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Animal activists who freed 2,000 minks lose U.S. appeal

From Reuters - November 8, 2017

(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday rejected a challenge by two animal rights activists to the constitutionality of a federal law used to prosecute them for breaking into an Illinois farm and releasing more than 2,000 minks into the wild.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago refused to dismiss the indictment and conditional guilty pleas of Kevin Johnson and Tyler Lang for violating the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act in connection with the August 2013 incident.

Prosecutors said Johnson and Lang, both from California, broke into a Morris, Illinois farm that raised minks for sale to fur makers, removed fencing to help them escape, destroyed cards to identify their breed, and spray-painted Liberation is Love on a barn, causing between $120,000 and $200,000 of damage.

Writing for a three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Ann Claire Williams said the 2006 law did not violate the First Amendment by criminalizing speech or conduct that causes damage only to an animal enterprises profits or goodwill.

She also rejected the defendants claim that the laws name deprived them of due process by effectively branding them terrorists for their non-violent activity.

Congress was concerned about actions by extremists such as arson and bombings. Both of those crimes involve destruction of property and are extremely violent, Williams wrote. The word terrorism certainly bears a rational relationship to many of the acts covered by [the] AETA.

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