Plum Creek and prosecutors back down

Plum Creek Timber Company and the Piscataquis County district attorney have dropped charges filed against three environmental activists for allegedly trespassing on Plum Creek land. We told you about the incident back in November, in the context of a Congressional proposal that moves toward criminalizing speech and thought - a big change from the norm, which is criminalizing actions. (A brief update on that: Senator Olympia Snowe's office has been ducking our requests for a statement on the bill since November. Drop her a line and let her know what you think. And while you're at it, tell Senator Susan Collins you don't like that she is the lead backer of the bill in the Senate.)

And now back to our show. The three activists, Emily Posner, Alex Lundberg, and John Waters, were issued summonses back in November for their appearance in a parking lot of a Plum Creek office, during business hours, to film exterior shots of the building for a documentary they and their group, the Native Forest Network, are working on about the Plum Creek proposal (see "Up Plum Creek Without a Paddle," by Yanni Peary, November 28, 2007).

We already know that Plum Creek is paranoid (see "Plum Creek is Afraid of You," by Dave Brady, December 19, 2007), but now the prosecutor in the case agrees, saying in a letter to Posner that the charges were dropped because "The Defendants left almost immediately after being ordered to do so, plus, any posting was insufficient for Criminal Trespass at that time of day under the circumstances."

While that's a pretty technical way to say "You're allowed to be in a parking lot of a business during business hours," the point is made, and well.

Posner says the group was not taken to jail, and never had to post bail. "We just were detained for a good long while in the cold," she says.

So that's good. But the prosecutor didn't actually drop the charges until she and the others pleaded not guilty and prepared to contest the charges. More official intimidation tactics? Good lawyering? Hopeful prosecution? Or wishful thinking? You make the call.

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