Two animal activists plead guilty to vandalizing fur businesses

Two animal activists accused of carrying out a cross-country rampage against the fur industry admitted having vandalized a San Diego fur shop and freeing mink from farms, according to plea agreements reached recently.

Joseph Buddenberg and Nicole Kissane each pleaded guilty in San Diego federal court to conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Prosecutors and defense lawyers plan to jointly recommend a two-year sentence for Buddenberg and six months for Kissane, according to the plea agreement.

The pair also admitted that their actions caused more than $100,000 in damage. They have agreed to pay $398,000 in restitution to the victims, including Furs by Graf, the San Diego business that was vandalized, and to seven mink farms and two businesses.

On July 15, 2013, Furs by Graf was tagged in spray paint with the words "killer" and "murder." Acid was sprayed into the shop, glue was put on door locks, and windows were ruined with etching materials, according to the complaint.

The pair also went to the homes of store manager Kimberley Graf and her parents in La Mesa and Spring Valley, causing destruction with acid, paint and paint stripper, authorities said.

Next, they drove to Montana, Idaho and Minnesota, among other places — freeing thousands of mink from commercial fur farms and targeting animal-product shops and others they believed were sympathetic to the fur industry. Vandalism included slashing tires and trying to flood the home of a fur auctioneer employee, according to the complaint.

Authorities said the two tried to stay "off the grid" during the excursions, using only cash, avoiding phones and using encrypted email from public computers.

Their activities were lauded on websites associated with animal-rights extremism, authorities said. In the San Diego attack, a Florida group posted a statement from the Animal Liberation Front that claimed responsibility.

kristina.davis@sduniontribune.com

Davis writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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