A Brief History of the Judi Bari Bombing Case (last updated 6/12/02)
Judi Bari was nearly killed in a still-unsolved terrorist attack on May 24, 1990, when a motion-triggered pipe bomb wrapped with nails exploded directly under her driver's seat. She and Darryl Cherney were driving through Oakland, California when the bomb exploded. They were on a concert and speaking tour to recruit college students for Redwood Summer, a campaign of nonviolent mass protests against corporate liquidation logging.
Judi was maimed and disabled by the bombing, while Darryl received lesser injuries. In the previous two months, both had received numerous death threats from timber industry supporters and had reported them to local police. They had copies of written death threats in the car, where investigators found them. Right away, Judi and Darryl told paramedics and police officers that they had been bombed because of their activism against the timber industry, and both of them separately named the same individuals and a right-wing group that they believed were behind the bombing.
But instead of investigating the bombing as attempted murder, as the evidence clearly showed, the FBI, with the willing collaboration of the Oakland Police, tried to frame Judi and Darryl for the bombing, further victimizing them by false arrest and accusing them of knowingly transporting the bomb that nearly killed them.
It was a deliberate, politically motivated effort to target and "neutralize" Judi, Darryl and Earth First!, and to discourage people from traveling from all over the nation to join in Redwood Summer. The sensational false charges made headlines nationwide, and the FBI and their Oakland Police accomplices kept a two-month media smear campaign going with a series of false claims about physical evidence linking Judi to building the bomb.
But after delaying arraignment for seven weeks, when it was finally time for the District Attorney to present evidence in court and file formal charges, the FBI and Oakland Police didn't actually have any. The D.A. announced he would not file charges, citing the lack of evidence. The Oakland Police closed their "investigation," but the FBI continued theirs, telling the media that Judi and Darryl were their only suspects.
The FBI then used the pretext of investigating the bombing as cover for a nationwide investigation of Earth First!, sending agents to create dossiers on over 500 people whose only crime was to have received a long-distance phone call from Judi, Darryl, or one of 14 other people associated with them.
A year after the bombing, when it was clear that the FBI and OPD were making no genuine effort to solve the bombing, Judi and Darryl filed a federal civil rights suit against the FBI and OPD. The suit claims false arrest and unlawful search in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It also claims a politically-motivated conspiracy in violation of the First Amendment which attempted to suppress and chill their free speech by discrediting them in public perception as violent extremists.
“This case is not just about me or Darryl or Earth First!,” Judi said. “This case is about the rights of all political activists to engage in dissent without having to fear the government's secret police.”
Fully 12 years after the event the bomber or bombers are still free because, as overwhelming evidence has shown at trial, instead of mounting a genuine investigation of the bombing, the FBI and OPD:
- falsified, fabricated and manipulated evidence,
- perjured themselves under oath to get search warrants and high bail,
- conducted a sustained media smear campaign to fool the public,
- blamed the victims despite clear evidence of their innocence,
- conspired to frame and demonize Judi Bari and Earth First! for political reasons,
- spied on nonviolent environmentalists in a phony investigation of the bombing,
- failed to investigate fingerprints and other evidence pointing to the real bombers, and
- covered up their own wrongdoing and obstruction of justice.
To this day the FBI has never retracted the false charges or apologized. The FBI's sustained propaganda campaign against Judi, Darryl and Earth First! succeeded in fooling some people into believing they were bomb-using extremists.
The lawsuit was delayed from coming to trial for nearly 11 years by defense motions and appeals intended to wear the plaintiffs down and prevent the case from ever coming to trial. They gained an immense advantage when Judi died in 1997, but Judi's estate, Darryl Cherney, their legal team and supporters have have kept the suit alive and have cleared every hurdle and won every appeal. The courts ruled several times prior to trial that there is substantial evidence to support the charges.
The evidence was presented in a jury trial that began on April 8, 2002, and ended June 11 with a stunning vindication of Judi and Darryl, and a $4.4 million award of damages. A full 80% of the damages were for First Amendment violations, showing that the jury understood that the motivation for the false arrest and illegal searches was to interfere with Judi and Darryl's political activism with Earth First! in defense of the redwoods.
To be placed on the U.S. Mail list for updates on Judi Bari's lawsuit against the FBI, or to make a tax deductible contribution to help fund the lawsuit, please contact:
REDWOOD SUMMER JUSTICE PROJECT
P.O. Box 14720, Santa Rosa, CA 95402
Phone (707) 887-0262 or FAX (707) 887-0865
Email RJF at judibari.org