Update: A federal judge dismissed the charges against Buddenberg, Khajavi, Stumpo, and Pope on July 12, 2010, citing insufficiently specific evidence in the indictments against them.
Four individuals from California have been arrested in connection with incidents of harassment and intimidation against animal researchers at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz (UCSC).
The suspects are accused of harassing and intimidating UC Berkeley researchers during demonstrations in front of the researchers' homes in October 2007 and January 2008. Three of the four are also accused of involvement in an incident in which masked demonstrators attempted to enter the home of a UCSC biomedical researcher by force in February 2008.
Joseph Buddenberg, 25, of Berkeley, and Maryam Khajavi, 20, of Pinole, are scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing in U.S. District Court in San Jose on March 19, when a judge will determine whether the cases will go to trial. Both suspects were arrested on February 20 and appeared in court on February 26 to discuss the details of their cases. (Buddenberg is the only one of the four with no alleged ties to the UCSC home invasion attempt).
Nathan Pope, 26, of Oceanside, and Adriana Stumpo, 23, of Long Beach, have been extradited to California from Charlotte, NC, where they were arrested on February 20. They are expected to appear in court in California in early March.
The suspects are accused of violating the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which gives prosecutors greater powers to prosecute violent acts by animal rights extremists. If convicted under the act, they could face up to five years in prison for each violation.
In media interviews, Jerry Vlasak, a spokesperson for the animal rights extremist movement who has said that he considers the assassination of scientists working in biomedical research in order to save animals "morally justifiable," questioned the validity of the case against the group. "They're targeting people who are doing above-ground demonstrations and calling what they're doing terrorism," he said. Vlasak also praised the foursome for the alleged actions: "We applaud anybody who steps up to the plate."
None of the four individuals has been charged in connection with two firebombings targeting UCSC scientists in August 2008.
The incidents at UCSC and UC Berkeley are part of a widespread campaign of intimidation and violence by animal rights extremists against University of California (UC) scientists and researchers.