Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Eco-Terrorist in UW arson sentenced

Another UW arsonist sentenced to federal prison

Seattle PI August 19, 2008 Paul Shukovsky

A Spokane woman was sentenced Tuesday to three years in federal prison in the May 2001 firebombing of the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture.

Lacey Phillabaum, 33, of Spokane, is one of five people -- members of a domestic terrorist group called the Earth Liberation Front -- who were accused by federal prosecutors of the arson attack that destroyed the building along with precious samples of rare and endangered plants species being cultivated for reintroduction into the Cascades. The ELF cell, dubbed "The Family," acted on the erroneous belief that a scientist at the center was doing the kind of genetic engineering work that they reviled as being dangerous to the environment.

Phillabaum cried in court, but composed herself to apologize to her victims. "When I think about the damage I did to you my heart is heavy," she said. "I acted as a bully and a tyrant, and I am ashamed that I tried to strong-arm social change."

Phillabaum pleaded guilty in October 2006 in an agreement with the U.S. Attorney's office in Seattle that called for a 36-month sentence.

Her sentence is the second lowest of a dozen members of The Family sentenced in the last two years for either the UW arson, other arson attacks, or both. It reflects the government's acknowledgment that, unlike several other members of The Family, she was involved in only one arson and that she has done everything that she can to atone for her crime, including testifying against other ELF members, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Friedman told the court.

Her role in the arson involved helping to haul the firebomb to the Urban Horticulture Center, located near the University Village mall. She also helped draft a statement of responsibility released after the attack which said such genetic engineering would unleash mutant genes into the environment that is certain to cause irreversible harm to forest ecosystems. "I know there are people out there who are being pulled into the same radical subculture that glamorized arson for me," Phillabaum told the court Tuesday. "Radical activists who are cheering you on from the sidelines cannot know how it feels to have tried this, how your ideals might change afterwards. So listen to me: No matter your commitment today, when you bind to a crime like this, you spit on the rich experience of life."

Jennifer Kolar, another member of the ELF cell, pleaded guilty to the UW arson at the same time as Phillabaum. She was sentenced in July to five years in prison. Kolar played a role in an ELF rampage of arson over several years that included not only the UW, but also an Oregon meat packing plant, a Colorado gun club whose members killed prairie dogs for sport and a federal wild horse and burro facility where the animals slated to be killed for grazing on federal land were freed before the place was torched.

Briana Waters was sentenced in June to six years in prison after being found guilty at trial of the UW firebombing. Federal prosecutors allege that Waters -- like Kolar -- participated in other arsons.

Two other alleged ELF members accused of firebombing the Urban Horticulture Center have evaded justice. William Rodgers killed himself in a county jail in Prescott, Ariz., in December 2005 shortly after being arrested for the UW arson. And Justin Solondz, of Jefferson County, is a fugitive.

U.S. District Court Judge Franklin Burgess, in handing down the sentence, said: "Without her participation, and without her substantial assistance in this matter, this case might not have gotten off the ground."

He also ordered three years of supervised release for Phillabaum, who, like others convicted in the arson, is also on the hook for nearly $6.1 million in restitution.

Her sentence is too short. She should serve a minimum of twenty years for eco-terrorism. Send these ELF'ers to Gitmo, water board the lot of them and crush this organization.

1 comment:

Tom Forbes said...

I'm just surpised that the PI used the words "domestic terrorist group" and "cell."

The westside newspapers normally water it down and use words like "ecosaboteurs."