When Florida Assistant State Attorney Jonathan Raiche added a felony charge to the misdemeanor charges Arnold Christopher Lagergren was already facing, he did so without understanding just whose bidding he’d done.

According to a Florida Keys Keynoter (SINCE REMOVED) report by senior staff writer Kevin Wadlow: “Jonathan Raiche, prosecuting the case for the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office, said adding new counts is ‘a fairly typical thing’ when a review of the case points to additional charges. … Raiche said another prosecutor alerted him to the law. ‘I reviewed the statute and it fits for bill’ for the Lagergren case, Raiche said. ‘The statute exists so we filed it.’”

Wadlow reported on September 14 — in a piece that ran in the Florida Keys Keynoter’s parent publication, The Miami Herald (SINCE REMOVE)that Lagergren was “charged with four misdemeanor counts of trespass and vandalism for alleged incidents at the Marine Mammal Conservancy. Police reports describe him as affiliated with the international Animal Liberation Front organization, which advocates ‘direct action’ against animal captivity. … Monroe County Court Judge Regan Ptomey set bonds totaling $30,000 on the four charges, according to court records.”

In Wadlow’s September 14 story, Lagergren’s lawyer, Richard Wunsch, was quoted as saying: “This is a very politically charged situation, obviously.”

The key quote in Wadlow’s September 14 story came from Robert Lingenfelser, who is listed on the Marine Mammal Conservancy’s website as the organization’s director and president.

“Lingenfelser said an FBI agent told him that Lagergren ‘is going to attempt to release any caged animals (or) mammals into their natural habitat,’” Wadlow’s report tells us.

That the Federal Bureau of Investigation had its eyes on Lagergren suggests that the charges against him may not be limited to those that are prosecutable under Florida law. The Florida Animal Enterprise Protection Act is that state’s version of the federal Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992, which was updated in 2006 to become the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. In a September 7 post about Denis Henry Hennelly’s film Bold Native, I pointed out that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act was enacted just a year after the FBI’s John Lewis was quoted in a CNN report as saying: “The No. 1 domestic terrorism threat is the eco-terrorism, animal-rights movement.”

According to Monroe County, Florida, court records, Lagergren is scheduled to appear on November 29 before Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia.

Lagergren faces a prison sentence of up to five years if convicted of a felony under the Florida Animal Enterprise Protection Act. Each of the misdemeanor charges he faces could add a year to that sentence.

Lagergren’s lawyer stated the obvious when he said (again, as quoted in Wadlow’s September 14 story), “This is a very politically charged situation, obviously.”

In my September 7 post, I quoted Hennelly as saying: “I think the disturbing thing is that what we’re talking about are designer laws,” referring to the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992 and its successor, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

Raiche essentially admitted that he charged Lagergren with the subject felony simply because he could, despite the quite obvious fact that the misdemeanor charges Lagergren was already facing sufficiently cover the crimes he’s alleged to have committed. The felony charge Lagergren now faces is not only superfluous, but allows the industries for which it was “designed” — to borrow Hennelly’s apt characterization — to take their pound of flesh.

If Raiche has a conscience, he’ll drop the felony charge against Lagergren. Doing so would, to those of us paying close attention, signal his refusal to act as a special prosecutor for corporate America, and could embolden his peers and colleagues to do the same. Until state adaptations of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992, and the shameful Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, are repealed, state and federal prosecutors will have to ask themselves if they’re willing to do the bidding of those with pockets deep enough to buy such sinister “designer laws.”

This was written by David Brensilver. Posted on Friday, November 11, 2011, at 4:10 pm.