Is chanting terrorism? 4 charged under Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

Joseph Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope, and Adriana Stumpo were arrested by the FBI February 20 on trumped-up terrorism charges under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Each faces ten years in prison if convicted. The alleged crime? Attending protests in the Bay Area in 2007 and 2008 against animal experimentation at the University of California and allegedly publishing the names and addresses of UC researchers who experiment on living animals, known as vivisectors.

According to In Defense of Animals, “Every year, tens of millions of animals are dissected, infected, injected, gassed, burned and blinded in hidden laboratories on college campuses and research facilities throughout the U.S. Still more animals are used to test the safety of cosmetics, household cleansers and other consumer products. These innocent primates, dogs, cats, rabbits, rodents and other animals are used against their will as research subjects in experiments and procedures that would be considered sadistically cruel were they not conducted in the name of science.”

In the news release and associated criminal complaint the FBI lays out the basis for the arrests and the case against the defendants, alleging that:

• Three of the defendants attended protests at the homes of vivisectors working at UC Berkeley where, “…extremists dressed generally in all black clothing and wearing bandanas to hide their faces marched, chanted, and chalked defamatory comments on the public sidewalks in front of the residences.”

• Three of the defendants attended a protest at the home of a UC Santa Cruz vivisector whose husband came outside to confront the activists and allegedly engaged in a “struggle” with one or more of the protestors. Of special interest in this charge are the facts that (1) the husband appears to have initiated any sort of confrontation that took place, (2) the defendants are not alleged to have engaged in any sort of struggle themselves, and (3) the basis for the claim that they were even present for the protest is based on DNA evidence off bandanas seized from a car that was alleged to have been used for the protest.

• Two of the defendants were observed via video surveillance footage looking up public information on vivisectors at UC Santa Cruz.

• Two of the defendants were observed via video surveillance footage standing near the location where a stack of flyers was later found at a café in Santa Cruz. The flyer was entitled “Murderers and torturers alive & well in Santa Cruz,” which the FBI alleged in their news release listed the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of several University of California researchers.

The way the FBI has turned a case that wouldn’t even warrant a misdemeanor arrest into a Federal felony case is by charging Maryam, Joseph, Adriana, and Joseph with conspiring to interfere with an animal enterprise. More specifically, the four now face two federal charges – Conspiracy and violating the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), each count carrying a maximum sentence of five years.

These arrests mark the first batch of prosecutions under the newly expanded AETA. The modified version of the law was introduced in 2006 at the urging of animal industry groups and snuck through congress while only a handful of Representatives and Senators were present.

The AETA makes it illegal to “interfere” with an animal enterprise, in an overly vague and extremely subjective way. As a result this law not only endangers these four defendants charged with violating the AETA themselves, but also has the potential to have a chilling effect on free speech and protest. In fact, the FBI news release announcing the arrests indicated the charges were designed to “send a message” by making an example of the defendants.

We too can send a message – whether we are animal liberationists, civil liberties advocates, anti-authoritarians, or human beings of any sort. We will not stand idly by while federal agents begin witch-hunts, kick in doors, subpoena people to grand juries, and seek to eliminate dissent wherever it threatens corporate interests. Instead we must stand tall — continuing to speak out, protest, and resist government repression.

While these four young people (known as the AETA4) face the full force of the US Justice Department, they have the truth on their side and a skilled team of attorneys to fight for their freedom. But with the deep pockets of the US Attorney’s Office opposing them, they need tens of thousands of dollars to finance their defense. If you can offer any assistance, whether large or small, please consider donating to their defense fund. Donations can be sent to:

The AETA Defense Fund PO Box 99162 Emeryville, CA 94662. For updates on the case or to donate online please visit:


The AETA4 are:

Joseph Buddenberg (age 25) currently residing in Oakland with his wife. Joey hopes to return to school and work once his home confinement conditions are lifted.

Maryam Khajavi (age 20) is a recent UC Santa Cruz graduate who lives in Oakland, California and hopes to attend law school and become a civil-rights attorney.

Nathan Pope (age 26) and Adriana Stumpo (age 23) are engaged and currently residing in southern California. Adriana is a recent graduate of UC Santa Cruz and Nathan a student at Cabrillo Community College.