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Scott DeMuth pleads guilty to fur farm liberation, Iowa lab raid charges dropped

The day before trial was to begin for Scott DeMuth, it was announced he would be pleading guilty to the release of ferrets (or mink) from a farm, and the University of Iowa lab raid charges would be dropped.

The development comes at the end of a long investigation into University of Iowa lab raid, which saw the lunacy of each development in the prosecution surpassed only by the one that came next. I went more in depth into the farcical nature of the investigation in a March article titled "Eight Reasons the University of Iowa A.L.F. Investigation is a Fraud".

In an apparent move of defeat, DeMuth's lawyer was approached by prosecutors the day before trial was to begin, stating they would like to resolve the case. DeMuth's lawyer told them he "would not be agreeable" to any resolution that involved pleading guilty to charges related to the University of Iowa lab raid.

The end result: DeMuth will plead guilty to the 2006 release of "hundreds" of animals from a Minnesota fur farm (or pet store breeder, depending on your source - more on that in a minute). The prosecution will recommend a sentence of six months for one misdemeanor violation of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act. His plea does not involve providing any testimony against anyone.

In exchange, prosecutors dropped charges against DeMuth for the 2004 raid at the University of Iowa, in which 401 animal were rescued (that's removed and placed in homes according to the communique, not "released" as has often been recited by lazy reporters unwilling to check their facts) and nearly $500,000 damage done to research labs. DeMuth was 17 at the time of that action.

The fur farm raid

DeMuth will now plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of Animal Enterprise Terrorism (misdemeanor because losses to the farm were estimated to be under $10,000) for the release of "hundreds" of animals from Lakeside Ferrets. Or was it the Latzig Mink Ranch?

Mink or ferrets?

There is some confusion as to what animals DeMuth is alleged to have released. Court documents describe the action, stating that the animals released were ferrets.

Yet the communique for the action (read in full here) describes it this way:
Only the breeding animals were on the farm. After cutting several
holes and opening gate in the surrounding fence, we entered the
main breeding shed. All of the breeding information was removed and
destroyed. Every cage was opened, releasing hundreds of mink into
the surrounding countryside.

There is no question that at one time, the farm was called the Latzig Mink Ranch. The farm was the site of one of the first mink liberations in the U.S., when 1,000 mink were released there in 1996.

However Lakeside Ferrets is also a business registered with the Secretary of State to that address. There are several possibilities here:

*The claim that the A.L.F. released ferrets and not mink is an attempt by the fur industry to discredit the A.L.F. (by suggesting the A.L.F. are not smart enough to know what kind of animals there are releasing)

*The farm breeds both ferrets and mink

*When working in total darkness at an address known to have been a mink ranch at one time, ferrets were (understandably) mistaken for mink

Unlike mink, I am not aware of any research on the survivability of farm-bred ferrets in the wild (read my article on such a study done with mink). Nor have I looked into the types of ferrets sold as "pets" in the U.S. (Lakeside Ferrets is said to breed ferrets for pet stores) and where they are native to. All of these would factor into any assessment on the efficacy of releasing ferrets into the wild.

The end of the University of Iowa A.L.F. investigation?

Major disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

That said, the first question that comes to mind with the dismissal of the University of Iowa charges is: Does this mean the end of the Iowa lab raid prosecution?

Based on my conversations with lawyers after the FBI raided my house as part of this investigation, I learned several things (again, this is all based on my layperson's interpretation):

*The federal statute of limitations on the University of Iowa lab raid is five years.

*The indictment was filed just days before the expiration of the SoL, in November 2009.

*The filing of an indictment effectively freezes the clock on SoL's, giving prosecutors time to issue superseding indictments and add additional charges against additional people, so long as there is an active indictment.

With the indictment now dropped, would this mean the clock has now run and charging anyone for the Iowa raid would be problematic to impossible?

I put this question to Matthew Strugar, an attorney who has worked on several prominent cases, including the AETA 4 case. The question was: What does the dismissal of charges for Scott DeMuth mean for the University of Iowa prosecution?

His response:

The general statute of limitations for federal crimes is five years. The University of Iowa raid was now almost six years ago. With the DeMuth case resolved, and with no related pending conspiracy charges, it seems highly unlikely the federal government could bring charges related to that raid.

Everything is speculative now, but one thing is known: Scott DeMuth will now spend no more than six months in prison, and has had the most serious charges against him dismissed.

A victory, for now...

The fortitude of Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth in refusing to cave to the pressure of imprisonment and intimidation has effectively shut down a shameful, politically motivated, and farcical prosecution. Their non-compliance should offer positive reinforcement to all activists that if you can ride out a brief county jail stay, and call them on their bluff, victory will be won in the end.

- Peter Young

Media Names Washington Fur Farm Where 400 Mink Were Liberated

Mink farm raided last week identified as the Harvey Beck mink farm in Granite Falls, Washington

After a non-specific report of 400 mink being released from an unnamed farm in Granite Falls, Washington last week, yesterday local media identified the farm as the Beck Mink Farm.

The Animal Liberation Front has not (yet) taken credit.

This farm has personal significance: the Harvey Beck farm is the first fur farm I visited nearly 15 years ago. Located in Granite Falls, a small town approximately 20 minutes NE of Seattle, the farm sits just off Engebretsen Road, down a gravel path. Curious to see imprisoned mink close up, we visited the farm on many occasions.

I've seen the sickness of this mink prison: The thousands of caged mink, and corpses stacked in the processing shed in the property's SE corner. I couldn't be more happy to learn that years after my first visit, a person of persons unknown finally won freedom for 400 of its captives.

When we show the fur industry that even motion sensor alarms are no deterrent, the demoralizing effect of knowing the A.L.F. will get inside their farms no matter the obstacles is a powerful message, and one that brings us one step closer to the end of the fur industry.

Endless gratitude to those who made this happen.

- Peter Young

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