As we chronicled in June, the arrest of Justin Solondz brought to a close one of the most notorious criminal cases in Seattle history: the 2001 firebombing of the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture by a group of radical environmental activists.
*See Also: Justin Solondz Torches a Movement
But the UW crime was merely the most famous of a string of West Coast arsons carried out by the so-called "eco-terrorists," and not all the players have been caught. Yesterday, one of three longtime fugitives turned herself in.Rebecca Rubin, according to an arrangement made between her lawyer and federal authorities, surrendered herself into FBI custody yesterday at the Blaine border. A Canadian citizen, the 39-year-old Rubin hails from British Columbia.
"We anticipate there will be a plea," her Seattle attorney, Richard Troberman, tells Seattle Weekly. He says it's actually something he and Rubin's Canadian lawyer had been trying to work out for three years. Rubin is charged with crimes in three states: Oregon, California and Colorodo. Federal authorities in two of the states were "on board" with a proposed plea, Troberman says, but "one balked."
"We re-approached them this summer," he says, and a deal was struck.
Troberman won't release any of the details now, saying he expects all to be revealed in a couple of months. She was charged in 2006 indictment with multiple counts of arson, attempted arson, conspiracy and using a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence. The potential penalties are stiff, since just the count of using a destructive device carries a mandatory sentence of 30 years.
That's consistent with the government's treatment of the 12 defendants in "Operation Backfire," the sprawling case that the feds have treated as one of terrorism, pursued in the aftermath of 9/11. The defendants and their lawyers have sharply criticized the approach, pointing out this was not what most people think of as terrorism, since no one was hurt.
But the activists--mostly made up of students and other young idealists, living in Oregon and Washington and affiliated with the Earth and Animal Liberation Fronts--didn't help their cause by building bombs and destroying businesses, not to mention torching a renowned educational institution. Rubin allegedly participated in arsons at two wild horse farms, a ski resort lodge and a forest products company.
Solondz, for one, has said he regretted his actions almost immediately and "began questioning his own sense of self-righteousness,"according to his sentencing memo. He received a seven-year sentence. We'll have to wait and see what Ruben has to say for herself.
She made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle yesterday afternoon, and will be transferred to Portland for further proceedings.