Orange County Weekly (CA)
Animal Research Protesters Face Terrorism Charges
A Long Beach couple could do five years in federal prison for
aggressively protesting animal research at UC schools up north
By MEGAN BRESCINI
Thursday, Jun 17 2010http://www.ocweekly.com/2010-06-17/news/nathan-pope-adriana-stumpo-animal-enterprise-terrorism-act/
On Jan. 27, 2008, over the course of seven hours, 11 people dressed in
black and wearing bandannas over their faces like a gang of train
robbers, protested in front of the homes of various UC Berkeley
professors who conduct bio-medical research using animals. The group
chanted, marched and scrawled messages in chalk on the sidewalks.
Phrases such as “murderer.” “Animal abuser.” “Rat killer.”
UC police officers claim to have recognized four people involved in
the protest from a similar action that took place the previous
On Feb. 24, 2008, five or six individuals protested in front of a UC
Santa Cruz professor’s house. He was inside when he heard the group
near his front door. He opened it, and they yelled at one another.
There was a struggle, and the professor was hit with something, most
likely a bullhorn.
The group fled by car. The professor and his wife
both claimed to have been terrified by the group, all of whom wore
bandannas—except for the man with the bullhorn. The professor took
down the car’s license-plate number, which police traced to Maryam
Khajavi’s residence. Later that night, after obtaining a search
warrant, police found Khajavi, Nathan Pope and Adriana Stumpo at the
home. A search of Khajavi’s car turned up bandannas and a bullhorn.
According to the federal government, Stumpo and Pope, now 22 and 26
respectively, are domestic terrorists. The charges against them,
stemming from both the Berkeley and Santa Cruz incidents, include two
counts—conspiracy, as well as force, violence and threats involving
animal enterprise—under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA).
Since Stumpo’s and Pope’s indictments, each of which carries a penalty
of up to five years in federal prison, they have graduated from
college, gotten married and moved to Long Beach. Should their case go
to trial, they and their fellow defendants—known as the AETA 4—could
become the first people convicted as terrorists under that law.
President George W. Bush signed AETA on Nov. 27, 2006, amending the
Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA) of 1992.
The original law carried prison time of up to a year if the accused
was convicted of “intentionally stealing, damaging or causing the loss
of enterprise property, including animals or records or conspiring to
do so, and thereby causing more than $10,000 of economic damage.”
The new version adds a maximum of five years prison time. Also, in
order to be convicted as a terrorist, an activist has to put someone
“in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury . . . or
conspires or attempts to do so.”
Barry Bowman, chairman of the UC Santa Cruz Department of Molecular
Cell and Developmental Biology, says approximately 15 of his faculty
members work with animals in their research and that the actions taken
against some of those researchers in 2008 were terrifying.
“If you have a masked person, that is quite threatening,” he says.
“It’s no longer completely defensible behavior. I would be pretty
strong in defense of [the activists’] First Amendment rights, but when
you don’t know who they are, and when they step off public property
and onto private property, they step across a line.”
AETA isn’t the only law designed to punish those who cross that line.
In September 2008, following the firebombing of two UC Santa Cruz
professors’ residences the previous month, the California Assembly
passed a law making actions leading up to extreme acts a misdemeanor.
Those actions include publishing information about a researcher or his
or her family, as well as trespassing on an academic researcher’s
property for the purpose of interfering with his or her academic
freedom. The University of California sponsored the law.
Stumpo and Pope were charged under AETA before the state law existed.
Pope’s attorney has not returned the Weekly’s calls seeking comment
for this story; Stumpo referred all questions to Emma Bradford, her
Palo Alto-based attorney.
Bradford tried—without success—to have the case dismissed on the
grounds that AETA is unconstitutional because it uses language she
describes as vague and overly broad. “My argument and belief is that
even if [her client’s alleged] actions are true, the conduct that is
described falls within the First Amendment,” she says.
And Bradford isn’t the only one to take issue with AETA. The Center
for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a nonprofit legal organization,
argues that the law, which, it states, was pushed through Congress by
various biomedical and agri-business lobbyists, violates First
“The language of AETA covers many First Amendment activities, such as
picketing, boycotts and undercover investigations, if they ‘interfere’
with an animal enterprise by causing a loss of profits,” says Rachel
Merrpole, the attorney working on the AETA 4 case on behalf of CCR.
The first incident referenced in the government’s case against the
AETA 4 took place on Oct. 21, 2007, when a group of about 20 people
stood on the front yard of a UC Berkeley bio-medical researcher
identified only as L.B. in the prosecution’s Bill of Particulars. They
rang his doorbell, made noise and chanted such animal-rights slogans
as “1, 2, 3, 4, open up the cage door,” “5, 6, 7, 8, smash the locks
and liberate,” and “9, 10, 11, 12, vivisectors go to [Please excuse my language... I'm an idiot].”
According to Lisa Shaffer of the FBI’s San Francisco field office,
L.B. called the police and said “he was very fearful and felt harassed
and intimidated by the demonstrators’ activities that day.”
The Bill of Particulars had been requested by Pope’s defense attorney
for the purposes of clarifying the identity of those threatened, how
they were threatened and how, exactly, the government “will seek to
prove [this act] was in the furtherance of the conspiracy alleged in
“I think that these AETA prosecutions, in general, tend to be really
vague,” Merrpole says. “Perhaps because the U.S. doesn’t want to
acknowledge that they are threatening people with long prison terms
for chanting slogans or writing things in chalk.”
Stumpo and Pope are also being charged in connection with a July 27,
2008, incident in which they allegedly used a computer at a Santa Cruz
Kinko’s to search for information about 11 biomedical researchers who
worked at the University of Santa Cruz. This information was later
printed on a flier titled, “Murderers and Torturers Alive and Well in
Santa Cruz July 2008 edition,” which was on a table at a coffeehouse
two blocks away. The flier identified 13 researchers and stated,
“Animal abusers everywhere, beware, we know where you live, we know
where you work, we will never back down until you end your abuse.”
The next hearing in the AETA 4 case is set for July 19 in the San Jose
federal courthouse; a trial date could be set then. Bradford believes
the case will “almost certainly” go to trial.
The prosecuting attorneys declined to comment on the ongoing case. “We
have to let the courts work it out,” says Jack Gillund, public affairs
officer for the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of
An interesting side note: The judge in this case is Edward Chen, a UC
Berkeley graduate, formerly on the ACLU’s legal staff and one of
President Barack Obama’s current nominees for the U.S. District Court.
Stumpo and Pope, meanwhile, have tried to live as normally as possible
as young newlyweds. But, as Bradford notes, “Living under a federal
indictment is a very stressful environment to be in.”