Former Island man on trial, accused of eco-terrorism

By Ruth Longoria

An October trial date has been set for a 1995 Mercer Island High School graduate and alleged Animal Liberation Front (ALF) eco-terrorist accused of setting free thousands of minks from Wisconsin farms in 1997.

Peter Daniel Young, 27, dodged federal authorities for more than six years only to be caught shoplifting CDs at a California Starbucks in March. Since his arrest, Young hasn't been far out of the public eye, despite the fact he's awaiting trial in a Madison, Wisc., jail cell.

On July 6, Young was moved to a higher security cell after sheriff's deputies intercepted a drawing of a courtroom escape route in his mail. Then on July 22, federal prosecutors dropped four extortion charges after Young's attorney, Chris Kelly, filed a motion to dismiss the charges.

Prosecutors said they dropped the extortion charges because a Supreme Court decision changed the legal definition of extortion while Young was on the run. The four extortion charges could have carried a 20 year prison sentence each. Young still faces two counts of animal enterprise terrorism. However, those charges are misdemeanors and each carries a one year prison sentence. Even if Young is convicted of the crimes, the maximum time jail time he would receive is two years, minus time already served, Young's attorney said.

Despite Young's alleged involvement with ALF, Kelly said he is offended by the use of the word ``terrorist'' in connection with his client.

``I wish the government would quit calling him a terrorist,'' Kelly said. ``It is an insult to the victims of 9-11. Terrorists are people that kill other people. All that Peter is even alleged to have done is set loose some animals.''

In 1987, Young and a former University of Washington student, Justin Clayton Samuel, 27, of Snohomish, Wash., allegedly raided several Wisconsin mink farms and released 3,600 animals from their cages. Witnesses identified Young and Samuel as being at the farms. Maps of the farms, fence wire cutters, and other incriminating evidence were found in the two young men's car when they were initially arrested. Young and Samuel fled the country, but Samuel was captured in Belgium and, in 2000, pled guilty to the charges and implicated Young. Samuel was given a two-year sentence.

The San Francisco FBI is currently investigating leads as to where Young was during the six years he was on the run and who may have helped or harbored him.

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