Eric McDavid sentenced to nearly 20 years in 2007 for conspiring to bomb one or more targets including electric power stations and cellphone towers
Eric McDavid, who the US government has considered an eco-terrorist since 2007, was released on Thursday night after a judge determined that important documents related to his case had been filed away in an FBI office.
The government handed over thousands of pages of documents – including love notes from from McDavid to an informant – as part of a trial this week in Sacramento, California.
“I’ve never heard or seen of anything like this,” said US district judge Morrison England, the same man who sentenced McDavid in 2007. England ordered McDavid be released and asked to be given information showing how such evidence was hidden.
“I know [McDavid is] not necessarily a choirboy, but he doesn’t deserve to go through this, either,” England told the Sacramento Bee. “It’s not fair.”
McDavid, 37, was three days away from having spent nine years in prison. As part of the agreement, McDavid pleaded guilty to a single conspiracy count and was released with time served.
His lawyers say he was entrapped by an FBI informant – “Anna” – the recipient of the love notes which were hidden away in the FBI office. She was named in the trial and was the subject of a feature in Elle magazine. McDavid’s supporters say she encouraged him to engage in violent acts against the government while suggesting future romantic encounters.
McDavid was arrested in January 2006, and sentenced to nearly 20 years in federal prison in September 2007. He was convicted of conspiring to bomb one or more targets including electric power stations, California’s Nimbus Dam, cell phone towers and the United States Forest Service Institute of Forest Genetics.
A September 2007 release from the FBI said he and two others, in the presence of “a confidential source”, met at his parents’ house, purchased a book with instructions on how to make homemade bombs, and bought the necessary supplies.
McDavid’s lawyers had been searching for more evidence, but did not receive confirmation from the government about the existence of the hidden documents until recently.
It is not yet clear why the documents sat in the Sacramento FBI office as McDavid served his sentence in a prison near Los Angeles.
“We don’t know exactly why they weren’t turned over,” the chief of the US attorney’s criminal division, John Vincent, told the court.
The US attorney’s office in the Eastern District of California acknowledged that the government’s failure to produce the documents is grounds for a retrial, but both sides agreed to the deal without a retrial to avoid further possible litigation on both sides.
“As the United States stated at the hearing, the nondisclosure was inadvertent, and the documents were produced to the defendant promptly after their discovery,” the office said in a statement.
Soon after England reached his decision, McDavid left a federal building in Sacramento and was met by his parents, sister and girlfriend.
“We are thrilled beyond word that Eric is coming home to us after nine years in prison,” Eric’s mother, Eileen McDavid, said in a statement on behalf of the family.
“We never stopped believing he was wrongly accused. Blessing to all those who made his early release possible.”
Amanda Holpuch in Washington
Friday 9 January 2015 15.35 GMT Last modified on Friday 9 January 2015 23.53 GMT
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