OF FIREBRANDS AND FILES

This is where you want your children to grow up.
Prescott.
It is clean. It is beautiful. It is peaceful.

On a Sunday afternoon in Prescott, the appearance of tranquillity is everywhere.

Just off the town square, the local sports tavern, Penelope Parkenfarker's, hosts a friendly full house as the Chicago Bulls blow out the Los Angeles Lakers.

At a nearby park, children tumble through the grass while parents pass covered dishes across wooden tables. The families gathered beneath the pine trees, however, have more on their minds than simple relaxation. This throng of quiet parkgoers is here to lend compassion to four Prescott residents who stand indicted in the Earth First! trial; if compassion is not necessarily approval, it is surely the warm embrace of one good neighbor to another at the beginning of a terrible ordeal in federal court.

Off to the side of the park there is a malignancy.
In an anonymous gray van, government agents videotape everyone at the picnic.

A man stands to speak, an older gentleman with neat silver hair who has traveled a good distance to be in this park, with these people.

Gerry Spence, the defender of Karen Silkwood against the nuclear energy establishment, the protector of Miss Wyoming against Penthouse magazine, rises to address the crowd. This attorney has journeyed from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to represent the co-founder of Earth First!, David Foreman, the only one of the accused who is not from Prescott.

Spence has been forced to wallow through nearly 1,000 hours of conversations recorded by wiretaps, body bugs, microphones hidden in homes, undercover agents and paid informants. Yet he has not become cynical. Though his client is not from here, Spence will not suffer in silence this latest indignity upon the freedoms of those from Prescott who choose to assemble in the park.

He mocks the government's van. He holds the videotapers up to shame. He makes a record of the abuse by our government.

And make no mistake, in Prescott people can feel the pressure of intimidation.

One of the organizers of the neighbor-to-neighbor benefit, Margaret Antilla, said afterward that a woman wished to volunteer daycare for children of the indicted, but only if she could do so anonymously.

When nationally known environmentalist David Brower spoke at a fund-raising benefit, the hotel owner would only host the event if a disclaimer appeared on the announcement pointing out that the hotel management was not necessarily a supporter of Earth First!.

People in Prescott are both committed to their neighbors and frightened of their government.

So it is important and necessary for attorneys like Gerry Spence to speak out when the government oversteps. And Spence has been doing just that from the very beginning of this case.

On Tuesday, June 4, he was back in court hammering away in pretrial motions at the United States Attorney's Office.

The prosecutors have tied David Foreman into their conspiracy theory, in part, because of the man's book.

When David Foreman autographed two copies of his book Eco-Defense: A Field Guide to Monkey Wrenching and gave them to FBI informants, the government pointed to the act as proof of his part in the conspiracy.

Spence will not allow such an incredible approach to the First Amendment to pass without a fight.

At the conclusion of his argument, Spence returns to the defense table, where a flock of attorneys is gathered.

U.S. District Judge Robert Broomfield asks the lawyers to tell him who among them will speak first when the actual trial begins.

And then an odd thing happens.
A lawyer at the rear of the pack begins to offer an enormous grin up to the judge. While maintaining the loopy smile, the attorney points and wags his finger at Gerry Spence, simultaneously bobbing his head up and down like a grade-school pet who has been asked by the teacher, "Did you put this lovely apple upon my desk?"

The grinning, pointing and bobbing member of the bar is Wellborn Jack Jr., clearly a gentleman who has no doubt about Gerry Spence's God-given right to speak first.

There is, obviously, some logic in having the internationally recognized Spence lead the charge of the defense, but Jack's obsequious display in this gathering of professionals is an unsettling gesture.

The other attorneys in the case, understanding that their clients have interests at odds with Spence's, are not so childlike in their acceptance of the notion that it is Gerry Spence's role to automatically begin the critical opening statement to the jury. All the lawyers, even Jack, convene to discuss the matter.

The incident was but a small moment in the courtroom, yet it was disturbing despite its petite scale.

People who toady up to others lead a schizophrenic existence. A lifetime spent on one's knees creates an insatiable appetite to control and demean those of lesser rank. And those who share equal status with bootlickers can expect treachery instead of civility.

The day after Spence argued his pretrial motion, a column appeared in this space that quoted FBI documents in the Earth First! case.

Frankly, the agency's own paperwork made the FBI look a trifle silly: One FBI informant, Kathleen Clarke, listened to an Earth First! speech by Ron Frazier and then told her superiors that the speaker appeared to be very "dangerous," a charming assessment since Frazier was at the time an FBI operative himself; an FBI agent, in the undercover role of "Michael Tait," went to an Earth First! demonstration, where he became fixated upon a rather hopeless hippie who was too stoned to make sense; yet another FBI agent, this one a supervisor, lost all grip on reality and told the court that the ragtag conspiracy within Earth First! could have triggered a nuclear meltdown in Phoenix.

1
 
2
 
3
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Phoenix Concert Tickets
Loading...