Tonight is the kickoff party for State v. Pan, a fundraising campaign for the unlikely trial of local artist (and Stranger Genius Award winner) DK Pan.

The short version of the story (you can read the long version here): A few years ago, the SPD and FBI collaborated on a years-long surveillance project. They watched a group of friends in Seattle, some of whom were artists, some of whom were lefty dissidents (marching at Republican National Conventions, that kind of thing), and some of whom broke minor laws—poker games, personal drug use, throwing after-hours parties. But the SPD and the FBI weren't looking for card-playing and pot smoking.

Law enforcement was looking for, in one FBI agent's words "domestic terrorists"—ecoterrorists. They didn't find any, so the undercover SPD agent making friends with this group of friends starting behaving like an agent provocateur, trying to turn them into ecoterrorists. That didn't work either, so the police rounded everybody up on other charges: a few for drugs, most for gambling (a charge that only one other person in King County has faced in the past ten years).

The police used the arrests as a means to leverage intelligence from the group of friends about activism and ecoterrorism circles. They realized they'd just been surveilling a bunch of dissidents and oddballs, and dropped the investigation. But they didn't drop the charges. (After a two-year undercover investigation, you presumably have to charge somebody for something.)

By now, most everyone has taken plea bargains on their charges, and most without any jail time. But not Pan. He made the surprising move to go to trial and use it as an opportunity to question the police tactics used in this investigation and investigations like it—which target domestic political dissidents with terrorist funds and tactics—all over the country. The trial is scheduled for late January of 2012.

So Pan is fundraising for his court costs. Tonight is the kickoff at FRED Wildlife Refuge, 9 pm. Pan's attorney David Whedbee and I will have a conversation about these kinds of cases from the stage, Jose Bold (aka Stranger Genius Award winner John Osebold) will perform a short set, DJ Riz will spin, there will be mug shots by Kelly O, a slide show of legal stuff by DK Pan, and other stuff. Donations between $5 and $50 will be accepted.