Environmental activist fighting misdemeanor charges - Charged with trespassing, assault over ruling on pygmy owl

Tucson Citizen


Tucson, AZ - The executive director of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity is fighting misdemeanor charges filed against him after a demonstration this month at a homebuilders association press conference. Kieran Suckling's attorney Thursday labeled the arrest "outrageous."

Suckling, 38, was charged with seven counts of disorderly conduct, one of criminal trespassing and two of assault, according to a Tucson Police Department report obtained under a state public records request.

The charges were in connection with a demonstration Aug. 19 at a Southern Arizona Home Builders Association press conference to voice members' pleasure with a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling regarding the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl.

The reported stated that just before the press conference began at the SAHBA office, 2840 N. Country Club Road, some 20 members of the Center for Biological Diversity came onto builders association property wearing owl costumes and protesting the ruling.

Suckling, who was not wearing an owl costume, went into the association's building to watch the press conference, said his attorney, Jeffrey Rogers.

Suckling said in a telephone interview Thursday that he created no disturbance and did not shove anyone as association members told officers.

"The protest was conducted without incident. Police were not called to the scene," Suckling said in a Center for Biological Diversity press release Thursday.

The police report, however, said the incident occurred at 3:35 p.m. Aug. 19, police were called by a builders association member and an officer arrived at 3:59 p.m.

Three days later, according to another police report, officers arranged to meet with Suckling and arrested him when they met, the report stated.

Suckling said he did not know police ever were called the day of the press conference. He added that he and the other protesters had left before an officer arrived.

Suckling said police relied solely on statements from home builders association members and it was "incredibly shoddy, negligent work by the Tucson Police Department."

In the ruling that prompted the press conference, the Ninth Circuit Court found the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service failed to adequately explain its rationale for listing the bird as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, said Jenny Neeley of Defenders of Wildlife, an intervenor in the lawsuit.

However, the court did not set the endangered species listing aside.

Home builders association members maintain that the 9th Circuit ruling did direct a lower court to order Fish & Wildlife to remove the 6-inch-tall owl from the listing.


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