It’s been more than two years since a pair of animal-rights activists decimated Robert Rodeghero’s mink ranch — and his retirement.
They caused thousands of dollars of damage to the farm Rodeghero spent decades building. They released 2,000 animals Rodeghero thought would help fund his retirement. Instead, several died. Hundreds more were never recovered. And Rodeghero began to spend his nights on the ranch with a gun.
When one of those activists appeared before U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve for sentencing Monday, Rodeghero told the judge his nights on the ranch lasted only a few weeks. But the investment he’d made to fund his retirement was gone. And his sense of security never returned.
“The guns are loaded every night,” Rodeghero said.
A short time later, St. Eve sentenced Kevin Johnson to three years in prison. She did so after prosecutors and Johnson’s defense lawyers asked her to balance his history of aggressive, and at times illegal, animal activism against what prosecutors acknowledged was his “heartbreaking” battle with mental illness.
Because Johnson has already served 30 months in federal and state jails, he will likely be released within a few months.
Johnson apologized in court and told the judge he hoped to turn his life around. He asked for a sentence that would let him immediately participate in a Jewish residential therapy program in Los Angeles.
“I have a desperate desire to build a sustainable life for myself,” Johnson told the judge.
Johnson and Tyler Lang admitted to vandalizing Rodeghero’s Morris fur farm Aug. 13, 2013 by spray-painting the words “Liberation is Love” on the side of a barn, pouring caustic substances on two farm vehicles and releasing 2,000 minks from their cages. Rodeghero recovered 1,600, but the animals lost their re-sale value. The remaining mink died or were never recovered.
When police stopped the pair’s car 90 miles away in Woodford County, on their way to a fox farm, prosecutors said they were caught with books titled, “Thinking Like a Terrorist,” “Unconventional Warfare Devices and Techniques: Incendiaries” and “Shadowing and Surveillance.” The feds said the men also had five bottles of muriatic acid, two bottles of bleach and one container of hydrogen peroxide — necessary components for a bomb.
Johnson had handwritten notes in his pockets that read in part, “So many warrants I’m bored of ducking police vehicles. The devil told me that I’m fundamentally evil. I get my protein when I hunt and eat people. Sicker than a vivisector stuck with a diseased needle with a hundred and three fever, who falls to his knees bleeding. My only vegan recipes start with gasoline and diesel.”
Johnson, also known as Kevin Olliff, has been involved in numerous animal rights campaigns since the mid-2000s, according to the website supportkevinandtyler.com. Prosecutors have called him a “zealous advocate for the protection of animals’ rights” with “noble” ideas, but an “unrelenting commitment to using unlawful tactics.” They originally sought to put him away for nearly four years, arguing his actions undermine lawful activists.
“(Johnson) has stalked, stolen, harassed, and threatened to make his point,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Bethany Biesenthal wrote in a court filing.
Biesenthal took no position on the ethics of mink farming Monday. Rather, she told the judge Rodeghero worked very hard to pursue a legal business.
“All that he worked for was gone in an instant,” Biesenthal said.