Danae Kelley still isn't sure why she spent four days in jail last month. On Aug. 18, the 23-year-old joined a dozen animal-rights activists in picketing the La Jolla home of billionaire-philanthropist Ernest Rady. Rady, Kelley said, is on the board of directors of Wachovia Bank; Wachovia invests in a company called Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), and the group wanted to let Rady--and, by default, his neighbors--know that Huntingdon, which runs animal-testing labs throughout the world, does terrible things to its test subjects. The goal was to get Rady to convince Wachovia to divest itself of Huntingdon stock. Kelley said she didn't know that Rady and his wife had been the victims of a home-invasion robbery in February. If she'd known, she would have called off the protest, she said.
While tactics of some protest groups (mostly in Europe) against Huntingdon employees and investors can be extreme--slashed tires, death threats and significant intimidation--Kelley insists that no one did anything in La Jolla beyond chanting and leafleting, and they were in front of Rady's house for only 10 to 15 minutes.
'We're all pretty respectful,' she said.
Picketing a residence is a misdemeanor under San Diego's municipal code, said San Diego Police Lt. Brian Ahern. But, Ahern explained, Rady would have had to file a complaint (he didn't), or the police would have had to witness the protest (they didn't).
Police stopped the group as it was leaving the neighborhood. Members were searched, questioned and photographed, but only Kelley was arrested. A detective told her she was being charged with two felonies: stalking and making a terrorist threat (her booking sheet shows she was charged only with the latter). She was taken to Las Colinas jail and held on $50,000 bail until Wednesday, Aug. 22, the deadline for the district attorney to either arraign her or let her go. She was home by midnight.
Kelley said she knew the charge wouldn't stick. 'We have audio of [the protest]--we replayed the audio, and there were no threats.'
Compared with two years ago, Kelley's August jail stint was brief. In summer 2005, Kelley and two other activists were jailed for several weeks after they refused to testify to a grand jury about a talk given by environmentalist Rod Coronado in Hillcrest on Aug. 1, 2003. Coronado's talk happened the same day an early-morning arson fire in University City burned down a condo building that was under construction. A sign left at the site attributed the fire to the eco-saboteur movement Earth Liberation Front. Coronado, once an unofficial ELF spokesperson, was at home in Arizona when the fire happened and didn't know about it until reporters swarmed him before his talk.
But prosecutors got him anyhow. This week, he went on trial in San Diego federal court because, at the talk, he picked up an apple-juice jug and explained how, in his more radical days, he'd turn a similar container into an incendiary device. Prosecutors argued that someone could take that information and use it to commit a crime. Coronado's attorneys counter that bomb-building instructions are available online and their client was responding to an audience member's question--proof that making a bomb from a juice jug wasn't part of his planned speech.
No arrests have been made in the arson case, but authorities still have their eye on Kelley. Police and FBI agents contacted at least four activists from the La Jolla protest, Kelley said. The activists told her they were asked not about the protest but about Kelley, Coronado and the 2003 arson. Several told her that while she was being arrested, a police detective said to them, 'Do you know what kind of a person [Kelley] is? I've been following her for two years.'
That detective, J.K. Hudgins, said Kelley's arrest is part of an ongoing investigation, so he can't discuss it.
Kelley said she has no connection to the arson: 'No--god, no,' she said. She added that she doesn't claim affiliation with any activist group that engages in criminal activity. She might share the same motivations, but she prefers 'leafleting and outreach' to get her point across.
Kelley sees her arrest as part of a larger movement by law enforcement to silence activists. While she was being handcuffed, she heard Hudgins say, 'We're making an example out of her.'
Hudgins denied saying that. 'It's [against] a policy of the police department,' he said.
Kelley has talked to Gerry Singleton, an attorney representing Coronado, and plans to file a wrongful-arrest lawsuit against the police department. Troy Pickard, a senior law clerk for Singleton, said the fact that Kelley's been a subject of an ongoing investigation only makes her case more interesting.
'The police have no business keeping tabs on political demonstrators,' he said, 'even leaders who are not committing any crimes.'