[Pnews] Eric McDavid released after 9 years after feds concede withholding documents
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 8 16:44:13 EST 2015
_/2 articles from corporate media follow/_
Man Convicted of Environmental Terrorism Wins Early Release
By COLIN MOYNIHAN
A man serving a 19-year prison sentence for environmental terrorism won
an early release from prison on Thursday, with a California judge
approving a settlement between defense lawyers and prosecutors. The
defense said that the authorities had withheld evidence that could have
bolstered his case at trial.
The man, Eric McDavid, 37, was convicted in 2007 of conspiring to bomb
several targets near Sacramento as part of a radical environmental
campaign. The government said he plotted attacks against government and
commercial facilities that he believed were harming the environment,
including cellphone towers and the Nimbus Dam in California. Mr.
McDavid, who visited some sites and at one point tried to make homemade
explosives, has served nine years in prison and will be released
immediately, according to his lawyers.
His prosecution had become well known in environmental circles partly
because of its star witness: a pink-haired informant who began covertly
working for the F.B.I.
at age 17 after writing a community college paper about infiltrating
political protest groups.
Mr. McDavid’s lawyers had asked that his conviction be vacated, citing
the withheld information, including a request by officials for a
polygraph examination of the informant, code-named Anna, and various
messages between her and Mr. McDavid.
Federal prosecutors disputed the value of the material, writing that
“none of the omitted items were even remotely exculpatory.” But in a
settlement approved Thursday, both sides agreed to Mr. McDavid’s
immediate release “to avoid the expenses and risks of further litigation
and to advance the interests of justice.”
Under the agreement, Judge Morrison C. England Jr. of Federal District
Court in Sacramento accepted a guilty plea by Mr. McDavid to a general
charge of conspiracy, and then sentenced him to time served. Judge
England also granted Mr. McDavid’s motion to vacate his original
conviction and sentence of 235 months, allowing for his release. Mr.
McDavid waived any future civil claims.
“Today we corrected one of the most egregious injustices I have ever
encountered in my legal career, if you consider being released after
nine years of wrongful incarceration justice,” said one of Mr. McDavid’s
lawyers, Ben Rosenfeld.
A spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office in Sacramento did
not immediately comment on the agreement.
Mr. McDavid’s conviction came as the F.B.I. carried out a sweeping
investigation of arson attacks by a group called the Earth Liberation
Front against a Vail ski resort, an S.U.V. dealership and a university
botany lab, among other sites. Federal authorities said that Anna, who
testified that Mr. McDavid had requested explosives recipes and once
threatened her life, had helped thwart a dangerous plot to blow up
targets like the United States Forest Service Institute of Forest
Genetics in Placerville, Calif., and cellphone towers in California.
“McDavid’s homegrown brand of eco-terrorism is just as dangerous and
insidious as international terrorism,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing
Defense lawyers contended that Anna was an unreliable witness who had
entrapped Mr. McDavid, manipulating his romantic attachment to her and
pushing him and two co-defendants to brew homemade explosives while
providing them with food and a place to live.
“She fomented the alleged conspiracy, literally herding defendants
together from around the country for meetings, badgering them to form a
plan, and mocking and berating them when they showed disinterest,” Mr.
Rosenfeld and another lawyer, Mark R. Vermeulen, wrote last year, adding
that the withheld material could have been used to challenge Anna’s
credibility or examine her relationship with Mr. McDavid.
By many measures Anna was an unlikely spy. She was assigned by the
F.B.I. to attend the 2004 national political conventions in Boston and
New York, a global trade summit in Georgia and anarchist gatherings in
Iowa and Indiana. Anna provided information in a dozen different cases,
the authorities said, and stayed in touch with Mr. McDavid. In 2005 she
reported that he was planning a bombing campaign, and the F.B.I.
increased its monitoring of him.
At the time of his arrest in early 2006, Mr. McDavid was living with
Anna and two co-defendants in a cabin in Dutch Flat, Calif., which the
F.B.I. had provided and fitted with surveillance equipment that recorded
the group discussing reconnaissance trips and the possibility of causing
The co-defendants, Lauren Weiner and Zachary Jenson, both pleaded guilty
in 2006 and testified against Mr. McDavid. Mr. Jenson has since said
that he felt pressured to conform to a narrative embraced by the
government, an assertion that prosecutors rejected.
After Mr. McDavid’s conviction, a Freedom of Information Act request
yielded about 2,500 pages of substantially redacted F.B.I. reports
connected to him. Defense lawyers said they thought those documents
indicated the existence of material that should have been turned over at
The undisclosed material included several emails or letters between Mr.
McDavid and Anna that had been given to the agency’s behavioral analysis
unit for review and an F.B.I. document dated two months before Mr.
McDavid’s arrest, asking for a polygraph examination to determine Anna’s
“veracity” before “the expenditure of substantial efforts and money
based on source’s reporting.” F.B.I. officials later said that
examination ultimately did not take place.
Foresthill man released from prison after feds concede withholding
By Denny Walsh and Sam Stanton
dwalsh at sacbee.com
01/08/2015 1:35 PM
A federal judge on Thursday ordered the release of a Foresthill man who
was convicted of being an ecoterrorist seven years ago, following an
extraordinary hearing in which the U.S. government conceded that
thousands of pages of documents that should have been turned over to the
defense had secretly remained locked in a Sacramento FBI office for years.
Eric McDavid, now 37, was convicted in what federal officials once
touted as a key anti-domestic-terror case. He is expected to be released
from the Sacramento County Main Jail Thursday afternoon and head home
with his family.
McDavid, who was sentenced in 2008 to 20 years in prison and has been
locked up three days shy of nine years since his arrest in 2006, won the
order releasing him after agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser count of
conspiracy that carries a maximum penalty of five years.
U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. ordered McDavid released
with credit for the time he has served but only after demanding answers
from federal prosecutors about why thousands of pages of documents had
not been divulged to the defense until after McDavid began filing
Freedom of Information Act requests from his prison cell.
“I’ve never heard or seen of anything like this,” said England, who
originally sentenced McDavid following a 10-day trial on charges that he
conspired to blow up federal facilities such as a U.S. Forest Service
McDavid and his lawyers have maintained for years that he was an
innocent dupe of an 18-year-old FBI informant dubbed “Anna,” who led him
on with promises of romance if he would pursue radical action against
Some of the documents that were only recently produced by the government
included a letter McDavid wrote to “Anna” describing his feelings for
her, as well as emails the two exchanged that the defense contends show
he was entrapped into talking about taking action – but never actually
attacked any targets – as a means of consummating a relationship with her.
“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 choir boy, but he doesn’t deserve to go
through this, either. It’s not fair.”
McDavid, who stood between his two attorneys in an orange jail jumpsuit
with his hands shackled to his waist, listened quietly as the judge
insisted on answers about how 2,500 pages of documents could have gone
missing for so long.
“This is huge,” the judge said. “This is something that needs to be
dealt with, and I want to know what happened.”
The hearing drew top brass from the U.S. attorneys office to the
courtroom to advise Assistant U.S. Attorney Andre Espinosa as he tried
to answer an unrelenting England.
Espinosa, who is relatively new to the office and had nothing to do with
the original case, said the documents were not included in the case file
or the discovery material handed over to the defense, and added that he
had questioned the two original prosecutors, who both said they had
never seen the documents.
Espinosa and John Vincent, chief of the U.S. attorney’s criminal
division, said the documents had remained in the possession of the FBI
in a file in Sacramento.
“We don’t know exactly why they weren’t turned over,” Vincent told the
judge. The government contends that, even if the documents had been
handed over, McDavid still might have been convicted.
But prosecutors and McDavid’s attorneys fashioned an agreement that
allows McDavid to walk free after pleading guilty to the conspiracy count.
Sacramento defense attorney Mark Reichel, who represented McDavid at
trial, said outside the courthouse that his client was not guilty of
anything but took the guilty plea Thursday to get out of prison.
He added that he fought for the materials that had been withheld but was
rebuffed. “I asked for this stuff,” he said. “They said, ‘Mark Reichel’s
crazy, it doesn’t exist.’
“I knew they had to have more on the informant, but they just denied it
and there was nothing I could do. It’s a great day to be alive.”
McDavid’s family sat through the court hearing, weeping at times as it
became evident he would win release. Afterward, as camera crews circled
them and McDavid’s jubilant appeals attorneys, Mark Vermeulen and Ben
Rosenfeld, celebreated, his parents said they planned to get him home as
soon as he is processed out of the jail.
Call The Bee’s Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.
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