Wayne Hsiung was convicted and imprisoned for “conspiring” to rescue chickens and ducks from California animal factories. Now, he wants that conviction overturned.
Los Angeles, California, January 18th, 2024 – Well-known animal rights leader and attorney Wayne Hsiung is appealing his conviction in a controversial animal rescue case that was extensively covered on UnchainedTV. If his appeal is successful, Hsiung’s ordeal could ultimately establish case law for the right to rescue factory farmed animals who are injured, neglected and suffering. Indeed, the trial was dubbed “The Right To Rescue” case and the mass actions that led to the charges are now categorized as “open rescues,” where activists – often in large groups – videotape and live stream themselves openly rescuing suffering animals from massive animal factories, where hundreds of thousands of animals are held.
Hsiung, who is the co-founder of Direct Action Everywhere, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and 24 months of probation after being convicted of felony conspiracy and misdemeanor trespass in November of 2023. The trial lasted 8-weeks and jurors agonized for six days of deliberations before reaching the verdict.
Watch Verdict Come in LIVE
Attorneys at the University of Denver Law School-based Animal Activist Legal Defense Project filed a notice of appeal, using local counsel. “Substantial prejudicial and reversible error occurred in Hsiung’s trial,” said Animal Activist Legal Defense Project Staff Attorney Chris Carraway, who will represent Hsiung on appeal. Much of the appeal focuses on the judge, Laura Passaglia, a former prosecutor herself who raised eyebrows and sparked complaints with her exceptionally harsh rulings, from prohibiting the defendant from speaking to the media during the trial to banning even courtroom sketches of herself, prosecutors and witnesses.
No References to Cruelty Allowed!
But, perhaps the biggest criticism was how Judge Passaglia barred almost all video evidence of sick, injured and dead animals, inside these two facilities, from being shown to the jury. This prevented defendant Hsiung from explaining his motivations for doing what he did with regard to the rescue of sick and suffering chickens and turkeys from two Sonoma County, California animal factories. Says his attorney Carraway, “Stunningly, Judge Passaglia prohibited the jury from knowing the full scope of animal cruelty at these companies as well as the activists’ extensive efforts to obtain law enforcement of animal cruelty laws. Thus, Hsiung was unable to explain the intent behind his actions–a crucial element of the alleged crimes. Likewise, Judge Passaglia improperly prohibited Hsiung from mounting a necessity defense, though nothing in California law prohibits the applicability of necessity to animal rescue. We are optimistic about reversal on appeal.”
Carraway also notes that by preventing Hsiung from speaking to the media during the trial, while also banning video, still cameras and almost all sketches, media coverage of the groundbreaking case was effectively suppressed.
The Video Below Shows Wayne Hsiung being Released from Jail after Serving His Sentence
As Hsiung has pointed out, California’s “Right to Rescue Act” allows citizens to break into a car to rescue an animal from “circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.” He argues that, since people are often hailed as heroes for smashing a window to rescue a dog trapped in a hot car, the same concept should apply to someone going onto private property to rescue a sick and suffering chicken or duck.
Hsiung’s case involved two open rescues at Sonoma County factory farms, one at a major egg producer, the other at a large duck factory. During the course of these two mass actions, activists rescued 37 chickens and 32 ducks, getting them veterinary care and placing them in sanctuaries. Direct Action Everywhere says, “While both farms market themselves as ‘humane,’ years of undercover investigations… by DxE and other groups, have shown systemic violations of animal cruelty laws.” DxE video investigations show dead and injured animals at both facilities. The organization alleges that the conditions they’ve documented on tape reveal violations of California’s animal welfare law, Proposition 2, and California’s animal cruelty statute.
Cops Refuse to Investigation Allegations of Animal Cruelty
Says Dxe, “For years prior to the rescues, DxE activists reported their cruelty findings to and requested intervention from authorities, but they were repeatedly rebuffed. Immediately following Hsiung’s sentencing in November, three more activists were arrested on multiple felonies and misdemeanors while attempting to, once again, report evidence of unlawful animal cruelty at Sonoma County factory farms.” We invite the owners of any of the animal factories in question on to respond at any time.
Wayne Hsiung, the man at the center of this case who is considered the leader of the “Right to Rescue” movement, notes, “California proudly enacted the strongest animal welfare law in the country and its Right to Rescue Act allows literal breaking and entering to rescue dogs. But, billions of animals suffer while animal cruelty laws go unenforced and the state prosecutes rescuers for giving aid to animals who are on the brink of death. We are working to ensure that all animals are actually protected from suffering, and have the right to be safe, happy, and free.”
On top of all this, Hsiung and two co-defendants face trial this coming spring in Wisconsin for their rescue of beagles from a facility that sells dogs to laboratories for experimentation.
While Hsiung was convicted in Sonoma County, California, there were two widely-reported not guilty verdicts in two other open rescue trials. In 2022, Hsiung and a co-defendant were acquitted of felony burglary and theft for rescuing piglets in Utah, In 2023, two DxE animal rescuers, former Baywatch actress Alexandra Paul and her co-defendant Alicia Santurio, were found not guilty of theft in Merced, California.
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Jane Velez-Mitchell is an award-winning TV journalist and New York Times best-selling author. She is the founder of UnchainedTV and the host of several shows on the network.