Felony Charge Dropped in Florida Case Against Animal-Rights Activist

21 Jun
by David Brensilver / The Daily Maul

Arnold Christopher Lagergren

Arnold Christopher Lagergren

Florida Assistant State Attorney Jonathan Raiche has dropped a felony charge that could have landed Arnold Christopher Lagergren in prison for up to five years under the Florida Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Raiche had added the felony charge to a handful of misdemeanor trespassing and vandalism charges Lagergren was already facing in connection with an August 21, 2011, incident at the Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo, Florida.

Needless to say, this development comes as welcome news.

If there is a downside to Mr. Raiche dropping the felony charge against Mr. Lagergren, it is that the odious Florida Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act itself won’t stand trial.

Mr. Lagergren still faces up to three years in prison and up to $3,000 in fines if convicted on three, first-degree misdemeanor charges filed under Florida statutes 806.13 1b2 and 810.09.

In a November 11, 2011, commentary, I wrote: “the misdemeanor charges Lagergren was already facing sufficiently cover the crimes he’s alleged to have committed.”

Yesterday, I sent Mr. Raiche an e-mail asking what prompted him to drop the felony charge he’d filed against Mr. Lagergren.

In an e-mail response today, Mr. Raiche wrote, “In accordance with our policies, I must decline to comment on this matter as it is a pending case.”

With the felony charge being dropped, the Florida Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and its proponents will accidentally avoid the intense scrutiny they deserve. The law, like its federal model, seeks to define as “terrorists” those who threaten the bottom lines of industries that profit from the enslavement, exploitation, torture, and murder of other species. The irony of that label is as rich as it is insulting.

In a December 20, 2011, commentary, I pointed out that “language on the Office of Policy and Legislative Analysis website reads, in part: ‘The intended targets of (the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act) are a subset of animal rights activists and environmental activists, sometimes called ecoterrorists, who engage in acts of force, violence, and threats involving animal enterprises.’”

That “targeting” scheme was codified on behalf of agricultural and pharmaceutical interests. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and state adaptations thereof are relatively little-known, redundant and discriminatory pieces of legislation that most Americans would rail against if they understood the laws’ dangerous implications.

What more Americans need to realize is that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and state adaptations thereof allow special interests to “target” those whose flesh they want to take.

Prior to Mr. Raiche dropping the felony charge against him, Mr. Lagergren and his attorney, Richard Wunsch, were prepared to argue that “the FAEPA does not apply to this case and therefore the alleged facts do not establish a prima facie case of guilt against the Defendant based on the FAEPA,” according to language in a motion to dismiss that charge.

On his Facebook page yesterday, Mr. Lagergren wrote that one downside to Mr. Raiche dropping the felony charge against him is that “it … prevented any negative precedent from being set under the FAEPA.”

Last month, Blum v. Holder, a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge in Massachusetts, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed the complaint in December 2011.

In my November 11, 2011, commentary, I wrote: “Until state adaptations of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992, and the shameful Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, are repealed, state and federal prosecutors will have to ask themselves if they’re willing to do the bidding of those with pockets deep enough to buy such sinisterdesigner laws.’”

As we’ve been reminded recently, many lawmakers can be easily convinced to bend over for special interests and ignore the majority’s will — although doing so with the lights on only serves to embolden the majority, whose members will eventually take their pound of flesh.

Unfortunately, the chances of the arrogance-steeped Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and state adaptations thereof being repealed won’t improve until many more Americans understand why and for whom these obnoxious laws were enacted.

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