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The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the appeals of two animal rights activists charged under the Animal Enterprise Terrorist Act (AETA). The appeal challenged the act itself as unconstitutional, and also charged that the use of word terrorist denied the activists substantive due process rights.
After losing their motion to dismiss based on those issues, the appellants pleaded guilty to the charges on the condition that they be allowed to appeal the motion ruling. Unfortunately for them, their appeal was denied, leaving them unable to escape their sentencing, unlike the furry friends they helped.
Apparently, the activist defendants caused over $100,000 in damage. The pair released about 2,000 minks from a mink farm, spray-painted a barn with the phrase "liberation is love," destroyed fencing, machinery, and documents, and were on their way to a second animal farm to save a bunch of foxes when they were arrested. After pleading guilty, one received a three month sentence, while the other received three years.
In their appeal, the defendants argued that AETA was so broad and vague that an animal rights group engaging in a protest against a business could be held liable just for consumers being swayed away from the business being protested. However, the appellate court clarified that AETA does not work like that and requires a business or victim to show more than just lost profits.
This argument seems rather surprising given the fact that the defendants actually destroyed property and literally let the mink business's profits run out the door. But, the defendants were attempting to prove that the law was void due to the ambiguity and vagueness.
While the defendants actions may be a far cry from terrorism as the media portrays it, the argument they presented fell rather flat at the appellate court. Defendants urged the court that the use of word terrorist denied them substantive due process, however, the court found the use of the term to be no harm, no fowl, so-to-speak.
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