News Release

Earth First! and the FBI: What the Verdict Means


Twelve years after Darryl Cherney and Judi Bari were arrested for the bombing of their own car, a jury awarded them $4.4 million Tuesday in their suit against the FBI and the Oakland Police for framing them.

In 1990, Cherney was injured in a car bombing along with fellow Earth First! activist Judi Bari. The two were arrested when the FBI claimed that they had planted the bomb. All charges against Bari and Cherney were later dropped. Cherney sued the FBI. So did Bari, who later died of cancer. Dennis Cunningham, the lead counsel in Bari vs. the FBI, has also represented the family of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was slain by Chicago police at the instigation of the FBI. Cunningham said today: “In a legal victory of historic proportions against the FBI, the jury found that six of the seven defendants violated the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution by arresting the activists, conducting searches of their homes, and carrying out a smear campaign in the press, calling Earth First! a terrorist organization and calling the activists bombers in the aftermath of the explosion of a bomb that was planted in Judi Bari’s car in 1990. This verdict is a referendum against the FBI’s gross interference with people’s right to dissent at a time when Attorney General Ashcroft, FBI Director Mueller and the Bush administration are arrogating huge power to themselves and the FBI to spy on legitimate groups and organizers and infringe on Constitutional rights of the public.”
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Taifa is director of the Equal Justice Program at the Howard University School of Law. She said today: “This jury verdict is yet another indication of what is in store should Ashcroft’s plans to loosen the longstanding Levi guidelines become a reality. The guidelines were implemented to curb FBI abuses uncovered during the Senate investigations of the mid-’70s. The 1990 Bari bomb fiasco occurred despite the existence of these clear guidelines prohibiting such outrageous activity by the FBI. What will be the limits of governmental abuse if there are no guidelines in place?”
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Principal author of the report “COINTELPRO: The Untold American Story,” Wolf said today: “Despite its carefully contrived image as the nation’s premier crime-fighting agency, the FBI has always functioned primarily as America’s political police. This role has included not only the collection of intelligence on the activities of political dissidents and groups, but also counterintelligence operations to thwart those activities…. There is no better example than the Judi Bari case to show that the FBI kept on well into the 1990s using covert action tactics against political movements and activists which they perceived as threats to the established order…. In spite of knowing full well from their own expert’s testimony that Bari and Cherney were innocent victims, the FBI and Oakland police continued to lie to the media … saying they had plenty of evidence they were the bombers.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167