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No Charges in Forest Activist Logging Death, DA Says

by Nicholas Wilson

on death of David Chain

No charges will be filed in the death of forest activist David "Gypsy" Chain, the Humboldt County D.A. announced yesterday. Terry Farmer told reporters that a three-month investigation led him to conclude that Pacific Lumber logger A. E. Ammons did not know activists were still present when he dropped the large redwood that struck and killed Chain September 17.

Farmer also said he considered manslaughter charges against the seven other Earth First! activists who were with Chain when he died, but concluded it was unlikely a jury would convict them.

"This proves what we've been saying all along, that the sheriff is incapable of conducting an unbiased investigation," said longtime EF! activist Josh Brown. "They have completely sided with Pacific Lumber and the logger. It just shows that getting justice is next to impossible in Humboldt County if you're an Earth First!er. The video and eyewitness statements prove that A. E. Ammons knew what he was doing. He threatened to drop a tree in their direction and then did so. That's murder," added Brown.

D.A. Farmer acknowledged yesterday he was aware of accusations of bias in the investigation, and he said he had been willing all along to allow the state Attorney General or the U.S. Attorney to take it over, and had offered full cooperation if they did. But he said no other agency has indicated any desire to take away what is his responsibility. "I was hired to do this job," said Farmer. "The only way I can pass it off to someone else is if I feel I'm biased. I do not," Farmer continued.

As evidence that he is not biased in favor of big timber, Farmer pointed out that his office had brought charges against timber companies for logging violations.

But Brown said the D.A.'s decision not to charge Ammons "once again sends out the message that it's okay to hurt, brutalize and kill Earth First!ers and get away with it." He listed previous examples including the sheriff's use of pepper spray on nonviolent protesters, allegations of deputies roughing up and hurting demonstrators, and loggers felling trees with people in them and beating up people on the ground, "all at the behest of the company."

The D.A. released a twelve-page report listing about 40 sources of evidence and information, including activists and PL employees who were in the woods when Chain was killed, emergency personnel who responded, the hired logging consultant, the California Dept. of Forestry inspector, EF! video of the incident, a site visit by a deputy D.A., and even excerpts from KMUD radio interviews.

Farmer said that all of that information would be available if a lawsuit was filed, which he considered likely. Neither David Chain's mother, Cindy Allsbrooks, nor her attorney Steve Schectman were available for comment, but they have previously indicated they would probably file a wrongful death suit when the time was right.

Meanwhile, Brown said EF! learned yesterday that the licensed timber operator listed on the unfinished logging plan at Grizzly Creek has been changed from PL to Columbia Helicopters. With last week's unsuccessful raid on tree-sitters trying to protect the trees surrounding the site of Chain's death, and with the D.A.'s announcement yesterday that the investigation of the death is complete, Brown said he believes PL will make an all-out effort, probably in the next week, to remove the tree sitters and get the remaining trees cut and removed.

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Albion Monitor December 18, 1998 (

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