Alleged Eco-Terrorist Freed Amid Claims FBI Hid Exculpatory Evidence

Posted: January 12, 2015 in Constitutional Rights, Justice, News
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Northern California man, Eric Taylor McDavid, described as an anarchist and eco-terrorist bent on destroying the government and commercial activities has been released after 9 years in prison after the government conceded that they did not turn over evidence to the defense in the case.

U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. in Sacramento ordered Eric Taylor McDavid released from custody.  As part of a deal with prosecutors, McDavid, 37, pled guilty to conspiring to destroy a U.S. Forest Service lab and was sentenced to time served.

The judge expressed disappointment over the government’s failure to follow discovery rules.  Among the evidence not given to the defense include emails and letters between McDavid and an FBI informant that the defense said shows that he was entrapped and induced by a sexual relationship (the argument they have made all along).

“I sat through the 10-day trial of Mr. McDavid,” Judge England said, sometimes stopping to hold his head in his left hand, “I know he’s not necessarily a choirboy, but he doesn’t deserve to go through this…It’s not fair.”

McDavid and his two co-defendants were initially accused of plotting to bomb or set fire to Nimbus Dam, the U.S. Forest Service lab, cellphone towers, and electric power grid stations.  Authorities alleged that McDavid conducted surveillance at some of the sites and bought materials that could be used in bombs.

He was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.  The plea deal reached last week would have resulted in a maximum of 5 years.  McDavid’s supporters said the FBI informant — an unnamed woman referred to in court documents as “Anna” — urged him to attack government targets with promises of an intimate relationship.

“Anna [manipulated] Mr. McDavid’s romantic interest in her…” his attorneys wrote in court filings.

McDavid and his attorneys only became aware of the documents through a FOIA request.

“If the government had provided the missing information as they should have, Eric would not have been convicted and had nine years of his life stolen…” Ben Rosenfeld, one of McDavid’s attorneys, said.

Prosecutors said that the failure to disclose the emails and letters was inadvertent and point to the fact that they released them immediately after discovery.  They also say that his guilty plea last week proves that he is not innocent.

“We absolutely admit that we made a mistake, but there was no deliberate, knowingly withholding of any documents,” Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip A. Ferrari said, “They don’t change our opinion that he’s still guilty of the offense, that the jury would have rejected the defense as it did the first time around.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that it entered into a plea deal with McDavid because of the expense of a retrial and in light of the sentence he already served. Failure to disclose evidence doesn’t overturn a conviction by itself, the evidence must also have likely caused the jury to change their decision.

Ferrari said, “In terms of where it broke down here and what happened, we just don’t have a specific answer.  We just don’t know.”

The documents were located in an FBI file.

  1. Alice says:

    Withheld evidence… sad when a government disregards its own laws and procedures.


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