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(en) US, Eugene, OR. J18 prisoners Free and Critter convicted to years in - prison Update

From ban@dojo.tao.ca
Date Sat, 9 Dec 2000 01:29:32 -0500 (EST)


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WHAT'S HAPPENING with FREE and CRITTER?
Trying Developments for Activists Jeffrey Luers and Craig Marshall

"There seems to be a conscious program underway to isolate and undermine
Eugene's anarchist community. If history is any guide, this should be 
understood as the first step in an attack on activism overall. If Free and 
Critter are not defended, in the political arena as well as in court, we can 
only expect more trouble for progressive activists of all stripes."
-- Free and Critter's Legal Defense Committee

It has been a trying and emotional time here in Eugene, Oregon. As many of you
know, our friends and fellow activists Jeffrey Luers, Free, and Craig 
Marshall, Critter, have been incarcerated since June 16, 2000. Both men 
plead "not guilty" to nine felony charges, including arson, and one 
misdemeanor. After a delay, both men's pre-trial arguments started November 
8th.  Once the jury was selected, two days of the trial ensued only to have 
everything thrown into disarray with terrible news. The Free and Critter 
Legal Defense learned that Monday morning, November 20th, Free's defense 
attorney, Ken Morrows, suffered a fatal heart attack! The confusion following 
this unprecedented turn of events has led to motions of severance, mistrial 
and new plea bargains from the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case, 
Caren Tracy. Free's parents, here in Eugene for the trial, scrambled to the 
courthouse with members of the Legal Defense Committee to learn what may be 
in store for the trial, which was a long way from its close. No one seemed to 
know quite what to do. There has never been a case of a lawyer dying during 
their trial in Oregon.

Mark Spence, a court-appointed attorney, was assigned temporarily to help Free
through the transition. He moved for a mistrial. Brian Barnes, Critter's 
lawyer, moved to sever the cases allowing Critter's case to continue with the 
same jury. The judge decided to hear oral arguments Tuesday the 21st at 
9:30am.

How was the trial going?
The news has been bewildering and devastating to Free's family and support
group. Despite early setbacks, many have felt that that momentum was building
for the defense.  The defense attorneys made several motions to suppress
evidence from the searches of a warehouse and the car driven by Critter and 
Free the night that they were arrested. Objections were raised about a 
questionably obtained search warrant and items seized but not named on the 
warrant. Several cops testified. All the motions to suppress evidence were 
denied by the judge.

Tuesday, November 14, jury selection started and took all day. It was a scary
process that included the prosecutor arguing to keep people who admitted
prejudice against anarchists and protests in general. Throughout the 
selection, Tracy kept emphasizing the need for people to be able to convict on
circumstantial evidence and not just hard facts like eyewitnesses. Oregon 
State law gives both forms of evidence the same weight. Wednesday, November 
15, jury selection continued. Twelve jurors were selected and two
alternates, using 49 out of 50 in the jury pool. The jury consists of 9 men 
and 3 women, all of whom are white. After a lunch break, the jury took a bus 
trip to the warehouse where Free was staying and where the cops raided. They 
also went to the two sites in question; Tyree Oil Co. (where devices were 
found but no fires occurred) and the Joe Romania truck dealership (where a 
truck was burned and approx. $40,000 dollars of damage occurred).

Thursday, November 16 began with opening statements. Tracy gave a very long,
detailed argument laying out the prosecution's basic story. Morrow emphasized
the difference between arson and criminal mischief. Barnes casually yet
matter-of-factly mentioned the speculative nature of the prosecutor's case and
the lack of one piece of hard evidence. The state then started calling 
witnesses including a manager at Tyree Oil, the site of one of the alleged 
arsons, a Eugene cop on the bomb squad, as well as one other cop and a 
detective who were involved in tailing Free and Critter's car. The 
prosecution tried to weave its circumstantial evidence together and scare the 
jury with stories of fires and explosions. The defense did a good job during 
cross-examination of pointing out holes in the prosecution's argument as well 
as questioning the integrity of the cops by exposing poor evidence gathering 
and tampering, misleading reports, dishonesty and bad memories.

Friday, November 17 one juror said she felt intimidated by the defendants and
was scared they may have seen her address. She was dismissed and replaced 
with a female alternate. Most distressingly she spoke about this to "five or 
six" of the other jurors. A juror was seen talking with a witness for the 
prosecution during a break trying to talk up a job, and reports are that one 
male juror keeps going on about the politics involved locally and in the 
case. All of this is very scary. The day continued with state witnesses, 
including more cops and an ATF agent involved in the raid and seizure of 
evidence. Also, a video of the warehouse was shown. Court was to resume 
Tuesday, November 21.

What's the latest?
During the confusion the DA's office offered Free and Critter new plea 
bargains. Free was offered 156 months in prison and years of probation. In 
the deal Free would have to plead guilty to "Arson 1" and "Conspiracy to 
commit arson". Free decided against the offer and because of publicity of the 
trial due to his lawyer's death, decided that a mistrial would be in his best 
interest. Free may accept the services of defense attorney Bob McCrea, 
Morrow's long time friend and past law partner (additional funds of possibly 
$15,000 need to be raised). He has 10 days to set a new trial date. After 
considering advice from his  lawyer and friends and talking with Free, 
Critter decided to accept the deal offered to him. Critter did not agree to 
admit guilt but acknowledged that it was possible for the prosecutor to 
convict on the evidence. Critter was sentenced Wednesday, November 22 to 66 
months in prison with three years probation for "Conspiracy to commit arson" 
charge as well as 6 months and two years probation for the ŒPossession of a 
destructive device" charge. They are to run concurrently. It also appears 
that Critter will be eligible for a "boot camp" after 11 months. After 
completing this 6-month boot camp Critter would be eligible for early 
release. His attorney noted that Measure 11 forces people to make decisions 
they don't want to make.

A message from the Free and Critter Legal Defense Committee The friends and
family of Free and Critter want to thank all of you sincerely for your 
interest in their case and for your many supportive actions. We are a 
community in the midst of a battle many of you have fought before. Many of 
you understand the loneliness of prison and the uncertainty of political 
trials. Some of you have experienced the stress, intense emotion and 
depletion of resources that occurs when activists become targets of 
repression from the state. Below are addresses where you may write Free and 
Critter and give them the support they really need right now. Also, if you 
have the ability to help friends and family offset very expensive legal 
costs, please send money. If you can't send letters or money,
please consider working on a campaign for political prisoners near you.
In solidarity,
Free and Critter Legal Defense Committee

BACKGROUND on the CASE
On June 23, 2000, Jeffrey "Free" Luers and Craig "Critter" Marshall were
indicted on nine felony counts and one misdemeanor.  The charges were placed 
on
the "defendants acting together with others as yet unnamed," opening the door 
to
a continuous investigation against activists in Eugene.  There are serious
suspicions about the motives of the state, the lack of evidence, and the
accompanying media campaign to convict them in advance.
On June 16 at 1:30 AM, Luers and Marshall were stopped by Springfield police 
for
a "routine traffic violation."  (The car they were driving had a headlight 
out.)
 When Springfield police called in their licenses, the Eugene Police 
Department
ordered them held.  They were then turned over to the Eugene police and booked
at Lane County Jail on charges of Criminal Mischief and Arson.
The next day, the Eugene police told the media that Luers and Marshall were
being held on suspicion of an arson at a Eugene car dealership, resulting in
$40,000 in damage.  They claimed the arson occurred at the time of the arrest
and, contradicting the Springfield police, stated that Eugene police followed
the suspects from the scene.
On June 17, Eugene police obtained a warrant to search Luers' residence for
specific items, including empty plastic containers, sponges, incense sticks,
matches, rubber bands, paint, gasoline, and correspondence to the both of 
them. 
Another resident was detained and questioned for two hours.  BATF was 
identified
at the scene.  Since that time, activists have reported continued surveillance
of their homes and offices, by both the Eugene police and the FBI.

THE CHARGES
Count 1:  Class A Felony -- Arson in the First Degree, for damage to Joe
Romania's Truck Dealership.  Count 2:  Class A Felony -- Arson in the First
Degree, for reckless endangerment of damage to vehicles across the street from
the dealership.  Count 3:  Class C Felony --Criminal Mischief in the First
Degree, for damage to a motor vehicle.  Count 4: Class C Felony -- Unlawful
Manufacture of a Destructive Device, for knowingly assembling a bomb with an
incendiary device.  Count 5:  Class C Felony -- Unlawful Possession of a
Destructive Device  Count 6:  Class B Felony -- Attempting to start a fire at
Tyree Oil  Company, putting life in danger.  Count 7:  Class B Felony -- Same 
as
Count 6, but names truck.  Count 8:  Class A Misdemeanor -- Criminal 
Mischief. 
Count 9: Class C Felony -- Manufacture of a Bomb.  Count 10:  Class C Felony -
-
Possession of a Destructive Device Counts 1-5 relate to a fire on June 16th, 
at
the Joe Romania Car Dealership in Eugene.  Counts 1 and 2 fal!
 l under Oregon's Measure 11 Mandatory Sentencing Guidelines.  They carry 70
months each.  Counts 6-10 relate to an attempted arson on May 27th, at the 
Tyree
Oil Company in Eugene.

1. PLEASE WRITE:

Jeffrey Luers (Free) #1306729                   Craig Marshall (Critter)
#1340996
101 W. 5th Street                                        101 W. 5th
Street
Eugene, Oregon 97401                               Eugene, Oregon 97401

2. Organize a benefit and/or donate money for their legal defense, their jail
fund for stamps and collect calls to jail support, so they can receive moral
support from friends.

3. PLEASE SEND MONEY TO:
O.U.R. Credit Union
c/o Free and Critter Legal Defense Fund
P.O. Box 11922
Eugene, OR 97440


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