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United States v. Ryberg

 

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Two EarthFirst! members brought suit challenging their criminal convictions for interfering with the official duties of two U.S. Forest Service employees.[1]

The defendants were encamped with other EarthFirst! members when the two Forest Officers arrived to relay an emergency message regarding the death of a relative of an EarthFirst! member. The officers were greeted rudely and told to leave. As the officers left, the defendants threw themselves under the Forest Service vehicle. After being removed, they did it again, preventing the exit of the officers. The defendants were arrested, found guilty, sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, and given a five hundred dollar fine.

The Ninth Circuit upheld the conviction, finding that the officers were performing an official duty because they were on duty, acting at the direction of their supervisors. The court held that this kind of duty contributed to the forests’ administration because the officers were keeping peace at a time of hostility between loggers and EarthFirst! members. The court also held that is does not matter if there was a more appropriate federal statute under which the EarthFirst! members could have been convicted.


[1]Department of Agriculture regulations state that it is a criminal violation to interfere with a Forest Officer who is performing an official duty to protect, improve, or administer the National Forest System. 36 C.F.R. § 261.3 (1995).

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