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Animal-Rights Activist Charged with Felony

Arnold Christopher Lagergren

When Florida Assistant State Attorney Jonathan Raiche added a felony charge to the misdemeanor charges Arnold Christopher Lagergren was already facing, he did so without understanding just whose bidding he’d done.

According to a Florida Keys Keynoter report by senior staff writer Kevin Wadlow: “Jonathan Raiche, prosecuting the case for the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office, said adding new counts is ‘a fairly typical thing’ when a review of the case points to additional charges. … Raiche said another prosecutor alerted him to the law. ‘I reviewed the statute and it fits for bill’ for the Lagergren case, Raiche said. ‘The statute exists so we filed it.'”

Wadlow reported on September 14 — in a piece that ran in the Florida Keys Keynoter’s parent publication, The Miami Heraldthat Lagergren was “charged with four misdemeanor counts of trespass and vandalism for alleged incidents at the Marine Mammal Conservancy. Police reports describe him as affiliated with the international Animal Liberation Front organization, which advocates ‘direct action’ against animal captivity. … Monroe County Court Judge Regan Ptomey set bonds totaling $30,000 on the four charges, according to court records.”

In Wadlow’s September 14 story, Lagergren’s lawyer, Richard Wunsch, was quoted as saying: “This is a very politically charged situation, obviously.”

The key quote in Wadlow’s September 14 story came from Robert Lingenfelser, who is listed on the Marine Mammal Conservancy’s website as the organization’s director and president.

“Lingenfelser said an FBI agent told him that Lagergren ‘is going to attempt to release any caged animals (or) mammals into their natural habitat,'” Wadlow’s report tells us.

That the Federal Bureau of Investigation had its eyes on Lagergren suggests that the charges against him may not be limited to those that are prosecutable under Florida law. The Florida Animal Enterprise Protection Act is that state’s version of the federal Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992, which was updated in 2006 to become the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. In a September 7 post about Denis Henry Hennelly’s film Bold Native, I pointed out that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act was enacted just a year after the FBI’s John Lewis was quoted in a CNN report as saying: “The No. 1 domestic terrorism threat is the eco-terrorism, animal-rights movement.”

According to Monroe County, Florida, court records, Lagergren is scheduled to appear on November 29 before Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia.

Lagergren faces a prison sentence of up to five years if convicted of a felony under the Florida Animal Enterprise Protection Act. Each of the misdemeanor charges he faces could add a year to that sentence.

Lagergren’s lawyer stated the obvious when he said (again, as quoted in Wadlow’s September 14 story), “This is a very politically charged situation, obviously.”

In my September 7 post, I quoted Hennelly as saying: “I think the disturbing thing is that what we’re talking about are designer laws,” referring to the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992 and its successor, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

Raiche essentially admitted that he charged Lagergren with the subject felony simply because he could, despite the quite obvious fact that the misdemeanor charges Lagergren was already facing sufficiently cover the crimes he’s alleged to have committed. The felony charge Lagergren now faces is not only superfluous, but allows the industries for which it was “designed” — to borrow Hennelly’s apt characterization — to take their pound of flesh.

If Raiche has a conscience, he’ll drop the felony charge against Lagergren. Doing so would, to those of us paying close attention, signal his refusal to act as a special prosecutor for corporate America, and could embolden his peers and colleagues to do the same. Until state adaptations of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992, and the shameful Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, are repealed, state and federal prosecutors will have to ask themselves if they’re willing to do the bidding of those with pockets deep enough to buy such sinister “designer laws.”

41 Comments

  1. anonymous wrote:

    I dont think that trying to free an animal that is cruelly confined should be classified as a felony. Animal abusing companies have enacted this “Animal Enterprise Terrorism Law” to beat up animal rights activist. Anyway who says he was trying to free the animal anyway? All he was doing was taking pictures

    Friday, November 11, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Permalink
  2. David Brensilver wrote:

    Anonymous,

    Without getting into the prosecution of “thought crimes,” the fact is that the misdemeanors Mr. Lagergren is alleged to have committed at the Marine Mammal Conservancy are sufficiently prosecutable as such. The law under which Mr. Lagergren was charged with a felony, the Florida Animal Enterprise Protection Act, like its model, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992, and that law’s successor, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, is as unnecessary as it is atrocious.

    In my September 7 post, I quoted Bold Native writer and director Denis Henry Hennelly as saying, with regard to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act: “At the end of the day, when you threaten the pockets of big business in this country, they’ll buy legislation to call what you’re doing terrorism.”

    While Mr. Lagergren has not been charged under that federal law, he does face a felony charge under the Florida Animal Enterprise Protection Act, which protects the industries that profit from the exploitation of animals in that state.

    Again, the misdemeanor charges Mr. Lagergren is facing provide Florida Assistant State Attorney Jonathan Raiche with all the statutory muscle he needs to prosecute Mr. Lagergren for the crimes he’s alleged to have committed. The felony that Mr. Raiche hung around Mr. Lagergren’s neck last week amounts — as I wrote in my commentary — to a special prosecution on behalf of the industries Mr. Lagergren is alleged to have “threatened” (to again borrow Mr. Hennelly’s words).

    Mr. Lagergren is being prosecuted for criminal mischief and trespassing. But because he is alleged to have interfered with an “animal enterprise,” he’s facing a five-year prison sentence.

    David

    Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink
  3. jan isherwood wrote:

    This is just not right.Mr. Lagergren is an altruistic animal hero.He fully grasps the nature and intelligence of these incredible sae mammals who are being kept for the monetary profit of man.What price is freedom for these magnificent creatures who were born into our oceans-not cages?200 years has done little for the evolution of abusers/enslavers.This man is not a criminalThey have it backwards,he,s an exemplary human being who wants the planet and our oceans intact for our grandchildren.No human rights here-

    Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Permalink
  4. David Brensilver wrote:

    Jan,

    What’s at issue here are the state and federal laws, enacted by subservient legislators for the benefit of industries that profit from the exploitation (and worse) of animals, that target animal-rights activists.

    David

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Permalink
  5. Scott Babcock wrote:

    Dave,
    So your hero Mr. Lagergren is facing felony charges and you are making any sort of excuse that suits your agenda and needs.
    You say if the prosecutor has a conscience, he’ll drop the felony charge against Lagergren. Really? Why would he want to do that?
    Oh, so that people like you and your hero can continue to shove your minority agenda down the throats of the majority of society?
    The guy is a criminal and dropping the charges would only ensure his ability to commit a future crime quite soon and in your own words “embolden his peers and colleagues to do the same”.
    If it fits your agenda then it’s ok to break laws right Dave? It’s also appparently ok for tigers to maul and kill 5 year old girls.
    Tell me Dave, would it be ok if that was your little girl?
    You wonder why I think you are a fucking jackass?
    Read your own words.You are disgusting.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 1:03 am | Permalink
  6. James wrote:

    The disgusting thing is that laws are being passed with the specific intent of curtailing animal rights groups and individuals. While it may be a “minority agenda”, so too were abolition, womens suffrage,and civil rights. These laws are passed not because our representatives are reflecting the values of the majority of their constituents, but because of lobbyists paid for by the wasteful and inhumane meat industry in this country. The purpose of The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is not to keep ALF or any other group from freeing a couple of dolphins here or there, but to curtail the activities of those who would point out the immorality of a heavily subsidized industry which provides obscene profits to the few, while providing 99 cent cheeseburgers and a diabetes epidemic to the masses.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink
  7. David Brensilver wrote:

    Scott,

    Do you really not understand “that the misdemeanor charges Lagergren was already facing sufficiently cover the crimes he’s alleged to have committed“? Do you really not understand that Mr. Lagergren was charged with a felony under a law (the Florida Animal Enterprise Protection Act) that, like the federal legislation from which it was adapted, entitles industries that profit from the exploitation (and worse) of animals to unique legal protection from animal-rights activists who dare, at very least, to draw critical attention to that exploitation? If you are so happy being a sheep, Scott, perhaps you should donate yourself to research.

    David

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Permalink
  8. David Brensilver wrote:

    James,

    Well said.

    David

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink
  9. Susan Mabe wrote:

    This is simply a case of “let’s add this charge because we can”. It has no merit and, in the end, will be an embarassment. Activists are under fire now more than ever, especially in Florida. This is not about law…it’s about money..big money that fills the coffers in Florida through the captive cetacean market. This is not about protecting people or property..it’s about protecting the industry..mainly SeaWorld. SeaWorld is under attack from many fronts, and rightly so. You have the OSHA hearings in the death of Dawn Brancheau as well the PETE suit filed on behalf of the orcas for 13th amendment violations. Last week, PETA filed against the Feds for violating the Endangered Species Act with regard to Lolita, the orca at the Miami Seaquarium. The captive industry is feeling the heat and have pressured the prosecutor into filing these charges..there is no other logical explanation. They hope to discourage activists from speaking out and taking action by making an example out of Chris. They are wrong, as Chris is already an example..an example of what steps compassionate, well informed people take to give a voice to those who do not have one. We are not going away.

    Monday, November 21, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Permalink
  10. Jeff wrote:

    I think that if we just simply sit back and let things like this happen what are we paving the way for? Why do we as a society allow the goverment to trample al over us? This case could happen to anyone. All because big business has the money to change the laws to fit it’s agenda whether right or wrong.

    Monday, November 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
  11. David Brensilver wrote:

    Susan,

    These “designer laws” (as Denis Henry Hennelly so appropriately described them) are indeed about money, and making sure that money keeps flowing into the pockets of those who profit from the exploitation (and worse, as you know) of animals.

    Thanks for your two cents.

    David

    Monday, November 21, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink
  12. David Brensilver wrote:

    Jeff,

    These laws (the Florida Animal Enterprise Protection Act and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act) need to be repealed. There are efforts underway to convince Congress to repeal the federal legislation, but it’s going to take a very loud noise to get the majority to listen.

    Thanks for commenting.

    David

    Monday, November 21, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink
  13. Susan Mabe wrote:

    David..I don’t see how the felony charge even meets the statute requirements. MMC is a non-profit and does not meet the requirement as an “animal enterprise”…in Fla and enterprise is a commercial venture. They claim the whale is the property of SeaWorld, which is an animal enterprise…but is was in the care and control of MMC. And what looses did they incur ? It is absurd.

    Monday, November 21, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Permalink
  14. Rae wrote:

    This sounds more like a DA looking to make a name for himself, rather than applying the law properly, on a few different levels within this case.

    MMC is not suppose to profit from the animals they claim to be saving. How can they hit Chris with a charge of interference of an enterprise? That would force MMC to declare profiting from the flesh of enslaved animals under the premise of “saving/rehabilitating” them. If MMC is in fact found to be a profitable business, then and only then, could Chris be charged accordingly.

    Drop this felony charge against Chris, it’s utterly embarrassing for the DA’s office and the state!

    Monday, November 21, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Permalink
  15. David Brensilver wrote:

    Susan,

    From the Florida Statutes: “animal enterprise.”

    I would use the word sinister, instead of absurd, in characterizing this law, which absolutely should be repealed.

    David

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink
  16. David Brensilver wrote:

    Rae,

    From the Marine Mammal Conservancy’s website: “The Marine Mammal Conservancy (MMC) is committed to protecting Marine Mammals & Their Habitats Through Research, Rescue, Rehabilitation, Release and Education.”

    The key word here is “research,” as the Florida Statutes define an “animal enterprise,” in part, as “a commercial or academic enterprise that uses animals for food or fiber production, agriculture, research, or testing.”

    From Florida Statute 828.42: “A person who intentionally causes physical disruption to the property, personnel, or operations of an animal enterprise by intentionally stealing, damaging, or causing the loss of, any property, including animals or records, used by the animal enterprise, and thereby causes economic damage, commits a felony of the third degree.”

    This is the statute under which Mr. Lagergren was charged with the felony. I think the important point here is that the felony charge is redundant. That is, the misdemeanor charges have become a felony charge because of where Mr. Lagergren’s alleged crimes took place. Had Mr. Lagergren been charged for alleged crimes perpetrated at, say, a shoe store, the felony charge would not have been available to Mr. Raiche. In other words, Mr. Raiche was able to add the felony charge to the misdemeanor charges Mr. Lagergren already faced not because of what he allegedly did, but because of where he allegedly did it.

    These laws are beyond embarrassing. They are discriminating.

    David

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  17. Margaret wrote:

    And let’s see, what did the doctor get for killing Michael Jackson? Really. This man is anything but a terrorist. Have you ever seen what they do to animals in all of these places? The law needs to be changed!!

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink
  18. David Brensilver wrote:

    Margaret,

    The Florida Animal Enterprise Protection Act is as heavy-handed as it is superfluous and as discriminating as it is uncivilized. While state and federal governments bend over to provide special, statutory muscle to the callous subhumans who profit from the exploitation, torture, and murder of animals, lawmakers refuse to protect the interests of the animals who are exploited, tortured, and murdered. While the Florida Animal Enterprise Protection Act and the legislation on which it was modeled need to be repealed, what really needs to be changed is the belief held by many humans that they are entitled to hold dominion over other species.

    Thanks for weighing in.

    David

    Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink
  19. Ruth Box wrote:

    America…land of the FREE? Sheez,you guys have lost the plot.

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink
  20. David Brensilver wrote:

    Ruth,

    Thanks for your comment.

    David

    Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink
  21. Anna Boucher wrote:

    Anytime there is an animal in distress or is being treated inhumanely or cruelly then there should be provisions stated in the Law that allows someone to intervene on the behalf of the animal or mammal as they are defenseless!!!

    Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink
  22. David Brensilver wrote:

    Anna,

    I’d support any legislation that protects other species from ours.

    David

    Monday, February 27, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Permalink
  23. Calliope wrote:

    Which part of animal cruelty is not understood here. Animals belong in their natural habitat and should not be murdered, confined, used or abused in any way what so ever. Lawyer jargon and and law technicalities cannot change black and make it white. Yes Chris is a hero for all sentient people and incriminating him is a crime of the state. Nobody has a right over anyone else or any species. The word of God is compassion. We support yuo Chris. Good will prevail over evil.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink
  24. David Brensilver wrote:

    Calliope,

    Thanks for sharing your impassioned thoughts.

    David

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink
  25. catherine turley wrote:

    huge waste of resources. when we are releasing true threats to society on a daily basis due to lack of space, it is illogical and unreasonable to prosecute and incarcerate a ‘trespassing vandal’. give him a fine and community service and start focusing on protecting the public.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink
  26. David Brensilver wrote:

    Catherine,

    It is unreasonable for state or federal prosecutors to wield extra punitive muscle on a discriminatory basis.

    David

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink
  27. Kathy wrote:

    Americans had better wake up,, this is like a thought crime. A felony for something you may or may not of thought about:( If the American people allow this to happen to animal rights activists,,, whatever their passion is,, they WILL be next in line. I stand with Chris

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink
  28. Kathy wrote:

    Scott Babcock
    Your opinion is moot when you can’t even carry out a debate without the same old name calling and bad language. It is people like you who will call others criminals until the day they come for you. I’m sure with you lack of respect for others you have crossed the line many times and they are already watching you.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink
  29. Carolyn wrote:

    We should all uphold the law. Abusing animals and causing pain or suffering must be illegal, as well as morally wrong. Any whistle blower of animal suffering must be listened to, respected and praised, and their concerns must be immediately and independently investigated and all abuse stopped. That is the sort of society and law we want.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  30. Marcia Mueller wrote:

    This is scary, though. Big business and the military have the power and the money to fight back against peaceful demonstrations apparently. Just look at the ag-gag bills where big agriculture wants to make whistleblowing a crime. They don’t want to clean up their act and stop brutalizing animals–they just want to punish those who bring the cruelty to light. This needs to be fought.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  31. rita uljee wrote:

    thank God for the people who are willing to protect animals against cruelty done by others without moral standards what so ever.

    Wednesday, March 21, 2012 at 4:00 am | Permalink
  32. This is outrageous, Animals belong in their natural habitat and animal abuser are the ones that should be locked up, not the ones trying to save them, This is a disgusting law that needs to be done away with, I stand my Chris 100% the law is the wrong one here.

    Wednesday, March 21, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Permalink
  33. David Brensilver wrote:

    Kathy,

    It’s outrageous that so many Americans remain unaware and uninterested in these redundant, discriminatory, and sinister laws.

    David

    Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink
  34. David Brensilver wrote:

    Kathy,

    Scott Babcock is a terribly fearful man from whose brain has never come an original thought.

    David

    Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink
  35. David Brensilver wrote:

    Carolyn,

    We need people who are not of like mind to stop believing that humans are entitled to hold dominion over other species.

    David

    Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink
  36. David Brensilver wrote:

    Marcia,

    We really do need to raise awareness about the introduction and passage of laws that protect and serve those who profit from the exploitation, torture, and murder of animals. The legislative sycophants who bend over for captains of animal-unfriendly industries need to be replaced by lawmakers who want to protect and serve all species.

    David

    Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink
  37. David Brensilver wrote:

    Rita,

    “People who are willing to protect animals” are heroes.

    David

    Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink
  38. David Brensilver wrote:

    Mary,

    I agree, as do plenty of other like-minded folks.

    David

    Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink
  39. stephen anderson wrote:

    As long as I’ve known Chris he is only interested in protecting animals in there natural state.He would never do anything against the law or hurt any animals chance to be in rehabilitation.Why do you think he was working as a whistle blower.This is an attack on him buy big money companies that profit off animals,which should be against the law.

    Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink
  40. David Brensilver wrote:

    Stephen,

    There is no doubt that Mr. Lagergren is being unfairly prosecuted on behalf of those who profit from the brutal exploitation, torture, and murder of other species. The Florida Animal Enterprise Protection Act is a sinister piece of legislation that was written in blood and reeks of arrogance.

    David

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink
  41. Anonymous wrote:

    “Altruistic animal rights hero”??? Although I vehemently disagree with the Florida Animal Enterprise Protection Act, I really don’t feel right about defending Arnold Chris Lagergren. He was arrested WHILE IN POSSESSION OF A (PELLET) GUN. He HAS A HISTORY OF GUN VIOLENCE, as he is a CONVICTED ARMED BANK ROBBER in Denmark. The Animal Rights movement and ALF do not condone such violence or usage of guns. Read about this mans history and think for yourselves: http://echr.ketse.com/doc/18668.03-en-20061016/view/

    Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 2:49 am | Permalink

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