An FBI Informant Seduced Eric McDavid Into a Bomb Plot. Then the Government Lied About It.
Anna would go on to lead McDavid and two other activists in their 20s in a loose plot to bomb targets in Northern California. Maybe in the name of the Earth Liberation Front. Or maybe not. Fitting for the muddied plot, their motivation was as unclear as their targets. Anna, at the direction of the FBI, made the entire plot possible — providing the transportation, money, and a cabin in the woods that the FBI had wired up with hidden cameras. Anna even provided the recipe for homemade explosives, drawn up by FBI bomb experts. Members of the group suggested, in conversations with her, that they regarded her as their leader.
At trial, McDavid’s lawyer, Mark Reichel, argued that the FBI had used Anna to lure McDavid into a terrorism conspiracy through the promise of a sexual relationship once the mission was complete. “That’s inducement,” Reichel told the federal jury. “That’s entrapment.” The jurors weren’t persuaded, however. In 2007, McDavid was convicted of conspiring to use fire or explosives to damage corporate and government property, and he was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison, one of the longest sentences given to an alleged eco-terrorist in the United States. At the time of his conviction, the FBI had built a network of more than 15,000 informants like Anna and the government had classified eco-terrorism as the No. 1 domestic terrorism threat — even though so-called eco-terrorism crimes in the United States were rare and never fatal.
Seven years after his conviction, the government’s deceit was finally revealed. Last November, federal prosecutors admitted they had potentially violated rules of evidence by withholding approximately 2,500 pages of documents from McDavid. Among the belatedly disclosed documents were love letters between Anna and McDavid and evidence that Anna’s handler, Special Agent Ricardo Torres, had quashed the FBI’s request to put Anna through a polygraph test, commonly used by the FBI to ensure informants aren’t lying to agents as they collect evidence. The new documents also revealed which of the letters and emails the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit had reviewed before offering instructions on how to manipulate McDavid and guide him toward a terrorist conspiracy.