The New York environmental and social justice activist Daniel McGowan has pleaded guilty to being involved in a pair of arsons in the Pacifica Northwest linked to the Earth Liberation Front. McGowan and three other activists – Joyanna Zacher, Nathan Block and Jonathan Paul – reached a plea bargain with the government where they took responsibility for the crimes on the condition they would never have to snitch on anyone else involved in the movement.
Accused of being domestic terrorists, the four activists could have faced as much as life plus over 1,000 years in prison if convicted at trial – even though no one was injured in their actions.
Over the past year, federal agents have arrested at least 15 environmental and animal rights activists in a sweep dubbed the Green Scare.
At the Nov. 9 hearing, McGowan read a statement before the court: “… This plea agreement is very important to me, because it allows me to accept full responsibility for my actions and at the same time remain true to my strongly held beliefs.
“I hope that you will see that my actions were not those of terrorist but of a concerned young person who was deeply troubled by the destruction of Oregon’s beautiful old-growth forests and the dangers of genetically modified trees. After taking part in these two actions, I realized that burning things down did not fit with my visions or belief about how to create a better world. So I stopped committing these crimes…
“Your Honor, after May of 2001, I put myself back on the path of open and positive activism. Since then I have focused on helping victims of domestic violence, campaigning for the environment, and advocating for prisoners. While my commitment to pursuing a better world has not and will not change, I have changed the way I am pursuing those goals…” McGowan and the three other activists will be sentenced in the spring.
The government is seeking a sentence of eight years, while McGowan’s lawyers are arguing for a sentence of no more than five years and three months.
The group Friends and Family of Daniel McGowan have urged supporters of McGowan to write letters to the judge (via their lawyers’ office) to urge leniency in his sentencing. For more information the group can be contacted at: email@example.com or at supportdaniel.org.