Would-be Eco-Terrorist Released Amid Entrapment Claims
Emails show FBI informant encouraged a conspiracy
On Wednesday, a judge ordered the release from prison of convicted eco-terrorist Eric McDavid after previously undisclosed documents pertinent to his case were made public by the FBI, the Guardian reports.
In 2008, McDavid was sentenced to nearly 20 years in federal prison after being found guilty of conspiracy to damage or destroy property by fire or explosive. He has long since insisted that he never would have discussed committing various crimes had he not been entrapped by “Anna,” a pseudonymous informant who had been tracking anticapitalist and anarchist groups for the FBI.
In a 2012 Outside article, McDavid said he had a crush on Anna, that she catalyzed his talk of destroying property for environmental reasons (which was later used against him in court), and that she made him believe that following through with such ideas would win her over. McDavid’s lawyers have contended that such encouragement was tantamount to entrapment. But when attorney Mark Reichel filed a motion to dismiss the case on grounds of an improper romance between Anna and McDavid, prosecutors replied that “the defendant’s claim of a romantic relationship between him and the informant is categorically untrue,” according to a filing also produced by the Guardian.
Newly revealed email exchanges between Anna, McDavid, and his alleged co-conspirators belie that claim and others that Anna did nothing to encourage the group to commit crimes. In addition to flirty emails to McDavid, she wrote sternly to Lauren Weiner, an alleged co-conspirator, who said she was hesitant about the group’s supposed plans, which included destroying dams, power plants, cellphone towers, and a farm for genetically modified trees.
“There’s no going back,” Anna told her. “I don’t want to be dilly-dallying around forever, which I know I could do and fall into that trap but I want to avoid you doing that too.”
As Kuipers wrote in 2012, Weiner and fellow eco-activist Zach Jenson turned state’s evidence, testified against McDavid, and got off on probation, which has since expired.
U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr., who presided over McDavid’s original sentence, expressed shock at the newly revealed documents. “I’ve never heard or seen anything like this,” he told the Guardian. “This is huge. This is something that needs to be dealt with, and I want to know what happened.”
The Sacramento Bee reports that prosecutors and McDavid’s attorneys fashioned an agreement that allowed McDavid to walk free after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy, with a five-year sentence. (Having already been in prison for nine years, the sentence is considered filled.) While the Justice Department continues to insist that its failure to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence in McDavid’s case was an accident rather than a willful mistake, McDavid’s lawyers are wholly unconvinced.
“I believe it was the FBI in Philadelphia that intentionally withheld all of this information,” attorney Mark Reichel told the Sacramento Bee. Asked about Anna—whose involvement with law enforcement reportedly began after she was inspired to do something for her country in the wake of 9/11—Reichel had little to say: “I hope she’s not ruining someone else’s innocent life.”