Fed terror charges tossed against animal activists

A federal judge has dismissed charges against four animal rights activists accused of violating a rarely enforced anti-terrorism law while protesting at the homes of University of California scientists.

U.S. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte on Monday granted a motion to dismiss the indictments against Maryam Khajavi, of Pinole; Joseph Buddenberg, of Berkeley; Adriana Stumpo, of Long Beach; and Nathan Pope, of Oceanside.

In his ruling, the judge said the indictments against them were too vague and that there was a “lack of specificity.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office in San Francisco, which prosecuted the case, had no comment on the ruling.

Federal prosecutors can refile the charges, but spokesman Jack Gillund would not say whether they plan to do so.

The four were charged under the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act for allegedly using force, violence or threats to interfere with animal research.

Prosecutors said they participated in threatening demonstrations in early 2009 at the homes of UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz scientists whose research involves animals.

Defense attorney Rachel Meeropol, of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the decision is “a huge victory for people everywhere who care about the First Amendment.”

“When our government seeks to punish speech and protests as a crime, it cannot avoid First Amendment scrutiny by failing to provide details about what that defendant is alleged to have said or done,” she said.

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