When Grand Juries Attack;
Allison Lance-Watson Charged with Perjury
from No Compromise Issue 23
 

In the past two years, our movement has seen a marked increase in the number and scope of federal investigations targeting activists and the movement as a whole. Since just the beginning of 2004, activists have been visited by federal agents with regards to the 1999 A.L.F. raid on the University of Minnesota, and at least three activists have been subpoenaed to appear before a Seattle, Washington grand jury. The federal probe in Seattle continues to be one of the most exhaustive political fishing expeditions our movement has seen in quite some time.

On February 19, 2004, after years of FBI visits, subpoenas, court orders for handwriting exemplars, and countless demands to testify, Allison Lance-Watson was indicted on four counts of perjury by the federal grand jury in Seattle. Federal prosecutors maintain that statements she made before the grand jury in October 2003 were knowingly false. Allison had been granted immunity and was compelled to testify under a court order about her involvement and associations with other animal rights activists.

After a barrage of invasive questions about her political beliefs, support for direct action, and even a vegetarian restaurant she dined at with a friend four years prior, Allison was asked a series of questions about a rental truck. Not satisfied with the answers and
lapses in her memory surrounding the truck she allegedly rented in May of 2000, the Seattle grand jury, under Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Friedman, charged Allison with four counts of perjury. She now faces five years in prison and/or $250,000 in fines for each count of perjury.

The State contends that the truck was used in an A.L.F. raid on Dai-Zen Egg Farm in upstate Washington. They are desperately grasping at straws in efforts connect it to an arson at the headquarters of Holbrook, Inc., a timber company based in Olympia, Washington—simply because the two occurred around the same day. Federal investigators aren't charging Allison with any crime in relation to the incidents under investigation; rather, the perjury indictments levied against her are based upon a truck rental and are part of a futile effort to get her to provide testimony against other animal rights activists.

Operating under the pretext of investigating the A.L.F. raid on Dai-Zen, federal investigators are utilizing the grand jury system as a means of gathering intelligence on the animal rights movement and its constituency. Despite funding for the Joint Terrorism Task Force going through the roof in the frenzied post-September 11th climate, the FBI still can’t close its cases—whether they be the University of Minnesota, Dai-Zen or Holbrook, Inc.—with good old-fashioned detective work.

The perjury charges looming over Allison’s head must be seen for what they truly are: a wholly fruitless attempt by the U.S. Attorney’s office to create another snitch.

When faced with this sort of gratuitous harassment, we must refuse to validate the government’s efforts by refusing to provide any information—even seemingly harmless information—about other activists. We must join together in support of Allison and all activists who remain strong despite being targeted by the grand jury system. It must be realized that the FBI all too frequently seeks the cooperation of activists to put other activists behind bars. We cannot give into our fears and provide the federal government with the ammunition it seeks to disrupt our movement.