DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — A Minnesota graduate student was sentenced to six months in prison Monday for working with other animal rights activists to carry out a 2006 raid on a farm where dozens of breeding ferrets were let loose.

U.S. District Judge John Jarvey ordered Scott Ryan DeMuth taken into custody immediately, over the objections of his defense attorney. U.S. marshals handcuffed the ponytailed DeMuth and escorted him out of the courtroom at the federal courthouse in Davenport, which was partially filled with his friends and family members.

DeMuth pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to commit animal enterprise terrorism under a deal with federal prosecutors in Iowa. In exchange, prosecutors dropped allegations that DeMuth was involved in a 2004 raid on a University of Iowa psychology laboratory where vandals released 400 mice and rats and destroyed years of research data.

The 23-year-old teaching assistant and graduate student in sociology at the University of Minnesota admitted that he “conspired to disrupt and damage the Lakeside Ferrets Inc.,” in Howard Lake, Minn. in April 2006.

Prosecutors said vandals sneaked onto the farm in the middle of the night through woods, cut holes in a fence and opened cages to let ferrets loose. Vandals also tore up cards used to record breeding activity in each cage, and destroyed a net the owner tried to use the next day to recapture the ferrets.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Clifford Cronk called the raid “an act of cowardice done under the cover of darkness” that contributed to the farm’s closure months later and destroyed the livelihood of longtime owner Eugene Latzig.

“They were there . . . for some cause they thought was greater than the livelihood of this old man,” Cronk said of those who carried out the raid.

Jarvey declined to order DeMuth to pay restitution, saying he mistakenly forgot to advise him at his plea hearing about that possibility and it wasn’t addressed in the plea deal. Latzig had written a letter seeking thousands of dollars in damages for the lost ferrets and property damage.

The plea agreement specified that DeMuth would get six months behind bars. But defense attorney Michael Deutsch asked the judge to allow DeMuth to serve his time on house arrest or in a halfway house, and to allow him to surrender to authorities at a certain date after returning to Minnesota with his family.

Deutsch called DeMuth “an outstanding young man” who has matured since the 2006 raid and has much to contribute to his community. He noted that friends, students, professors and family members had written letters supporting him.

Jarvey rejected requests for leniency and ordered DeMuth imprisoned immediately. After the hearing, Deutsch called that “an outrage” and said DeMuth was being treated differently than other defendants convicted of misdemeanors routinely allowed to surrender.

“It just shows the punitive, vindictive nature of the proceedings against him,” Deutsch said.

DeMuth’s mother, Laurene DeMuth of Minneapolis, said her son has been treated unfairly and called the government’s actions shameful. She said he pleaded guilty to “cut his losses” and move on with his life, and animal rights was not even his cause.

The Animal Liberation Front had issued a statement in which its activists claimed responsibility for the raid but mistakenly thought they had freed mink, a common target because of what activists consider the animals’ deplorable living conditions. The farm had been used to raise mink in the past and was the site of an earlier raid by activists, but had none on its property at that time. Instead, it was breeding ferrets to sell to pet stores.

Prosecutors linked DeMuth to the crime after authorities raided a Minneapolis home where he was living with other self-described anarchists who were protesting the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in 2008. Investigators seized DeMuth’s computer, and a review of the hard drive found he had searched the Minnesota ferret farm using Google Earth weeks before the break-in.

The ALF statement taking credit for the raid — which Cronk read in court on Monday — was also on his computer.

Investigators seized DeMuth’s diary, and tried to use one 2005 entry in which DeMuth wrote that he was worried about federal scrutiny and that “it’s been almost a year since Iowa” to link him to the university lab raid that caused about $500,000 in damage. DeMuth was 17 at the time of that event, and has denied involvement. His lawyer said the Iowa reference was to a meeting of protesters in Des Moines.

The FBI considers the Animal Liberation Front a domestic terrorist organization, and describes it as a loosely organized movement whose members engage in crimes like vandalism and arson to damage businesses and intimidate their opponents.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (14)
  1. Mike says:

    whats wrong with people this is not his property , hands off even if you don’t like what they are doing. There are civil, proper ways to get things done…this way is not one of them.. lock him up!

  2. John says:

    ” The FBI considers the Animal Liberation Front a domestic terrorist organization”

    Lets treat them the same way we should all Terrorist – A bullet to the back of the head!!!!

  3. Joker of Spades says:

    Can we just gather all these animal rights nuts and use THEM for clinical testing as opposed to mice? Would that satisfy them? Then we would no longer be doing animal testing. We would get more accurate, real world, human results and there would be less people that think they run the world and can do what they please.

  4. dphilips says:

    Violence solves everything! When will you Minnesota hillbillies wake up?

    1. JS says:

      Naw, them there hillbillies are ova yonder down in South Dakoter! Heeee—haawwwww!

    2. Grizzlyman says:

      When there are no more ALF or PETA freaks left up here messing with our livelihoods.

  5. fur says:

    Awww…..Ferrets are cute!

  6. dp says:

    What this person didn’t realize (or didn’t care enough about), is by releasing these (domesticated) animals, they’ll only become hawk, owl, and coyote food because they don’t know how to survive in the wild.

    The article does not mention the conditions at the farm, but we have to presume they were humane, so by releasing these animals this person did more harm than good.

    At least he had something to put on his facebook page. Being locked up for six months with other criminal masterminds is a good start. I fear he’ll learn nothing, however.

    1. Robert Lubarsky says:

      We do NOT have to presume conditions were humane. In fact, most animal breeding conditions are inhumane. Hence the opposition.

      Regarding someone else’s point. Property? Animals as property? Would you have opposed the abolition of slavery, because you’re interfering with property? That what slaves were. Doesn’t make it right.

  7. Grizzlyman says:

    Hopefully he will be corn-holed in prison for 6 months.

  8. DaveM says:

    Liberal crybabies see one of their criminal heroes go to prison. No parole in the Federal system either. He destroyed the farm and caused it to go out of business. The sentence should have been longer.

  9. lib says:

    Gee how could the prosecutor and judge forget restitution for the man who lost everything? This guy got off easy and I am sure it was exactly as the judge wanted it. Wright county has nothing but bleeding hearts for judges.

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