Jurisprudence: Presumed Gullible

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, November 1995

Jurisprudence: Presumed Gullible
By Ken Olsen

It almost seemed cruel. After tracing fugitive animal-rights activist Rod Coronado to a house on an Arizona Indian reservation, police spun a tale about an injured bird down at the local fire station. The 29-year-old Coronado, an animal lover perhaps to a fault, fell for the ruse and went out for a look. Alas, instead of a helpless critter, he found himself surrounded by federal agents.

That was a year ago, but last September the FBI's crafty detective work paid off. In the government's most significant victory in an investigation into attacks on fur farms and research labs carried out by the Animal Liberation Front in 1991 and 1992, Coronado pleaded guilty to playing a part in one of the raids--a 1992 arson fire at a Michigan State University laboratory.

But while Coronado's guilty plea means that somebody will finally do time for the ALF's handiwork--he was sentenced to 57 months in prison and ordered to come up with $2.5 million in restitution--a big question looms: Was it worth it? After all, Coronado's is the sole conviction in a three-year-old investigation that has convened eight grand juries, subpoenaed 60 witnesses, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"I think it will comfort them," says Ingrid Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the outfit that paid most of Coronado's legal expenses. "But believe me, movements don't hinge on one individual. And little will change in ours."

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