Judge orders activist to stay away from Sonoma County poultry farms as part of trespassing case

Zoe Rosenberg and Raven Deerbrook are charged with conspiracy and trespassing. The case involves a June 12 incident at Petaluma Poultry.|

A judge ordered an animal welfare activist Friday to stay away from three Sonoma County poultry farms and upheld stricter conditions imposed on a co-defendant in a trespassing case that arose as avian bird flu spread across the region.

Judge Karlene Navarro ordered Raven Deerbrook to stay 100 yards from Petaluma Poultry, Reichardt Duck Farm and Sunrise Farms, all in southern Sonoma County.

Deerbrook could also be subjected to search and seizures, but won’t wear an ankle monitor like her co-defendant, Zoe Rosenberg, who also appeared in court Friday.

Deerbrook’s defense attorney Evan Zelig argued Rosenberg is a member of Direct Action Everywhere, the animal welfare group at the center of the alleged incursions. Deerbrook, however, is just an associate and has cooperated with officials to attend court proceedings.

“She has been to court. She will continue to come to court if required to do so,” Zelig told Navarro.

Each defendant is charged with five felony counts of conspiracy and one misdemeanor count each of trespassing, petty theft and tampering with a vehicle related to a June 12 incursion at Petaluma Poultry.

Neither has entered a plea in the case. Their next court appearance is Jan. 19

Rosenberg’s attorney, Kevin Little, argued Friday she poses no public safety risk and the ankle monitor is unnecessary.

“Clearly, Miss Rosenberg is not a flight risk,” he told Navarro, who later said conditions could be revisited in 90 days or following a preliminary hearing.

Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Matthew Hobson disagreed. He stressed both defendants are linked to DXE, which has targeted local poultry farms with demonstrations, including organized incursions, “and will not stop.”

Defendants and their supporters argue they are rescuing birds from farms where they allege the conditions are inhumane. They justify their aggressive approach by citing California law that allows animals in distress to be rescued.

Hobson said Rosenberg trespassed onto Reichardt Duck Farm in November even as DXE’s co-founder, Wayne Hsiung, stood trial in a conspiracy and trespassing case involving Reichardt and Sunrise farms.

“It’s a slap in the face,” Hobson told Navarro.

Friday’s case relates to an alleged incursion on June 12, but prosecutors say strict release conditions are necessary because activists routinely come onto properties.

Concerns about any future demonstrations have been heightened in the county’s poultry belt amid the rapid spread of deadly bird flu in the region.

Since Thanksgiving, nearly 1.1 million birds in Sonoma County have been euthanized due to virus outbreaks on at least seven sites.

Sonoma County agriculture leaders say an incursion at one of those sites last month was within the incubation period of the virus later detected there the week of Thanksgiving. Activists have not been charged and have denied any involvement in the outbreak.

Rosenberg and Deerbrook’s defense attorneys also have batted down suggestions that either are responsible outbreaks of avian flu. The case of alleged trespassing in which they are charged was in June, months before any outbreak.

“There is no nexus whatsoever,” Zelig said.

Rosenberg was arrested Nov. 30 following Hsiung’s sentencing and last appeared in court Dec. 14, when Navarro issued the release conditions.

Also arrested on Nov. 30 were DXE members Rocky Chau and Conrad de Jesus, who were suspected of felony conspiracy and misdemeanor trespassing.

They appeared before Judge Laura Passaglia, who ordered them to return Feb. 29 to learn if their cases would be charged or dismissed.

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at colin.atagi@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @colin_atagi

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