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Animal welfare activists accused of felony thefts go back to court in December

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A listening to to decide whether or not there may be sufficient proof to ship to trial the case in opposition to 4 animal welfare activists, who’re accused of committing felony-level thefts throughout anti-animal cruelty demonstrations in Petaluma a number of years in the past, will resume in December.

Almira Tanner, Priya Sawhney, Wayne Hsiung, and Cassandra King are accused of committing grand theft and business housebreaking, in addition to felony conspiracy to commit a criminal offense in demonstrations that befell at three Petaluma poultry farms in 2018 and 2019.

The 4 activists are additionally accused of further misdemeanor fees of trespassing, illegal meeting and petty theft, an amended charging doc, filed on July 26, 2019 with the Sonoma County Superior Court, exhibits. Altogether they’re charged with 15 felony and misdemeanor counts.

Members of Direct Action Everywhere, a Berkeley-based animal welfare group that claims its mission is to convey consideration to the struggling of commercially raised animals, they’ve pleaded not responsible.

Prosecutors allege they illegally eliminated chickens or geese throughout demonstrations at Sunrise Farms; McCoy’s Poultry Services, the place chickens are raised for meat; and Reichardt Duck Farm.

The activists contend the birds had been in misery due to poor well being.

Up to 500 protesters walked by the Weber Family Farms’ Liberty Road property, which is a component of Sunrise Farms. Prosecutors say they ignored requests from proprietor Mike Weber and different employees to go away the property, stating they’d a proper to examine situations.

According to court data, the defendants are accused of eradicating about 15 chickens throughout a Sept. 29, 2018, demonstration at McCoy’s Poultry Services.

Prosecutors additionally contend that on June 3, 2019, the defendants took possession of a number of geese and carried them exterior, then chained themselves to “fixtures of” the farm which interfered and obstructed with farm operations.

If convicted, the activists may face up to 9 years in jail, in accordance to the state penal code.

The preliminary listening to, which started this previous Tuesday, is predicted to resume at 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 7.

“There’s a lot of material, a lot of issues and it’s a different kind of case,” mentioned protection legal professional Chris Andrian, who represents Sawhney. “I’m learning a lot about farming and factory farming and free-range chickens. People are willing to put a lot on the line and feel strongly about these issues.”

District Attorney Brian Staebell confirmed the continuation of the listening to, however declined additional remark.

Attorney Izaak Schwager mentioned his purchasers would like to go to trial “because they want a story to be told.”

He added, “Frankly, my biggest gripe with this whole case is these are not felonies. Regardless of whether you believe what they are doing is right or wrong, you don’t make felons out of people of conscience.”

You can attain Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com.