Three animal rights activists convicted under a U.S. anti-terrorism law were sentenced to up to 6 years in prison Tuesday for a campaign against a British company that tests chemicals on animals.
TRENTON, N.J. Three animal rights activists convicted under a U.S. anti-terrorism law were sentenced to up to 6 years in prison Tuesday for a campaign against a British company that tests chemicals on animals.
Prosecutors called the leader of the activists "drunk on power" and the judge said he showed "almost vengeful anger" in a campaign to drive out of business Huntingdon Life Sciences, which tests pharmaceuticals, chemicals and dyes on animals.
The company says on its Web site it uses mice, rabbits, cats, dogs, pigs, sheep, cows, fish, birds and monkeys.
In March, six members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, or SHAC, including the three sentenced Tuesday, were found guilty of violating the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, a federal law amended in 2002 to equate its offenses with terrorism.
It marked the first trial and conviction under that law, federal officials said.
The three had also been found guilty of conspiracy and interstate stalking against employees of Huntingdon's New Jersey operations for urging sympathizers to harass Huntingdon employees, vandalize their cars and publish their names and personal data on the Internet.
Defense attorneys argued that the defendants were exercising their free-speech rights, and SHAC said it was the victim of a government crackdown on dissent.
U.S. District Judge Anne Thompson sentenced former SHAC president Kevin Kjonaas six years in prison.
She rejected defense arguments that Kjonaas, 28, had been motivated by a noble commitment to social justice and just got carried away. Rather, she said, Kjonaas showed his "almost vengeful anger" in devising ways to hurt the company.
U.S. Attorney Charles McKenna, who had sought sentences of up to 10 years, said Kjonaas had cunningly manipulated others in SHAC to get his own way.
"This is a crime of sheer power," McKenna said. "Mr. Kjonaas was drunk on power."
Lauren Gazzola, 27, SHAC's former campaign coordinator, was sentenced to 52 months in prison. Jacob Conroy, 30, was sentenced to 4 years.
Kjonaas's lawyer, Robert Stahl, vowed to appeal the convictions and a spokeswoman for SHAC said the sentences would not deter the group from protesting against Huntingdon.
Three other SHAC defendants will be sentenced in coming days.