An environmental activist who was sentenced to 19 years in prison as an “eco-terrorist” was released from prison today following a court ruling where the government acknowledged withholding evidence during his trial.
Eric McDavid was convicted on conspiracy charges in 2007 related to what the government called a plot to blow up the Nimbus Dam. This “conspiracy,” though, was the creation of a paid government informant named “Anna” who traveled the country with the group of activists, encouraged them to plot illegal activity, supplied them with food and housing and even provided, with the FBI’s direction, bomb-making recipes.
“Anna” began working with the FBI after writing a community-college paper on infiltrating protest groups.
“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,” one of Mr. McDavid’s lawyers, Ben Rosenfeld, told the New York Times.
That statement from Mr. Rosenfeld is no exaggeration. During McDavid’s trial, the court heard recordings of “Anna” berating McDavid and his two codefendants — who were pressured to turn against McDavid in exchange for a reduced sentence — that they were not taking action. The entire operation was terminated after it was repeatedly demonstrated that McDavid and the others were never going to blow up any dam.
Still, the FBI trumpeted McDavid’s case as a victory in the War on Terrorism. And reveled in his outlandish sentence of 19 years.
Prosecutors had the audacity to state in court documents that “McDavid’s homegrown brand of eco-terrorism is just as dangerous and insidious as international terrorism.”
What prompted this final round of court proceedings were documents released through the Freedom of Information Act. In turns out that letters between McDavid and “Anna” were given to the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit for review. The FBI wanted “Anna” to undergo a polygraph exam to evaluate her outlandish claims. These documents, which clearly cast doubt on everything this woman said in court, were never turned over to the defense. The polygraph never took place.
McDavid’s release is a victory, and should be celebrated. But it is also a reminder of how the FBI’s obsession with “eco-terrorists” — who have never injured anyone — and the relentless drive to proclaim victories in the War on Terrorism, have robbed McDavid and his family of years of his life.
The brutal reality is that there will be more cases like this, and the FBI’s rogue operation will continue, until there is a fullscale government inquiry into how “terrorism” resources are being used to persecute political dissidents. Without a massive change in oversight and accountability, the FBI will be allowed to continue sabotaging the lives of those who dare to speak out.