Federal Case Against Greenpeace Thrown Out of Court

The U.S. government’s unusual criminal suit against Greenpeace USA was rather unceremoniously booted from federal court yesterday by U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan. In a rare “directed verdict,” the judge found the group not guilty midway through the trial, after the prosecution had presented its case but before the group’s lawyers presented any defense. The case revolved around two members of Greenpeace who boarded a ship near the Port of Miami-Dade to protest its load of Amazonian mahogany. In a highly atypical move, government prosecutors sought to indict not just the individual protesters but the group itself under an obscure 1872 law — not enforced in over a century — that prohibits “sailor mongering,” or boarding ships in an attempt to lure sailors ashore to brothels and bars. Because the decision did not go to jury, the government cannot appeal. The case, said Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando, “showed the extent to which the government will go to criminalize free speech.”