Think being a vegan is tough? Try being a vegan ‘ecoterrorist’ in Sac County jail.
“This is not how I thought I was going to start my day,” explained a bemused Captain Scott Jones, commander of the Sacramento Sheriff’s main jail on November 20.
Earlier that Tuesday morning, the mother of convicted “ecoterrorist” Eric McDavid had explained to local TV news crews outside the jail that her son was denied the vegan meals he had been receiving in the jail. His diet was changed shortly before his trial began in September.
“I just don’t want this to become a bigger issue than it really is,” Captain Jones told reporters before they started rolling tape.
“Too late,” quipped the Channel 3 cameraman, before wiring Jones with a mic.
McDavid’s mother, Eileen, and his partner, Jenny Esquivel, claim that since McDavid’s arrest on January 13, 2006, he has developed pericarditis, a heart condition that is aggravated by malnutrition. He carried out a hunger strike earlier this month, hoping to make the jail provide him (and other inmates) with nutritious, animal-free meals, while he awaits sentencing.
He was convicted in federal court of conspiring to blow up a U.S. Forest Service research facility and the Nimbus Dam. During the trial, McDavid’s attorney argued that those targets were suggested by a confidential FBI informant who had befriended the accused and two younger colleagues, and that the three activists were victims of entrapment. (See “Conspiracy of dunces,” SN&R Feature Story, July 27, 2006.)
McDavid’s attorney has filed a motion for a new trial, complaining that Federal District Court Judge Morrison England gave the jury improper instructions regarding what evidence they could consider as part of the entrapment defense.
Assuming the judge doesn’t grant a new trial, McDavid is likely to launch an appeal, by that time from federal prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced January 10.
For now, he’s a guest of Sacramento County’s Sheriff’s Department. Captain Jones said that jail meals are strictly regulated by state law; all that’s required is that prisoners get 2 ounces of protein a day.
“If someone chooses a vegan lifestyle, that’s their prerogative,” said Jones, adding that McDavid had been receiving extra peanut butter, but that changed when Jones became jail commander earlier this year and, in consultation with other jail staff, decided the special meals were unnecessary.
Jones was adamant that the jail staff had not intentionally changed McDavid’s diet during the trial. “Absolutely not,” Jones replied. “That was a total coincidence. That was my decision, and I rarely know when their trial dates are.”
Asked whether McDavid had in fact developed pericarditis, Jones said, “I’m precluded from speaking about medical information, much as I’d like to. I can tell you that nothing in his diet is making him sick.”
Meanwhile, McDavid’s jailers have their hands full. They’ve already separated him from other inmates due to his “notoriety,” and because other inmates might pick on him.
“Hunger strikes are rare. Mr. McDavid is a little different because he has a sympathetic audience around the world,” said Jones. “He can say whatever he likes, and his audience responds to that. We regularly receive calls from around the country and even internationally.”