3rd Circuit Turns Down Animal Activists' Appeal

     (CN) - The full 3rd Circuit won't reconsider a panel decision upholding the convictions of six animal-rights activists who used their website to incite threats and vandalism against researchers in a New Jersey lab.
     The federal appeals court in Philadelphia rejected an appeal by six members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, who were convicted in 2006 of interstate stalking and conspiring to use their website to abuse, threaten and harass the workers of at least 10 companies directly and indirectly involved with the Huntingdon Life Science research center in Franklin Township, N.J.
     The activists often posted "accomplishments" on the group's website, including incidents in which supporters broke in to the New Jersey lab and "liberated" 14 beagles, overturned a worker's car, detonated a stink bomb in the office of a Huntingdon investor, vandalized a bank associated with the lab, sunk a yacht owned by the bank's president, launched "paint attacks" in the offices of another investor, and rescued dogs and ferrets from a Huntingdon breeder farm.
     In its ruling last October, a three-judge panel said there was enough circumstantial evidence to support the convictions under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
     The activists had claimed the law violates their First Amendment right to freely associate with the animal-rights group.
     But the panel said the government "provided evidence beyond association" that defendants Andrew Stepanian, Darius Fullmer, Kevin Kjonaas, Joshua Harper, Lauren Gazzola and Jacob Conroy illegally targeted the lab and associated companies.
     In a one-page order, the 3rd Circuit voted not to rehear the case before a larger panel of judges.