An animal rights protester who allegedly freed 2,000 mink from an Illinois fur farm presents a “risk to the safety of the community” and should be locked up until he stands trial, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
Kevin Johnson, 27 allegedly teamed up with codefendant, Tyler Lang, 25, to release the animals from a mink farm in Morris, 65 miles southwest of Chicago, last August, then daubed the walls of a barn with the words “Liberation is Love.”
A one-year sentence he’s serving in state prison for possessing burglary tools will be completed on Oct. 22.
But U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur said Wednesday morning that Johnson’s eight-year history of committing crimes while protesting animal rights suggests there is a serious risk he’d reoffend if released.
“The thing that is disturbing is the evidence of spontaneous rage,” Shadur said, referring to incidents during animal rights protests in which Johnson threatened the families of executives outside their homes.
He noted that Johnson was carrying books with bomb-making instructions when he was arrested near the Morris mink farm last year, describing the reading material as “not exactly a Tom Clancy novel.”
“What is the point in having it unless it mirrors someone’s intentions?” the judge added.
Defense attorney Michael Deutsch had asked for Johnson to be allowed to live under house arrest with his mother in California, arguing that Johnson is suffering mental health problems in jail and is no longer the “fervent” activist he had been as a younger man.
But prosecutor Bethany Biesenthal said Johnson’s “incredibly disturbing” criminal history showed that his crimes were escalating.
The gaunt Johnson did not speak during the hearing but waved his hands in denial when Biesenthal alleged he’d once spat at an executive’s wife during a protest in Portland, Oregon.
He and Lang — who is free on bond — face five years behind bars if convicted of the raid on the Morris fur farm.
Around 400 of the animals were either killed by traffic or were not recovered, the feds say.