Scott DeMuth, a sociology graduate student at the University of Minnesota charged last year with felony conspiracy under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act agreed yesterday to a plea bargain. DeMuth was originally charged in connection with a 2004 lab break-in at the University of Iowa that caused more than $400,000 in damage. His plea agreement does not mention the Iowa break-in. Instead, DeMuth will plead guilty to conspiring to damage a Minnesota company that breeds ferrets. (The Quad-City Times reports that DeMuth admitted to releasing ferrets and causing damage to computers and records in a 2006 break-in.) According to the plea agreement, the damage totaled less than $10,000.
DeMuth was arrested and charged in November 2009 after refusing to cooperate with a grand jury investigating the Iowa break-in. DeMuth studies radical activist groups, and he argued that forcing him to break confidentiality agreements with his subjects would constitute a violation of his academic freedom.
He faces a maximum of 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5000.