Three Animal - Rights Activists Sentenced

New York Times/September 12, 2006

Trenton, N.J. -- Three animal rights activists convicted of using their Web site to incite threats and harassment against a company that tests products on animals received prison sentences Tuesday ranging from four to six years.

They were also ordered to pay a total of $1 million in restitution to the company and people they terrorized. All three said they would appeal.

Three other members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty are awaiting sentencing within the next two weeks.

Along with the organization itself, the six activists were convicted in March of using a Web site to incite threats, harassment and vandalism against Huntingdon Life Sciences, a company that tests drugs and household products on animals.

The government charged that the group waged a five-year campaign against the company, posting the names, addresses and phone numbers of Huntingdon employees and those who do business with the company, and personal information such as where they go to church and where their children attend school.

Many of those people saw their homes vandalized and received threatening e-mails, faxes and phone calls.

The group, based in Philadelphia, maintains its actions were protected under the First Amendment. Defense attorneys tried to portray their clients as well-meaning animal-lovers who committed a "crime of compassion."

"None of it's fair," defendant Jacob Conroy, the Web site manager, said after the hearing.

The defendants, all in their late 20s or early 30s, were not accused of directly making threats or carrying out vandalism.

The three sentenced were the president of SHAC, Kevin Kjonaas of Minnesota; campaign coordinator Lauren Gazzola of Connecticut; and Conroy, of California. Kjonaas was sentenced to six years in prison, Gazzola to four years and four months, and Conroy to four years.

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