Convicted terrorist scheduled to speak Tuesday night before presidential debate

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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A convicted terrorist released from federal prison in December 2008 is scheduled to speak in Hofstra University’s “public area” outside Tuesday’s presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, The Daily Caller has learned.

Andrew Stepanian, a felon who went to prison for animal enterprise terrorism, appears on Hofstra University’s published schedule at 8:00 p.m., during the hour before the debate begins. Stepanian runs The Sparrow Project, a left-wing PR project whose website indicates connections with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Stepanian, an ardent animal rights activist, was convicted in 2006 of terrorism stemming from a criminal conspiracy to target a company that tested medications on laboratory animals. He received a three-year sentence for his activities on behalf of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC).

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, then the U.S. Attorney for the state, oversaw the prosecution of SHAC and six of its members under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, a 1992 law — later updated in 2006 — whose only section is titled “Animal Enterprise Terrorism.”

All the defendants were convicted.

Among SHAC’s tactics were the distribution of matchbooks printed with a picture of a black-masked figure and the slogan “strike a match.” Inside the matchbook cover was printed the name and address of a target.

Today, Sparrow Media’s website features an “about us” page that instructs: “We want you to strike that match, light that fire, and fight that fight.”

The New York Times reported that during the three-week trial of Stepanian and his co-defendants, “defense lawyers acknowledged that a Web site run by Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty posted home addresses and other personal information about animal researchers and others.”

The defendants said they were engaging in free speech and claimed no connection with what the Times characterized as the resulting “vandalism, death threats, computer hacking and pipe bombs.”

Reached for comment, Stepanian said he would be speaking about “the exponentially growing prison industrial complex and specialized prison programs like Secure Housing Units & Communications Management Units.”

Stepanian was housed in a Communications Management Unit in Illinois with other terror convicts during the final mouths of his incarceration.

Hofstra University’s website reports that the U.S. Secret Service and local law enforcement are handling security for Tuesday’s debate.

“The United States Secret Service (“USSS”), in conjunction with local law enforcement officials, is responsible for all security arrangements in connection with the Presidential Debate to be held on our campus on October 16, 2012,” the website reads. “After taking into account all security considerations, the USSS will determine access to all campus areas, and perimeter fencing will be installed in some areas to secure restricted areas.”

A Secret Service spokesman told The Daily Caller that Hofstra’s “public area” where Stepanian is scheduled to speak is outside the campus “secure zone.”

“We have a secure zone and what you’re referring to [the public area] occurs outside of our secure area that has been established for this event,” the spokesman said. “I would refer you to the school on that matter, but the Secret Service respects everyone’s First Amendment rights.”

Spokespersons for Hofstra University and Gov. Christie did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

This story was updated to include comments from Stepanian that arrived after publication.

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