Convicted ‘eco-terrorist’ freed amid claims FBI hid evidence
SACRAMENTO, California (AP) — A California man considered by the federal government to be a radical eco-terrorist and a threat to the nation was set free after nearly nine years in prison when the government conceded that thousands of pages of evidence were never turned over to his defense attorney.
U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. ordered Eric Taylor McDavid, 37, released from custody Thursday, saying he had “never heard or seen of anything like this,” the Sacramento Bee newspaper reported. As part of a deal with prosecutors, McDavid agreed to plead guilty to a lone conspiracy count, which would have earned him a shorter prison sentence of as much as five years. McDavid was sentenced to 20 years in 2007, according to the Bee.
McDavid was accused of plotting to bomb or torch the Nimbus Dam, a U.S. Forest Service lab and cellphone towers in the Sacramento region.
The FBI had touted the case as a success in fighting domestic terrorism. But McDavid’s supporters said he was the victim of entrapment by an FBI informant — a woman who urged him to take violent action against government targets with promises that they would later consummate a romantic relationship.
The documents that were withheld include love notes to the informant.
“I asked for this stuff,” McDavid’s defense attorney, Mark Reichel, said. “They said, ‘Mark Reichel’s crazy, it doesn’t exist.’”
Prosecutors for years rejected claims that critical evidence in the case had been withheld, the Bee reported. But they began turning over documents in recent months, as McDavid and his appellate attorneys continued fighting for them.
In a statement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento said the failure to disclose the documents was “inadvertent,” and they were released promptly after their discovery. But the documents do not have any direct bearing on whether McDavid committed the crimes, spokeswoman Lauren Horwood said in the statement.
The FBI did not immediately have comment on the case.
McDavid emerged from the federal building in the afternoon and fell into the arms of his parents, his sister Sarah and his girlfriend.