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Guilt by association

Animal rights and environmental activist Rod Coronado finds himself in federal prison for becoming a "friend" with part-time Missoula resident and Earth First! co-founder Mike Roselle on Facebook.

In a federal court document dated July 14, 2010, U.S. Probation Officer Rhonda J. Wallock claimed that Coronado, convicted of felony conspiracy in 2006, violated the special conditions of his court-ordered supervision.

"In monitoring Mr. Coronado's Facebook account," Wallock wrote, "this officer found Michael Roselle to be a 'friend' of Mr. Coronado. According to FBI intelligence and a criminal history investigation of Michael Roselle, he is a well-known environmental activist who has a history of condoning direct action and violence as a means of protest or demonstration."

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Wallock believes being Roselle's "friend" violated the first condition of Coronado's supervision—not associating with activists who have a history of violence or condoning violence, including but not limited to those involved with Earth First!, the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front.

"I sent him a friend request because someone had suggested that I friend him," Roselle says from West Virginia, where he's working to stop mountaintop removal operations, "and given that I've known Rod for quite a while, I did. I guess he hit the accept button."

Coronado also violated the terms of his supervision by using a computer unauthorized and unmonitored by Wallock.

Wallock wrote: "This officer found Facebook posts from March 14, April 27, and May 3, 2010, showing Mr. Coronado utilized a computer or computer related device to post information on Facebook. According to computer monitoring records, Mr. Coronado's monitored computer had no data recorded from February 8 to May 10, 2010. In March 2010, Mr. Coronado advised this officer that his computer had crashed and that he was no longer using or accessing the monitored computer."

On August 3, U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney, of the Western District of Michigan, sentenced Coronado to four months in prison.

"Guilt by association, that's not really part of our legal system," Roselle says. "This is a flagrant constitutional violation, if you ask me. And then it really brings up the question, What is an 'association'?"

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