Please support Scott Demuth

Posted by Bradley L. Garrett on Wednesday Jan 13, 2010 Under Academia, Animal rights, Anthropology, Cultural Geography, Uncategorized

I do not usually post things that do not directly relate to my research, but after following this story on my twitter feed and on facebook, I have decided that it warrants a full blog posting. This case is sickening and threatens the very heart of academic scholarship, please support Scott in any way you can.

On November 17, 2009, Scott DeMuth was jailed for contempt of court, since
he refused to answer questions posed to him by a federal grand jury in
Davenport, Iowa. They were interested in questioning him about his knowledge
of an unsolved Animal Liberation Front action in 2004 at the University of
Iowa. At the time, Scott was only 17 years old and was a resident of the
Twin Cities (Minnesota). Scott is a University of Minnesota graduate student
and Dakota language student whose research focuses on liberation struggles
and social movements in the U.S. and globally.  In his work, he has
researched and/or interviewed numerous activists from Native American
struggles for sovereignty and land, and environmental and animal liberation
movements in the U.S. The grand jury was interested in asking him to divulge
the names of activists, which would violate the confidentiality agreements
that he made with his research participants.

Scott took a principled stand against the grand jury’s fishing expedition,
and instead decided to go to jail rather than be party to what many
attorneys and the American Bar Association (ABA) view as a dangerous
practice that deprives people of basic constitutional freedoms. But it gets
worse. Two days later (November 19, 2009) Scott was charged with conspiracy
under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) of 2006. This indictment
came just one day before the 5-year statute of limitations was to
expire.  Attorneys have speculated the indictment was rushed through to
freeze the statute of limitations, with the intent of buying them time to issue
a future indictment.   These legal maneuvers are indicative of an investigation that
has gone nowhere, and prosecutors who are desperate to locate members of the
Animal Liberation Front, no matter what legal acrobatics are required.

The federal grand jury is a legal proceeding used to investigate possible
organized criminal activity rather than a specific crime. It is held in
secrecy, and does not grant rights to representation or the right to obtain
transcripts of the proceedings to those subpoenaed: those served with a
subpoena face only a federal prosecutor and 16-23 jurors who are not
screened for bias. Federal grand juries are used not to prove guilt, but to
coercively extract evidence without due process from third parties under
threat of imprisonment. They have a history of being used to intimidate and
suppress movements for social change.

The American Sociological Association’s Code of Ethics states:

Section 11.01:
“Sociologists have an obligation to protect confidential information and not
allow information gained in confidence from being used in ways that would
unfairly compromise research participants, students, employees, clients, or

Section 11.06:
“Sociologists do not disclose confidential, personally identifiable
information concerning their research participants, other recipients of
their service which is obtained during the course of their work.”

This scholar-research participant confidentiality is the bedrock of academic
research and without it the public would lose trust in scholars seeking
important information (concerning, for example, social histories or
institutional discrimination practices), leading to the incalculable loss of
invaluable data for community preservation, public policy, and university
teaching purposes. Scott is being charged with conspiracy for invoking his
constitutional rights and heeding to professional codes of conduct.

More than 160 non-governmental organizations opposed the passage of the
AETA. The opposition includes such influential groups as the National
Lawyers Guild, American Civil Liberties Union (belatedly), New York City Bar
Association and other bar associations, Natural Resources Defense Council,
Humane Society of the U.S., and American Society for Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals (ASPCA).

– is excessively broad and vague and imposes disproportionately harsh

– brands animal advocates as “terrorists” and denies them equal protection
under the law

– brands civil disobedience as “terrorism” and imposes severe penalties

– has a chilling effect on all forms of protest by endangering free speech
and assembly

– interferes with investigation of federal law violations by animal

– detracts from prosecution of real terrorism against the American people

The AETA is designed to punish actions that instill a reasonable fear in
employees of an animal enterprise, or their families. In its application,
AETA also criminalizes many First Amendment activities, such as picketing,
boycotts and undercover investigations of animal abuse if they interfere
with an animal enterprise by causing a loss of profits. It unnecessarily
expands punishments for crimes that existing federal laws already cover.
This law has created a chilling effect on constitutionally protected
activities and many activists, scholars, attorneys, and elected officials
believe that was the intention.

Our goals are simple and direct: we want the judge, prosecutor, and U.S.
attorney to dismiss all charges against Scott, protect academic freedom and
integrity, and denounce the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

The newly formed Scholars for Academic Justice is developing a website and
we plan to roll it by this weekend at the latest. More on that soon.

In the meantime, here’s what you can do:

*write a statement of support for Scott (concerning the issue of academic
justice in relation to research ethics, grand juries, etc.) (in PDF format
please, send to [email protected])

*sign a petition supporting Scott:

*write letters to the editors of the MN Daily, the Pioneer Press, the
Star-Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, the Quad-City Times, New York Times, and
San Francisco Chronicle.

*write letters to the prosecutor, the U.S. Attorney, the judge, and
Representative Keith Ellison (see info below).

*Record a digital audio statement of support. We can help you do this via
skype, over the phone, or in-person if you are in the Twin Cities area. Just
let us know!

Please contact David Pellow at [email protected] for more information or to

send statements of support.

Please send polite letters to the following individuals requesting that they
work to dismiss all charges against Scott, protect academic freedom and
integrity, and denounce the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act:

U.S. District Judge John A. Jarvey
United States Courthouse
131 East 4th Street
Davenport, Iowa 52801

U.S. Attorney Nicholas Klinefeldt
United States Courthouse
131 East 4th Street
Davenport, Iowa 52801

Assistant U.S. Attorney Cliff Cronk
United States Courthouse
131 East 4th Street
Davenport, Iowa 52801

Representative Keith Ellison
2100 Plymouth Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55411


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