FC: Update on Raisethefist.com creator Sherman Austin, now in prison

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Sun Sep 14 2003 - 23:28:16 PDT

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    From: "Bodhi Man" <bodhimanat_private>
    To: declanat_private
    Cc: jyaat_private
    Subject: sherman watch
    Date: Sat, 13 Sep 2003 08:36:54 +0000
    on august 29 zach de la rocha former lead singer of rage against the 
    machine appeared at che cafe on the UCSD campus for a concert benefitting 
    sherman austin / raisethefist.com.  local bands and hundreds of people 
    showed up enabling sherman to pay off his court ordered fines (about 
    $2,000). the capacity of the building was 250 and about 450 showed up with 
    many people being turned away.
    sherman surrendered to fed custody a week later on sept 4 at the roybal 
    federal building.  he spent a few weeks in san bernardino county jail and 
    on sept 12 was transferred to oklahoma. according to shermans girlfriend, 
    he saw his transfer papers and he says he is headed for tuscon, arizona next.
    Looks like he is getting a dose of diesal therapy.......
    From: "Bodhi Man" <bodhimanat_private>
    To: declanat_private
    Subject: sherman austin cited by senator feinstein
    Date: Sat, 13 Sep 2003 10:13:37 +0000
    Senator Feinstein Urges Department of Justice to
    Aggressively Enforce Bombmaking Statute
    - First person prosecuted under law is scheduled
    to be taken into custody tomorrow -
    September 3, 2003
    Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has called upon 
    the Department of Justice to aggressively enforce a law that makes it 
    illegal to distribute bombmaking information with the knowledge or intent 
    that the information will be used to commit a violent federal crime.
    This statute, which was established through legislation sponsored by 
    Senator Feinstein in 1997, was recently applied for the first time in a 
    case against Sherman Austin, an anarchist who put links to bombmaking 
    information on his website. Austin, who is scheduled to surrender to U.S. 
    Marshals tomorrow, was sentenced to 12 months in prison, a $2000 fine, 
    three years of probation, as well as other restrictions.
    In this case, according to press reports, the federal prosecutor reached 
    two separate plea agreements with Austin, but the presiding judge threw out 
    the initial pleas, saying that they were insufficient and that the 
    government was not taking the crime "seriously" enough.
    In a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Senator Feinstein wrote: "I 
    was pleased to learn recently that Sherman Austin was sentenced earlier 
    this month in federal court in Los Angeles for violating 18 U.S.C. 842(p), 
    a law I authored mandating up to 20 years in prison for anyone who 
    distributes bombmaking information knowing or intending that the 
    information will be used for a violent federal crime. However, I remain 
    concerned by reports that federal prosecutors may not be taking this 
    important anti-terrorism tool seriously. Thus, I write to request your 
    assistance in ensuring that DOJ personnel know about section 842(p) and are 
    aggressively enforcing it.
    A few weeks ago, because of Mr. Austin's admitted violation of section 
    842(p), U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson sentenced him to 12 months 
    of custody, a $2000 fine, three years probation, and as well as other 
    restrictions. However, I was dismayed to learn that Judge Wilson imposed 
    this sentence only after throwing out two previous plea agreements reached 
    with Mr. Austin as too lenient. The first plea agreement gave Mr. Austin 
    one month in prison followed by five months in a halfway house and the 
    second agreement gave him four months custody and four months in a halfway 
    According to press reports, Judge Wilson stated at a hearing on the second 
    plea agreement that, while the Austin case had 'national and international 
    implications,' the government was not taking it 'seriously' and that in 
    fact the plea agreement was 'shocking.' Subsequently, upon learning that 
    the plea agreement had not been cleared by top DOJ officials, the judge 
    asked the prosecutor to contact Main Justice as well as FBI Director Robert 
    Mueller and solicit their views on the matter.
    In my view-and apparently the view of at least one federal judge-the 
    Department of Justice needs to do a better job making prosecutors aware of 
    section 842(p) and ensuring that they take the law seriously. It is 
    dismaying that there has only been one conviction under section 842(p) in 
    the four years that the law has been on the books and that, once that 
    conviction was obtained, a federal judge described the final recommended 
    plea bargain for the convicted individual as 'shocking' in its leniency. 
    Moreover, I was also disturbed to read that Mr. Austin, in an interview 
    after his sentencing, stated that 'The fact that bomb-making information is 
    readily available on the Internet doesn't concern the feds. If someone were 
    to use a bomb to do something illegal, there's plenty of information out 
    Last May, I met with then Deputy Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher 
    and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Both Ms. Fisher and Director Mueller 
    assured me that they would arrange for widespread distribution of 
    information about section 842(p) within their respective agencies. A month 
    later, Director Mueller informed me that the FBI had sent an electronic 
    communication to all field offices encouraging awareness and enforcement of 
    section 842(p). However, I never received word that the DOJ Criminal 
    Division had issued any similar communication.
    Section 842(p) should be an important tool in fighting terrorism but, 
    unfortunately, it has been little used. I would greatly appreciate your 
    assistance in getting the word out to all to all appropriate components of 
    the Department of Justice about this statute
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