Activist who freed minks sentenced under rarely used U.S. terrorism law

By Justin Madden CHICAGO (Reuters) - A California animal rights activist who freed 2,000 minks from an Illinois fur farm in 2013 was sentenced on Wednesday to house arrest and ordered to pay $200,000 to the farm's owners, prosecutors said. Tyler Lang, 27, was indicted in 2014 under the rarely used Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a 2006 law making it a federal crime to cause damages or disruptions at zoos, circuses, breeding farms and other places. "Lang was not engaging in lawful activism or peaceful protest, but instead was committing a crime," Assistant U.S. Attorney Bethany Biesenthal said in the government's sentencing memorandum. In addition to paying the $200,000 restitution to the farm's owners, Lang was sentenced to six months of home confinement followed by six months in a work-release facility, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois said in a statement. "The use of illegal methods of activism – harassment, threats, vandalism – does nothing more than taint the image of law-abiding activists who are attempting to create change through legal protest and lawful demonstration," Biesenthal said. Lang and his friend Kevin Johnson, 28, released the minks from their cages in August 2013 on a farm in Morris, Illinois, and spray-painted the barn with the words "Liberation is Love." They also poured an acidic substance over two trucks that were parked on the farm, prosecutors said. Both Lang and Johnson are from Los Angeles. Lang pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to travel in interstate commerce with the purpose of damaging an animal enterprise, prosecutors said. Lang's attorney could not immediately be reached for comment. On a website to raise funds for their defense, Lang and Johnson are described as facing state repression under a law designed to "conjure public fear of the animal liberation movement." The two were arrested in 2013 and originally pleaded guilty to state charges of possession of burglary tools, but were indicted on federal charges in 2014. Johnson pleaded guilty last year to the same charge as Lang. Johnson was sentenced last month to three years in federal prison for his involvement, prosecutors said. About a dozen people have been charged under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights. Two other California animal rights activists were sentenced last month for violating the act, the center said. (Editing by Matthew Lewis)