No Charges in Chain Death, DA Says
by Nicholas Wilson
12/17/98 DRAFT story for Albion Monitor (please do not redistribute)
No charges will be filed in the death of forest activist David "Gypsy"
Chain, the Humboldt County D.A. announced today. Terry Farmer told
reporters that a three-month investigation led him to conclude that Pacific
Lumber logger Arlington 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 today 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 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
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 today that the licensed timber operator
listed on the unfinished logging plan at Grizzly Creek has been changed
from PL to Columbia Helicopters. With the unsuccessful raid last week on
the tree-sitters trying to protect the trees surrounding the site of
Chain's death, and with the D.A.'s announcement today 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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