Wegmans Cruelty: An Unofficial Blog

This is an unofficial blog and informational archive related to the WEGMANSCRUELTY film and resulting campaign.

Please see that page for more information.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Jury is selected in egg farm case

Finger Lakes Times

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

LYONS — The case against Adam Durand hinges on what he and other animal rights activists planned to do when they repeatedly entered Wegmans’ Wolcott egg farm in 2004, Durand’s attorney told a Wayne County jury yesterday.

To convict Durand on three counts of third-degree burglary — a felony and the most serious of the 10 charges he faces — the prosecution must prove he entered the farm with the intent to take the 11 chickens that the activists left with, a contention Durand’s attorney disputes.

But in his opening statement, District Attorney Richard Healy said he would use Durand’s own words to help convict him.

Durand, 26, president of the Rochester-based group Compassionate Consumers, is also charged with three counts of petty larceny, three counts of third-degree criminal trespass and one count of fourth-degree criminal mischief.

Jury selection took up most of the day yesterday, and the lawyers didn’t begin arguing the case until 3:30 p.m.

Healy read grand jury testimony in which Durand said he and the other activists took pillowcases, a cardboard box and cat carriers to the farm and used them to remove the chickens.

But in his opening statement, defense attorney Leonard Egert said Durand and the others did not go to the farm with the intent to take chickens. They intended only to make a film documenting conditions at the farm, and the chickens they took desperately needed rescuing, Egert said.

Some had their necks caught in wire cages and another was trapped in a manure pit, he said.

“This is the so-called property that Wegmans is complaining was stolen,” Egert told the jury. “From Wegmans perspective, do you think they cared about that particular hen?”

Egert, a partner in a Manhattan law firm that often deals with animal rights issues, said Durand and the others could have filled their vehicle with as many of the farm’s 700,000 chickens as they could. Instead, they took only sick or dying animals — which Egert referred to as “individuals” — and their purpose was always to make the documentary that they later released.

He acknowledged that Durand had gone onto Wegmans’ property but said he was not guilty of the charges against him. The other activists picked up and removed the hens, Egert said, and Durand went along with them.

“Much in this case is going to be undisputed,” he said. “The question for you is, does it constitute a crime?”

After the jury had left the courtroom, Egert told the judge he might later show some of the video Durand shot and ask Wegmans’ farm manager — whom Healy plans to call as a witness — to comment on it.

Healy has said he could find no evidence of any wrongdoing on Wegmans part, and Wegmans has defended conditions at the farm. Company representatives have also questioned whether Durand shot all of his footage at the Wolcott facility.

In an Aug. 6, 2005, interview with R News, which Healy played for the jury, Durand called that assertion “bogus.”

Durand also described the interior of the farm and said, “We did trespass on Wegmans’ property.”

In his Sept. 22, 2005, grand jury testimony, which Healy read after showing the interview, Durand again acknowledged trespassing on Wegmans property.

In that testimony, Durand said he and other activists entered hen house No. 14 three times — on May 1, May 15 and Aug 1, 2004. On their first visit, the activists brought pillowcases as part of a first-aid kit, which they used to remove two chickens, Durand said.

“We brought a cardboard carrier [the second time] to be a little more prepared,” Durand said in the testimony.

On that visit, they took two chickens.

The third time, he said, they brought cat carriers and took seven chickens.

But Durand said the activists did not go to the farm with the intent to steal chickens. They brought the boxes and cases because they believed a situation might arise in which they needed to take the animals but argued over whether to do so when inside the farm, he said in his 2005 testimony.

They went there because they wanted to make a documentary and call attention to Wegmans’ practices, he said.

Durand was charged with criminal mischief for allegedly damaging wire fencing to gain entry to the farm. But in his grand jury testimony, he said the fence was already damaged when the activists arrived.

The group asked for a tour of the farm, but Wegmans refused, Durand said in the testimony. They then went to the farm without knowing how they would get in and would have left if they hadn’t found a hole in the wire, he said.

The trial was scheduled to resume this morning.

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