U student held in Iowa on conspiracy charges

Scott DeMuth is allegedly connected to a 2004 incident at the University of Iowa.

James Nord

Two Minnesota activists are being held in Iowa in relation to the vandalism of a research lab at the University of Iowa in 2004. Scott DeMuth, a University of Minnesota sociology graduate student, and Carrie Feldman, a former student of St. Catherine University in St. Paul, were separately subpoenaed to appear in front of a grand jury in Davenport, Iowa, regarding the incident. Fellow activists criticized the grand juryâÄôs actions as intimidation by the federal government, and DeMuthâÄôs colleague in the sociology department, Raphi Rechitsky, called it a âÄúlegalized witch-hunt.âÄù In Nov. 2004, the group, Animal Liberation Front, claimed responsibility for vandalism at the University of Iowa, when they broke into research laboratories, released test animals and destroyed computers and research data, according to the groupâÄôs Web site. Authorities estimate there was hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to some of the universityâÄôs psychology department. DeMuth is linked to the vandalism by a journal and lock pick discovered at his residence during the Republican National Convention in 2008. Feldman, 20, was subpoenaed by FBI agents on Oct. 13, 2009 to appear in court two days later. DeMuthâÄôs subpoena came Nov. 9 to appear Nov. 17. DeMuth and Feldman both appeared Nov. 17 and refused to testify in front of the grand jury. As a result, Judge John Jarvey ruled they were in contempt of court and decided to detain them. Roughly 40 protesters demonstrated outside of the building during the proceedings. DeMuth was indicted for conspiracy on Nov. 18, and the contempt charges were dropped. The federal government is prosecuting DeMuth under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of 2006. According to the indictment, âÄúScott Ryan DeMuth did knowingly and intentionally conspire with persons unknown to the grand jury to commit animal enterprise terrorism and cause economic damage to the animal enterprise in an amount exceeding $10,000.âÄù At his arraignment Nov. 20, DeMuth pleaded not guilty to the charge, and his attorney is requesting that he be released. The decision is still forthcoming. âÄúThey both believe that theyâÄôre being targeted because they are visible and outspoken members of a resistance movement, not because the feds actually believe that either of them did anything illegal,âÄù said Luce Guillen-Givens, a member of the organization Earth Warriors are OK! to which DeMuth and Feldman belonged. Mike Bladel, the public information officer for the U.S. AttorneyâÄôs Office, Southern District of Iowa, declined to comment on the case. DeMuth and Feldman worked together at Minneapolis-based organizations, such as EWOK!, an organization that provides support for political prisoners. The group is now rallying support for the two by spreading information about the case. Guillen-Givens accused the grand jury of calling DeMuth and Feldman simply because of their connections to activist groups. âÄúThese are common tactics that they use, this sort of fishing expedition of a grand jury and making these very tenuous links between people whose only association with each other may be the fact that they share some sort of political ideology or run in the same social or political circles,âÄù Guillen-Givins said. She also questioned the constitutionality of grand juries and the fact that jurors arenâÄôt screened for bias. But University Law School professor Stephen Cribari said there is not a screening process because the grand jury isnâÄôt conducting a trial. âÄúAll theyâÄôre doing is saying, âÄòWhat youâÄôve told us is enough for us to say this crime probably was committed, and this defendant probably did it,âÄô âÄùCribari said.