She was told to zero in on male anarchists—seekers and romantics susceptible to the manipulations of a brassy young woman.
On a warm August day in 2004, Eric McDavid was sitting inside a house near Des Moines University in Iowa, talking to Zach Jenson, a guy he’d just met, about life as a roving environmental activist. McDavid was 26, Jenson 19, but Jenson was much more experienced—he’d already taken part in loud but uneventful demonstrations that summer at the G8 Summit, an economic forum for the world’s industrialized powers held on Sea Island, Georgia, and at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Both men were in town to attend the third annual CrimethInc, an invitation-only gathering for anarchists and anticapitalists eager to share ideas about political organizing. (The name is a play on “thoughtcrime,” from George Orwell’s 1984.) Roughly 15 people who were in town for the event were staying in the same group house.
The phone rang. It was a woman Jenson knew named Anna, who said she’d hitchhiked from Florida and needed a ride in from a truck stop. Jenson, McDavid, and a few others drove out to fetch her.
Anna was 18, with hot-pink hair and a camo skirt that stopped midthigh. McDavid took one look and thought, Damn, she rode with truckers looking like that? Jenson had met Anna at the G8 protest two months earlier, where she’d presented herself as a medic who could give first aid during street demonstrations.
Anna had a sharp tongue and was quick to laugh, and McDavid was both attracted and intimidated. She dropped names of activists she knew and had obvious experience, while he was a newbie who hadn’t done anything. McDavid was an occasional student at Sierra College, in his hometown of Auburn, California, a gentle, athletic redhead who’d played high-school football, had worked as a carpenter, and was interested in political protest and anarchist theory. He came from a loving family and had never experienced any particular radicalizing event other than a few sobering moments when he grasped the effects of construction sprawl on his beloved Sierra Nevada. The wildest thing he’d ever done was march against the war in Iraq.
Anna seemed interested in him, though. That night she walked up to McDavid as he stood with other people outside the house, tipped the dregs from her beer, and said, “When are we going to bed around here?”
McDavid and Jenson exchanged looks. McDavid smiled. “As soon as I finish this cigarette,” he said.
He led her into the room where he’d been crashing, but she got into her own sleeping bag and stayed there. “I was scratching my head at that,” McDavid told me years later, recalling the incident from behind bars at a medium-security federal lockup in Victorville, California. “But I let it go and went to sleep. She was pretty much by my side the whole time during the gathering.” People at the group house assumed they hooked up that weekend, but Anna later swore in court that they never had sex. McDavid told me the same thing in an interview.