According to the Infoshop.org News Kiosk:
Raisethefist.com, Sherman Austin will be convicted on Monday,Sept 23rd as he pleads guilty to felony count: 18 U.S.C. 842 (p)(2)(A): DISTRIBUTION OF INFORMATION RELATING TO EXPLOSIVES, DESTRUCTIVE DEVICES, AND WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION WITH THE INTENT THAT SUCH INFORMATION BE USED IN FURTHERANCE OF A FEDERAL CRIME OF VIOLENCE. The plea bargain gives Austin a felony conviction with 1 month in jail, 5 months in a half-way home and 3 years supervised release. Austin does not start his sentencing on Monday, but will find out the exact date at his court appearance.
I can only imagine the kind of pressure Austin’s been under, but I’m still disturbed that the charge he’ll plea to primarily concerns speech published on his website. It appears like the kind of information that is being considered a crime to distribute here is no different than what’s in many of the books in the Loompanic’s book catalog. My suspicion is that the crucial difference is the intent clause of this law: “WITH THE INTENT THAT SUCH INFORMATION BE USED IN FURTHERANCE OF A FEDERAL CRIME OF VIOLENCE.” But, indeed, intent is a difficult thing to judge.
According to the affadavit submitted by FBI Special Agent John I. Pi, the alleged evidence that the information on Raise TheFist was there with the “intent that such information be used in furtherance of a federal crime of violence” is
“AUSTIN had made comments to CW about making bombs and stated that he would do whatever was necessary to take out the government…. AUSTIN advocated violent radical anti-government and militant activities on his website, RAISETHEFIST.COM and defacement webpages. This was also documented on IRC chat log, #FREEDOMGUARD, provided by GRANDMAISON [an informant], where AUSTIN attempted to recruit others to join him in armed militant movements…. One of the defacement webpages of AUSTIN, provided by GRANDMAISON, attempted to recruit others with experiences in weapons training, computer hacking, ability to fly aircraft, and ability to provide uniforms and guns to join UFF, also known as UCAUN FREEDOM FIGHTER.”
I’m no lawyer, but most of that seems pretty thin — almost heresay. Really, anyone who’s been on IRC knows that a lot of shit gets talked there, and, like barroom bragging, you can’t take much of it too seriously. Plus, who’s to stop someone from impersonating Austin on a channel? IRC’s pretty anonymous.
But, even so, what if the RaiseTheFist website had a simple disclaimer like “gee, I wouldn’t really enourage you to smash the state using all these methods?” Would that really have made a difference?
What’s all the more curious is the second charge against him that apparently has been dropped: “26 U.S.C. 5861(d): POSSESSION OF A FIREARM WHICH IS NOT REGISTERED TO HIM IN THE NATIONAL FIREARMS REGISTRATION AND TRANSFER RECORD.” So why are prosecutors dropping this charge in favor of the charge against him for distributing information? Did the case on the firearms charge fall apart? Or do they consider Austin having a firearm to be less dangerous than having him distribute information on the Internet? If that’s the case, then they’ve lost the battle, since mirrors of the info are quite easy to find. Are the Feds going to come after all the folks who’ve mirrored this content, too?
Given that prosecutors are apparently happy giving Austin just one month of jail time and three months of supervised release, they clearly can’t consider him all that dangerous. No, instead it seems that they want to scare the shit out of him and make an example of him. Unfortunately, since he’s a young guy who probably lacks adequate legal advice, he’s probably also pretty easy to railroad.
It would seem that the law against “distribution of information” is ripe for a legal challenge based on First Amendment issues, though in the U$ that requires either being able to afford a lawyer who can make the appeals, or finding one who can afford to or is even willing to do the work pro bono. This case raises a lot of questions that there isn’t yet enough information to answer. I hope that cryptome is able to secure more court documents on the plea bargain, like they did for the initial arrest warrant and affadavit.
RaiseTheFist Editor To Be Indicted, 8/27/02 Charges Against RaisetheFist Webmaster Dropped. What’s Going On? 2/18/02 RaiseTheFist.com Webmaster Arrested in NYC 2/6/02 Mainstream Reports on RaisetheFist Bust 2/4/02 RaisetheFist.com Is Back Up 1/30/02 San Francisco Indymedia has confirmed the FBI raid on RaisetheFist.com 1/26/02 Feds and Police Raid RaisetheFist.com 1/25/02