PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- A leader of the radical environmental group Earth First! engaged in anarchy and incited his followers in conspiring to sabotage nuclear power plants in three states, prosecutors charged Wednesday.
Defense attorneys, however, countered with allegations of entrapment as trial opened for the group's co-founder, Dave Foreman, and four other environmentalists.
Two of the defendants were arrested in May 1989 as part of an undercover FBI sting as they allegedly tried to cut down a power pole carrying electricity to a Central Arizona Project pumping station.
The other three were arrested later, including Foreman, author of a book on 'monkeywrenching,' the practice of sabotaging projects opposed by environmentalists.
'The evidence will show that the FBI knows that Dave Foreman is not a terrorist,' defense attorney Gerry Spence told a U.S. District Court jury in opening statements Wednesday. 'He is not a felon. He is not a criminal. He is a man committed to the earth.'
The prosecutor, Roselyn Moore-Silver, characterized the five as 'environmental terrorists' engaged in 'anarchy and revolution' who thought that destroying other people's property was 'fun.'
'(Foreman) incited these people to break the law in the name of his own fanaticism,' Moore-Silver said.
'He maneuvered behind the scenes. He was the instigator ... bankroller and most important he was the agent who defendant (Mark) Davis said 'pumped people up' ... to destroy the property of others.'
The federal prosecutor, who wore a red, white and blue outfit, and at one point was admonished by Judge Robert Broomfield for pounding on the podium, said Davis, a Prescott resident, was 'the mastermind' behind a plan to cut power lines at five or six nuclear plants in Arizona, Colorado and California.
Evidence against the five defendants was collected through phone taps and secret tape-recordings by a former Earth First! member, Ron Frazier, who cooperated with the government and an FBI plant, Michael Fain.
Moore-Silver accused various defendants of taking part in prior acts of sabotage against a ski resort and the Canyon Uranium Mine near the Grand Canyon.
Attorneys for Foreman, Davis and the other three defendants, Peg Millett, Ilse Aspland and Marc Baker, all residents of Prescott, told the jury that there was no evidence of a conspiracy and charged that the FBI had instigated the acts of 'eco-terrorism' in order to trap Foreman.
Foreman, a former Eagle Scout who once campaigned for former Sen. Barry Goldwater, founded Earth First! after becoming disenchanted with the progress made by less radical environmental groups such as the Sierra Club.
The group has a clinched fist as its symbol and espouses a philosophy of 'no compromise in the defense of Mother Earth.'
Forman is also the author of a book, 'Eco-Defense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching,' which the government claims influenced the other defendants to carry out acts of sabotage.
Spence and several other defense attorneys accused the government of carrying out a vendetta against Foreman because of his role in the Earth First! movement and said the wiretaps and tapings of conversations were a violation of their clients' constitutional rights.
'The government created and participated in these crimes,' said Michael Black, the attorney appointed to represent Millett. 'This massive undertaking (was designed) to entrap these poor ... pawns in order to ensnare the man they were really after, Dave Forman.'
Black also told jurors their verdict 'will set the tenor for government conduct well into the next century.'
Spence said FBI tapes show that the federal agency knew Foreman was not 'the actual perpetrator' but 'needed to pop him to send a message' to the environmental movement.
All five defendants face conspiracy charges and all but Foreman face additional charges accusing them of damaging ski lifts and power lines at the Canyon Uranium Mine between October 1987 and May 1989.
The trial, which is closely being watched by environmental groups and constitutional watchdogs, is expected to last several months.