Prof. Michael Massinter of Nova Law School reports on a mailing list I frequent that “DoJ's prosecution of Greenpeace, the first prosecution modern history of a nonprofit advocacy group for the nonviolent civil disobedience of its members, ended abruptly this afternoon when, at the close of the government's case, the trial judge ruled the evidence insufficient to create a jury question on the offense of sailor mongering and therefore on the offense of conspiracy to commit sailor mongering, and entered a judgment of acquittal.”
The case was significant as the DoJ was trying to convict an organization for the activities of supporters — the ultimate chilling effect.
Background on the case at TalkLeft: Justice Department Trial Against Greenpeace Begins.
U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan ended the case after the prosecution rested in the nation's first federal indictment targeting an advocacy group for its protest tactics.
The environmental group was accused of violating a 1872 law, not used in more than a century, when its members boarded a ship to protest the Amazon mahogany lumber that was part of its cargo.
Greenpeace claimed the charges were payback for its criticism of what the group said is lax Bush administration enforcement of international restrictions on mahogany trade.
Six Greenpeace activists spent the weekend in jail after two of them boarded the 965-foot cargo ship APL Jade six miles from its dock in the Port of Miami to protest a 70-ton load of Brazilian mahogany shipment on April 12, 2002.
The organization was indicted 15 months later under a law that had not been used since 1890.
The law was intended to keep boarding houses from luring sailors off inbound ships that were about to arrive with offers of harlots, strong drink and warm beds.