EarthFirst! activists awarded $4.4 million against FBI and Police
OAKLANDOn June 11, a federal jury returned a stunning verdict in favor of Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney in their landmark civil rights lawsuit against four FBI agents and three Oakland Police officers.
Bari and Cherney were driving to an EarthFirst rally in 1990 when a pipe bomb was detonated under Baris car seat. Both passengers were injured. Bari was paralyzed from the bombing and died in 1997 of breast cancer. The Oakland Police and FBI arrested Bari and Cherney, charging them for the bombing, searching their homes and smearing them in the press as terrorists.
The jury found that six of the seven FBI and Oakland Police Department (OPD) defendants framed Bari and Cherney in an effort to crush EarthFirst! and chill participation in Redwood Summer. That was evident in the fact that 80 percent of the $4.4 million total damage award was for violation of their First Amendment rights to speak out and organize politically in defense of the forests.
The jury exonerated us, said Darryl Cherney. They found the FBI to be the ones in violation of the law. The American public needs to understand that the FBI cant be trusted. Ten jurors got a good, hard look at the FBI, and they didnt like what they saw.
Its really beyond our wildest dreams, said Darlene Comingore, Judi Baris friend and executor of her estate who stood in for her as co-plaintiff in this suit. We hope the FBI, Oakland Police and all the police forces out there that think they can violate peoples rights and get away with it are listening because the people of the state of California and Oakland today said, No, you cant. You cant get away with it.
Lead attorney Dennis Cunningham said the message he hopes the verdict sends is that: Ashcroft is doing precisely the wrong thing to abandon the (Levi) guidelines and let the FBI go after dissent with a free hand. Its clear that their intention is not about fighting terrorism, its about suppressing dissent. Thats what the FBI has always been about.
Hopefully, it will make Congress think twice about giving them a free hand. This verdict finds unlawful the actions of those in charge of the bombing investigation.
After the judge lifted a gag rule in July, one juror said, investigators were lying so much, it was insulting.
Juror Mary Nunn of Oakley, Calif. said, The FBI and Oakland (police) sat up there and lied about their investigation. They messed up the investigation, and they had to lie again and again to try to cover up. For more information on the verdict and history of the case with more interpretation of the meaning and importance of the verdict by the media as well as by individual participants and observers, see www.judibari.org.