By Eric M. Johnson
Jan 9 (Reuters) - A California man described by prosecutors as an "eco-terrorist" was ordered released from prison by a U.S. judge after serving about half of an almost 20 year prison sentence for plotting to blow up a federal forestry site, court documents show.
Eric McDavid, then 29, was sentenced in May 2008 to 235 months in a federal prison. He had been convicted by a jury after two co-conspirators pleaded guilty and cooperated with the government and served nearly nine years in prison.
Federal prosecutors said the three defendants planned to attack targets including the U.S. Forest Service Institute of Forest Genetics, the Nimbus Dam and Fish Hatchery, and local cellular telephone towers.
On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Morrison England, in Sacramento, accepted McDavid's plea of guilty to conspiracy to destroy by fire or explosives one or more targets in the Sacramento area, court documents show. He sentenced McDavid to time served and ordered his past conviction and sentence vacated.
In May 2012, McDavid filed a motion seeking review of his conviction and sentencing, alleging ineffective legal assistance and that the United States had procured false testimony at trial and failed to disclose during discovery all favorable evidence material to guilt or punishment.
The parties disagree about the merits of McDavid's claims, but entered into the agreement, outlined before a judge in December, "to avoid the expenses and risks of further litigation, and to advance the interests of justice," the court documents said.
As part of the plot, one of his co-conspirators ordered a book called "Poor Man's James Bond" with recipes and instructions for creating explosive devices, federal prosecutors said during his trial.
McDavid and the two co-conspirators were arrested in January 2006 outside a store in Auburn, California, after buying items to create the explosives, prosecutors said.
The U.S. Attorneys' office in Sacramento didn't respond to requests for comment. (Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Catherine Evans)
UPDATE: McDavid's attorneys have released a statement about the ruling:
“If the government had provided the missing information to Eric’s trial counsel, as should have been done, counsel would…show Eric was entrapped. He never would have had to spend nine years in prison,” said Mark Vermeulen, attorney for McDavid.