- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2006

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — An animal rights group and six members were convicted yesterday of inciting violence against a company that tests drugs and household products on animals.

The group, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), argued that its actions were protected under the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.

The government charged that SHAC waged a five-year campaign of threats, harassment and vandalism against Britain-based Huntingdon Life Sciences and posted information on the SHAC Web site about the lab’s employees and those who do business with Huntingdon.

Many of those targeted saw their homes vandalized, and they and their families received threatening e-mails, faxes and phone calls.

The federal jury deliberated over three days after a three-week trial.

SHAC, based in Philadelphia, and six of its members were charged with animal enterprise terrorism, stalking and other offenses. The charges carry two to five years in prison and fines up to $250,000.

The defense rested after just one day and used testimony from the group’s president, Pamelyn Ferdin, a former child star who was the voice of Lucy in the “Peanuts” movies and played Felix Unger’s daughter Edna on TV’s “The Odd Couple.” She was not charged.

“For the government to say ‘You can’t say this and you can’t say that’ is going down a very scary path of going toward fascism,” she told the jury.

Mrs. Ferdin became leader of the group in 2004 after its former president, Kevin Kjonaas and the others were indicted.

Also testifying was one of the defendants, Joshua Harper, who said that he opposes injuring any life form, including humans. But he also said it is morally acceptable to throw rocks through someone’s window as long as the person isn’t home.

The other defendants were Lauren Gazzola, Jacob Conroy, Andrew Stepanian and Darius Fullmer.

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