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Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
S. A. E. N.
"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"

Media Coverage

SJ: Animal Rights Activists Say Demonstrations Were Free Speech, Not Threats

March 19, 2009

Four animal rights activists pleaded not guilty in federal court in San Jose today on charges of threatening professors who use animals in biomedical research, saying their actions are protected as free speech.

The two men and two women are charged with violating the U.S. Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of 2006, an antiterrorism measure that expanded prior laws to protect the people and organizations who perform research on animals. Members of the group's legal team said this is the first time someone has been prosecuted under this law.

Joseph Buddenberg, 25, of Berkeley; Maryam Khajavi, 20, of Pinole; Nathan Pope, 26, of Oceanside; and Adriana Stumpo, 23, of Long Beach were arrested in February on charges of threatening professors from the University of California, Santa Cruz and the University of California at Berkeley in 2007 and 2008.

According to the indictment, the defendants are charged with two counts: conspiracy to damage or interfere with an operation of animal enterprise, and using force, violence and threats to place researchers "in reasonable fear of death." Each count carries a possible maximum of five years in prison and fines upon conviction.

U.S. law defines an animal enterprise as a commercial or academic entity that uses or sells animals for one of several purposes, including testing and research.

The indictment, issued by a federal grand jury in San Jose March 12, alleges that these charges stem from demonstrations on Oct. 21, 2007 and Jan. 27, 2008 at biomedical researchers' homes in the East Bay.

According to a prior criminal complaint, the group joined others in demonstrating at the residences of six UC Berkeley professors in El Cerrito, Berkeley and Oakland.

Demonstrators allegedly dressed in black, covered their faces with bandanas, marched, chalked insults on the sidewalk and chanted slogans that called the professors murderers and terrorists.

The indictment also states that on July 29, 2008, Pope and Stumpo, along with another person, used the Internet to locate personal information on biomedical researchers at UC Santa Cruz. The two are engaged to be married, their attorneys said.

At a small rally after the arraignment, members of the group's legal team said they will challenge the constitutionality of the AETA.

"They are clearly, 100 percent, issues of free speech," Buddenberg's attorney, Robert Bloom, said of the charges.

After the hearing, Khajavi read a prepared statement, calling herself "a victim of free speech suppression."

Khajavi said she graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2008 and is applying to law schools in hopes of becoming a civil rights attorney.

Her attorney, Tony Serra, described his client as young and idealistic, engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment.

"I will vigorously defend her right to dissent," he said.

The group will return to court April 13 at 9 a.m. for a status hearing before Judge Ronald M. Whyte, who is assigned to preside over the case.

Dozens of animal rights and free speech supporters turned out, holding signs to express solidarity with the activists, dubbed the AETA4.

Michael Budkie of the Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! group said researchers at University of California facilities deprive monkeys of water for long periods of time and "force electrodes into their brains," among other practices.

"We continue to send a message to the University of California that we're not going away," he said.

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