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Fbi bombing { June 12 2002 }

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June 12, 2002
Activists Win Award in False Arrests

Filed at 6:34 a.m. ET

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Radical environmentalist Darryl Cherney said past targets of the FBI -- from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to Hollywood radicals -- share in a court victory by him and another Earth First! activist over law enforcement officials.

Twelve years after Cherney and Judi Bari were arrested in the bombing of their own car, they were awarded $4.4 million Tuesday in a federal suit claiming they were framed by Oakland police and FBI agents.

After 17 days of deliberations, jurors awarded the money to Cherney and the estate of Bari, who died of cancer in 1997.

Cherney called it a victory for dissenters amid a federal crackdown on free speech under the guise of fighting terrorism.

``We're blockading the FBI from clear-cutting the Constitution,'' Cherney said after the verdict.

Bari and Cherney were injured when a bomb exploded in their car while they were driving in Oakland in May 1990. Bari, who was at the wheel, suffered a crushed pelvis.

The two were arrested within hours and accused of carrying the bomb for environmental sabotage. The case fell apart when prosecutors said there wasn't sufficient evidence to bring charges.

Cherney and Bari sued investigators for false arrest, illegal search, slanderous statements and conspiracy. They claimed officials lied to try to make a case and ignored exculpatory evidence.

The list of defendants eventually was narrowed to seven former and current FBI agents and Oakland policemen. Jurors were asked to determine whether investigators deliberately violated the pair's Fourth Amendment rights against false arrest and illegal searches. They also had to decide if investigators violated Cherney and Bari's free speech rights by portraying them as chief suspects in the bombing, casting a cloud over whatever they had to say.

Jurors found three FBI agents and three Oakland policemen had violated the activists' rights. One FBI agent was cleared. The jurors awarded Cherney and the Bari estate $2,399,000 from the FBI and $2,001,000 from the Oakland Police Department.

Attorneys for Oakland Police officers and the FBI did not immediately return calls for comment. Charles Miller, a spokesman for the Department of Justice in Washington, said officials were reviewing the verdict but would not comment further.

The case began with attorneys for the activists trying to show that authorities were ``out to get'' Cherney and Bari. For instance, investigators said the bomb was in back seat, where it would have been visible to Cherney and Bari. But an FBI analysis showed the bomb was under the front seat.

The Bari-Cherney team also said investigators didn't try to probe an anonymous letter sent to The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa shortly after the bombing. The letter detailed the construction and placement of the bomb and included information about a different bombing that damaged a Cloverdale lumber mill the same month.

The writer, claiming to be ``the Lord's avenger,'' said the bomb was retribution for Bari's participation in an abortion rights demonstration.

At the time of the bombing, Bari and Cherney were organizing ``Redwood Summer,'' a series of protests against the logging of old-growth forests.

Attorneys representing the officers and agents tried to show that at the time of the bombing Earth First! had a reputation for sabotage -- including ``tree-spiking,'' the dangerous practice of driving nails into trees that can shatter a chain saw.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press | Privacy Policy

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