay told an informant
that he intended to throw the firebombs at police
vehicles parked near the apartment.
Darby was a well-known Texas activist who has
said he became disenchanted with some of the
radical elements of the activist community. He
acted as an FBI informant and infiltrated the group.
Crowder pleaded guilty in January and is awaiting
sentencing. He didn't testify in McKay's first
trial, but was scheduled to do so in the retrial.
The Political Persecution of the RNC 8: Part 2 Informants and Undercover Agents
by Revolution (
<mailto:revolution.sfbureau at gmail.com>revolution.sfbureau [at] gmail.com )
Wednesday Mar 11th, 2009 2:48 PM
A very important case is unfolding in
Minnesotaeight people are being singled out by
the government for their role in the political
protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC).
At the September 08 RNC in St. Paul, war
criminal John McCain and right-wing religious
fundamentalist Sarah Palin were being selected as
the Republican ticket for the presidential race.
The national media spent endless hours on things
like Palins unmarried pregnant daughter.
Meanwhile, the streets of St. Paul were turned
into a militarized zone with massive police
mobilization. Over the course of four days,
thousands defied the armed clampdown to make
known their opposition to U.S.
wars-torture-spying and the imperialist
globalization that has brought suffering to a
huge section of humanity and caused catastrophic
environmental damage. Over 800 people were
arrested and scores were brutalized by the police.
Even before the protests started, law enforcement
authorities carried out preemptive raids and
arrests of activists and independent journalists
throughout Minneapolis/St. Paul (the Twin
Cities). Among those arrested were eight who are
now being targeted for persecution, facing over
12 years in prison. They are known as the RNC 8.
For the first time, a state version of the
fascistic USA Patriot Act is being applied to
political demonstrations. The RNC 8 are charged
with felony conspiracy to riot in furtherance of
terrorism and felony conspiracy to commit
criminal damage to property in furtherance of
terrorism, along with two other felonies. They
were sitting in jail for the duration of the
Republican conventionbut they are being held
legally responsible for anything that any protestor did during that time.
The prosecution of the RNC 8 would set a very bad
precedent that criminalizes political protest.
But too few people even know about this case.
Everyone who understands the importance of
dissent and the ability to resist the crimes
being committed by the government and ruling
institutions needs to speak out. A big demand to
drop the charges on the RNC 8 needs to be raised
from a broad cross section of society. This
railroad must be stopped cold in its tracks.
Read Part 1: The Case of the RNC 8 at
Part 2: Informants and Undercover Agents: The
Governments Strategy To Disrupt, Set Up and
Attack Opposition To The Republican National Convention
A striking feature of the governments repressive
strategy which has come to light in relationship
to the Republican National Convention (RNC) in
St. Paul, Minnesota in fall of 2008 was the use
of informants and undercover agents against the
radical and progressive forces who were
organizing and participating in the protests
outside the RNC. For a number of years there has
been an intensification of this more openly
repressive expression of bourgeois dictatorship.
As it has in the past, especially when it felt
threatened and challenged, the government sent
people into movements of resistance around the
RNC to disrupt, discredit and to spread ideas in
the context of it, which the authorities then
turn around and seized on to attack the movement.
For any movement which is serious about trying to
challenge the hideous objectives of the most
powerful imperialist empire that has ever
existed, there is a difficult contradiction to
handle well. On the one hand, how not to easily
get set up or entrapped and do this without
falling over into creating an atmosphere of
suspicion and paranoia. The former is aimed at
destroying the movement from the outside and the
latter would essentially destroy it, but from the
inside. The role of the informants and undercover
agents in Minneapolis and in the months leading
up to the RNC is important to examine.
Who Were the Targets of the Government?
First, the use of informants/undercover agents
has a lot of bearing on the magnitude of the
injustice of the raids, arrests and prosecutions
of demonstrators, including the case of the RNC 8
who are charged with felony riot and property
damage in furtherance of terrorism and face 12+
years in jail as well, and undoubtedly will
continue to be an important element of legal
defense strategies. (See Part 1: The Case of the
RNC 8) Second, there are important general
lessons to learn for all who are struggling to
bring into being a better world. Learning those
lessons now is one way of raising standards so as
to not get derailed by the governments
strategies arrayed against progressive, radical and revolutionary movements.
Who were the so-called terrorists that the
government was busy enlisting informants to
ferret out? Apparently the kind that hung out in
vegan potlucks. An article from the alternative
paper, the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages,
reported that a University of Minnesota student
was approached by the FBI on behalf of the Joint
Terrorist Task Force (JTTF), in May 2008, months
before the convention. The student had been
busted for a tagging incident on campus and the
campus security police summoned him to a meeting
with the FBI agent. She tried to recruit him.
She told me I had the perfect look and that I
had the perfect personalitythey kept saying I
was friendly and personablefor what they were
looking for, the student told City Pages. He
said they wanted an informant to show up at
vegan potlucks throughout the Twin Cities and rub
shoulders with RNC protestors, schmoozing his way
into their inner circles, then reporting back to
the FBIs Joint Terrorism Task Force. According
to the article, and this is very important, the
student would be compensated for his efforts,
but only if his involvement yielded an arrest.
And equally as important, this student went
public immediately and exposed the JTTF effort to recruit him.
The Emergence of an FBI Informant-Provocateur
In December 2008, Brandon Darby emerged as a key
FBI informant-provocateur in relationship to the
RNC protest scene. There is much that remains to
be learned about Darby. Some of his closest
former associates have started a working group
and a web site to piece together the picture of
his role and personna by gathering information
and analysis from people who knew him over a
number of years. These activists are trying to
determine at what point Darby began informing for
the government and what his behavior looked like
so others can learn from their experience. Those
who knew him feel deeply betrayed by his actions.
While almost everyone was shocked, some were less
so than others, as there had been controversy and
disagreement for some time among those who worked
closely with him about his role. This was well
before it became known he was an informant.
There is a lot of uncertainty about when or why
Darby became an informant or if he was in fact an
undercover agent (an actual employee, not a
volunteer as he claims), especially in the wake
of Hurricane Katrina. It is not known what other
investigations he might have been a part of
besides in relation to the RNC protests. It is
important that the movement and those who knew
him scientifically figure this out as he has been
a known social activist for 10 years in the Austin and New Orleans areas.
While being careful to not jump to an unwarranted
conclusion, it is worth considering what Darby
himself says about his ideological change of
heart, (particularly in the context of the we
are one patriotism promoted by Obama that there
is not a red America and a blue America but the
United States of America). What is noteworthy
here is that Darby justifies his actions not on
the basis of Bush-style reactionary Republican
politics, but on more traditional values of
American bourgeois democracy: that as long as
people are allowed to participate in politics
within the (highly confining limits of) the
political system, its appropriate for the
government to spy on and attempt to imprison
those who do not confine their political opposition to those constraints.
In an interesting piece titled, The Informant,
Revolutionary to Rat: The uneasy journey of
Brandon Darby, by Diana Welch, Austin Chronicle,
January 23, 2009, the author interviews Darby and
reports that while Darby says he is the
furthest thing from a Republican, it was
protecting the rights of Republicans, ...that
finally persuaded him to work with the feds. One
morning, I woke up and realized that I disagree
with the group I was associating with as much as
I disagree with the Republican Party, he
recalls. Later the article goes on to quote Darby
saying he opposed the RNC Welcoming Committee
because when they organize around the country,
not to protest but to specifically prevent
another group of American citizens to exercise
their right to assemble, the U.S. government is
going to get involved, he says. And they should
get involved, and I support it wholeheartedly.
After interviewing Darby and others who have
worked with him including some who suspected him
long ago of being an agent, in Common Ground and
in Austin, the author Welch writes, None of this
fully explains why Darby chose to go undercover
as an FBI informant and surreptitiously spy on
his friends when he could have instead simply
left the movement and tried to get involved in
public policy in some other productive way. Ive
watched countless activists begin to work in the
Legislature and begin to do things that
participate in the system; we have a system that
is wide open for our involvement, he [Darby]
said. You can get involved and have a say so; if
you disagree with the way our city is run, you
can get involved. If you have an ideological bent
thats on social justice, you can become a law
enforcement officer, you can get involved with the FBI, or a lawyer.
One reason Darbys working as an informant was
such a big deal was because Darby was a major
figure in Common Ground (a group formed in the
wake of Katrina to enlist volunteers in clean-up
and rebuilding efforts in New Orleans) and he
used those credentials to do the governments
dirty work of spying on people who were trying to
oppose the governments crimes. Again, it is not
known yet if Darby was an informant at any point
when he worked with Common Ground in New Orleans.
Darby has only publicly admitted he was paid by
the government for his role as an informant since 2007.
Darbys identity as a key informant became known
during a case involving two men from Austin,
Texas who were arrested during the course of the
RNC protests. These two defendants do not have
anything to do with the case of the RNC 8. When
Darbys role as an informant emerged, a
co-founder of Common Ground and a long time
friend of Darby initially publicly defended him
against what seemed like possible snitch
jacketing of Darby (i.e., falsely labeling Darby
an agent). Discovery materials released during
the case pointed strongly to Darby as the
informant. Apparently, after being confronted by
his former friends, Darby issued a public
statement, arrogantly and unapologetically
defending his role as an informant for the FBI as
being in the best interests of the movement in
order to protect it from violent elements.
The story of Darby the FBI informant sheds light
on the governments handiwork not only in the
case of two Texas defendants arrested in
conjunction with the RNC in Minnesota, but also
on the underpinnings for the lurid and scary
tales that authorities used to shape their
rationales and pretexts and then fed to the
public to justify their repression and the arrests.
According to a December 8, 2008 New York Times
article: Darby provided descriptions of meetings
with the defendants [ed: two from Texas later
arrested at the RNC] and dozens of other people
in Austin, Minneapolis and St. Paul. He wore
recording devices at times, including a
transmitter embedded in his belt during the
convention. He also went to Minnesota ... four
months before the Republican gathering and gave
detailed narratives to law enforcement
authorities of several meetings they had with
activists from New York, San Francisco, Montana and other places.
Darby, age 32, had a lot of street cred lore
surrounding him for his supposed role in the
immediate aftermath of Katrina and for his work
with Common Ground. In the spring of 2008, he
worked with an affinity group in Austin, Texas
which included two friends in their early 20s
(McKay and Crowder) who wanted to protest at the
RNC. Both were charged in Minnesota with the
making of firebombs. They were not charged with
ever using one. While Crowder pled guilty, McKay
decided to fight his entrapment by Darby. McKays
lawyer, Jeff DeGree, told the courtroom
(according to an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on January 26, 2009):
This is a case of a government informant who
took it upon himself to make things happen, he
told jurors in his opening statement. He said
that Darby showed McKay and Crowder jujitsu moves
and lambasted protesters for looking like a
bunch of tofu-eaters, saying, You better start
eating meat to bulk up and prepare for this,
DeGree said. And it was Darby who planted the
seeds of violence after their [homemade] shields
were seized, the attorney said. Brandon Darby
went crazy when that happened, [saying,] Were
not going to take this lying down. Youve got to
do something about it, DeGree said.
McKay took the witness stand on his own behalf to
argue he was entrapped by Darby into doing
something he never would have done otherwise. FBI
agent Sellers testified that Darby wore a
transmitter on the night of September 2, 2008,
when McKay allegedly told of plans to use the
firebombs. Sellers said five federal agents were
listening to the conversation, but they made no
recording! And Sellers was the only one who took
notes. How convenient that no less than five FBI
agents forgot a tape recorder!
On February 2, 2009, in a highly unusual
development the judge declared a hung jury
because the jury could not reach a verdict of
guilt or acquittal in McKays trial! The judge
released McKay on bond pending a new trial. He
had been sitting in jail since September 2008.
While Darby is one of the main informants for the
FBI to surface in conjunction with the extensive
repression surrounding the RNC, he is not the
only one to have been publicly identified. There
are at least three others who have covered in a
December 1, 2008 Minneapolis Star Tribune article.
The father of one of the defendants pointed out
that the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper has
not had one good, substantial piece on the case
of the RNC 8, yet they did manage to review 1,000
pages of notes from undercover operatives for the
local sheriffs department. Similarly, the New
York Times did a story on Darbys emergence as an
informant after years as an activist in New
Orleans and Austin but not on the scope of the
repression and the legal cases unfolding in
Minneapolis in relation to the RNC. These
undercover agent stories prey on most peoples
ignorance about the historical role of informants
in political cases and movements as agents for
the fabrication of evidence, for lying about what
activists were planning and/or entrapmentall for
the purpose of proving legal charges against
those the authorities target. They also provide
justification for the heavy hammer of repression
that was brought down against all the protestors.
These stories of informants can convey that
somehow the ensuing legal cases are based on
first-hand eyewitness accounts, so the general
public should not be too alarmed that young
people and protestors are being railroaded to
prison. And at the same time it can breed
distrust among activists, creating a paranoid
atmosphere so it can be a win-win for the
authorities to cover these cases through the eyes
of the informants. This is one of the things that
support for the protestors and exposure of the
governments repressive strategies can counter.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an article on
December 1, 2008, Anarchist looked like
someones mom. A deputy sheriff and two others
infiltrated the RNC Welcoming Committee before
GOP convention. (Except where noted, all of the
descriptions and quotes which follow are drawn from the Star Tribune article.)
The local sheriffs department (which was working
in close connection with the JTTF and other
federal law enforcement agencies) in August 2007
sent Marilyn Hedstrom, a woman in her 50s into a
storefront used by activists in Minneapolis and
introduced herself as Norma Jean. According to
her reports, she told activists she had issues
with President Bush and the Iraq war.
Hedstrom, a narcotics officer, was partnered with
a guard in the county jail in her 20s, who posed
as Amanda, Hedstroms niece. Amanda, now a
deputy, halted her undercover work after a few
months. The sheriff, Fletcher, told the Star
Tribune reporter that Amanda didnt have the
level of acceptance that Marilyn had. Hedstrom
told activists that Amanda dropped out after
finding a new boyfriend. Activists point out that
Amanda had a fake Facebook page.
According to the article, most of the anarchists
were decades younger than Hedstrom, but Fletcher
said that posed no problem. Were not always
looking for a person that seems to fit
perfectly, he said. Someone that is not an
obvious fit ... is least likely to be suspected.
Also, he said, pairing Hedstrom with Amanda increased their safety.
Hedstrom went dumpster diving at the groups
instructions to find food for the anarchists to
eat. She cooked meals for some meetings, ran
errands, coordinated committee discussions and
represented the organization at some gatherings
of the protest movement. She became friends of
some of the activists. And she, ironically, even
helped on security for the anarchists, who
worried that the cops were infiltrating them.
The Star Tribune goes on to describe a third
informant (paid and rewarded later with a job as
a jail guard with an avenue to become a deputy).
Chris Dugger gave off different vibes and was
often under a cloud of suspicion. In his late
20s, he was kind of muscular, had tattoos and
looked like a biker. An activist account says
that Dugger portrayed himself as participating
in a radical project for the first time and
avoided helping except for the most basic tasks.
According to the undercover agents reports, at a
meeting where Hedstrom was the facilitator,
someone expressed concern that Dugger was a cop
and he became emotional and told them how bad he
felt, he wiped his eyes and blew his nose. He
denied he was an informer. The memo said two
activists told him they dont think he is a cop.
They said a cop would have just walked away and
never returned and wouldnt cry. In another
chilling part, the article says that by August
2008, Dugger was urging an anarchist to suspect
another anarchist of being an informer.
There is a fourth informant who worked for the
FBI like Darby. His identity has been confirmed
by news coverage of the January 2009 arrest of
Andrew Darst for an incident where he allegedly
broke into a house by ripping the door off the
hinges and confronting his wife and striking two
men present at the gathering. In an embarrassing
development for the state, Darst is now charged
with two felony counts of first- and
second-degree burglary as well as fifth-degree
assault, a misdemeanor. Darst is a key
prosecution witness in the case of the RNC 8. His
arrest for a violent rampage will likely become
an issue as it reveals his instability and propensity for violence.
When he was an FBI informant, Darst was known as
Andy Panda, about 30 years old. According to
those familiar with the movement scene in
Minneapolis, Panda began attending RNC
Welcoming Committee meetings, introduced to the
group as an avid urban explorer, and was (and
still may be) active in the regional urban
exploring scene. According to an account posted
on Indymedia in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St.
Paul), Darst was first seen within the anarchist
circle at the Crimethinc convergence three years
ago, and has attended the convergence annually
ever since. Like the other infiltrators, he was
active in committee meetings and attended
functions with other, non-anarchist
organizations. Importantly, however, Panda was
also involved in anti-RNC activity independent of
and unrelated to the RNC Welcoming Committee.
According to this same account, in addition to
recording meetings he attended, his apartment in
Minneapolis was wired for audio and video recording.
* * *
The on-going exposure of these agents and
scientific (rigorous, and unsparingly objective)
analysis about how they were able to insinuate
their way into movements are important both for
the legal cases and in combating repression in
general because they will continue to be sent in
to derail, disrupt and set up organizations and
people who the government considers a threat,
including those who are fighting for a better world.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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