3 months in Iowa jail for refusal to testify. Feds say the Minneapolis woman
may have information on terrorist acts.
Having sat three months now in an Iowa jail, Carrie Feldman of Minneapolis
is a hero to scores of animal-rights defenders around the world. But to
the U.S. government, the 20-year-old left-wing political activist is a potential
witness who may know something about a daring break-in more than five years
ago at a University of Iowa laboratory. When she refused to testify before
a grand jury, a judge ordered her jailed Nov. 17 for contempt of court.
She's been in a cell ever since and could legally be held 11 months if she
continues her silence.
attorney and supporters say Feldman's plight illustrates how the U.S. government
runs roughshod over citizens who resist policies they believe unjust. But
officials of that government have said she may have ties to domestic terrorist
groups and has a duty to tell what she knows. In a recent interview, Feldman
said she was 15 at the time of the break-in, didn't participate in it and
doesn't know who did. The Nov. 14, 2004, attack on Spence Laboratories drew
widespread attention when members of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) released
video of themselves breaking into the lab, rescuing hundreds of rats and
mice, smashing computers and dumping chemicals. Damages totaled $450,000.
For five years, police made no arrests. Then, in November 2009, they arrested
Feldman and her former boyfriend, Scott DeMuth, 22, for refusing to testify
to the grand jury despite offers of immunity. Shortly thereafter, the grand
jury indicted DeMuth in the break-in. He says he's innocent.
Ironically, DeMuth, still uncooperative but now a defendant, was allowed
to post bail, return to the Twin Cities and await trial. Feldman, though
not charged in the break-in, sits in jail. "They're really using her
as a pawn in this whole thing," said her attorney, Jordan Kushner of
said she refused to testify because she opposes the grand jury system and
how, in her belief, it undercuts citizens' rights. "It's a principle
thing for me," she said by telephone from jail, adding that her case
shows "how easy it is for [the federal government] to abuse the statutes
and the secrecy that surrounds it all. I haven't seen any evidence of why
they want my testimony or [have] any reason to hold me." Evidence not
shown Clifford Cronk, U.S. Attorney for that region, declined to discuss
the case. His office presented evidence to judges that attorneys for the
pair have not seen. Those documents purportedly argue that a conspiracy
surrounding the break-in continued after the crime, justifying the charge
against DeMuth even though the five-year statute of limitations for the
crime had expired.
have said that evidence, if revealed, could affect testimony or compromise
the case against unindicted suspects. DeMuth, a University of Minnesota
graduate student, is charged with animal enterprise terrorism. He was 17
at the time of the break-in. Prosecutors say they can link DeMuth to the
2008 Republican National Convention Welcoming Committee, which planned to
disrupt the RNC in St. Paul. DeMuth was never arrested or charged with RNC-related
activities. They also say he's been part of anti-government protests. "Defendant's
writings, literature, and conduct suggest that he is an anarchist and associated
with the ALF movement," Cronk wrote. "Therefore, he is a domestic
terrorist." DeMuth's attorney, Michael Deutsch of Chicago, has filed
motions for dismissal on several grounds; a trial is scheduled to get underway
in March. Though Feldman and DeMuth's case files are sealed by court order,
both have provided documents to supporters who post them online.
who studied two years at St. Catherine University before taking time off,
is, like DeMuth, active in several Minnesota organizations, including Coldsnap
Legal Collective and Earth Warriors are OK! (EWOK!), which supports people
arrested during environmental or animal rights protests. She was volunteering
with Coldsnap when she was arrested during the RNC and said Ramsey County
Sheriff Robert Fletcher told her she was suspected of conspiracy to commit
a riot. Officials released her without charges. She, like Deutsch, believes
the RNC connections could be linked to the current arrest. "Feldman
likely has knowledge about persons associated with ALF; she does not deny
it," Cronk argued in writing. "The nature of her arguments which
deflect attention from her and attacks the government suggest that she does."
Jim Feldman, called to the stand during his daughter's November contempt
hearing, says he answered "yes" when asked if she was an anarchist.
"In retrospect, I should have asked Cronk to define his term,"
he said in an e-mail. "Subsequent statements from him indicate that
he thinks anarchism equates to being a terrorist intent on using violent
means to take down the government."
government notes that in 2006 Carrie Feldman owned white rats similar to
those sprung from the laboratory. Her mother, Julia Philips, said the pets
came from a friend and the humane society. She said the government's insinuation
is "kind of wacky." Kushner, whose appeals for Feldman's release
have twice been denied, continues to try, with a latest court ruling expected
Monday. Feldman said she's prepared to do the whole 11 months, if necessary.
I don't think they should have the right to force me to testify or bully
me by holding me in jail because I'm involved in political activism."
Simons • 612-673-4921