In 2006, Eric McDavid was sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring to bomb and burn several sites around California. Nine years later, on Jan. 10, 2015, he was released after it was revealed key evidence to support his claim of entrapment was withheld from his trial.
McDavid and his group of self-described eco-anarchists were infiltrated by an FBI informant known as Anna. McDavid said Anna encouraged the group to commit terrorist acts, giving recipes and supplies for bombs and planning which sites to attack. While in the group, Anna “toyed” with McDavid’s heart – his words – in an attempt to further provoke him to take violent action.
In advance of the trial, defence attorney Mark Reichel filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain the FBI’s files. The response was that no such files existed. During McDavid’s imprisonment, Sacramento Prisoners Support filed further information requests. After some of the documents they received indicated important information had been kept hidden, Reichel again requested the complete files.
This time, the government admitted they had been holding back information, and released thousands of pages of documents, including love letters between McDavid and Anna, and evidence that an FBI-ordered polygraph test on Anna, their sole informant, had been cancelled without cause. A deal was made that allowed McDavid to plead guilty to a lesser charge that would secure his immediate release.
The story was covered locally by the Sacrameto Bee. The LA Times mentioned McDavid briefly in a Feb. 15, 2015 article, and the Associated Press ran a more personal piece on him in January, 2015. The Guardian has recently run more in depth articles on the case, but little national or international attention was paid to this nine-year miscarriage of justice.
Denny Walsh, “Leader or led by the FBI?,” The Sacramento Bee, Sept. 27, 2007. Republished at: http://breakallchains.blogspot.ca/2007/09/leader-or-led-by-fbi.html
Denny Walsh and Sam Stanton, “Convicted ‘eco-terrorist’ freed amid claims FBI hid evidence,” The Sacramento Bee, Jan. 8, 2015. http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article5641188.html
Sarah Shourd, “I Was Jailed As An Ecoterrorist—But I Was Set Up By the FBI,” Daily Beast, Jan. 25, 2015. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/01/25/i-was-jailed-as-an-ecoterrorist-but-i-was-set-up-by-the-fbi.html
Student researcher: Alec Salloum, University of Regina
Faculty supervisor: Patricia W. Elliott, University of Regina