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11 Indicted in Alleged Arson Conspiracy Across the West

January 21, 2006|From Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — Eleven people have been indicted in an arson conspiracy involving scores of fires across the West that were blamed on the radical groups Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, prosecutors announced Friday.

The 65-count indictment said the suspects were responsible for 17 incidents in five Western states in a conspiracy that dated to 1996. The indictment was returned Thursday by a federal grand jury in Eugene, Ore., and unsealed Friday.

U.S. Atty. Karin Immergut, the chief federal prosecutor in Oregon whose office led the investigation, said the indictment resulted from "more than nine years of relentless investigation ... that finally allowed us to crack 17 cases that appeared as if they would go down in history unsolved."

Eight defendants have been arrested. Three others were at large, believed to be outside the United States, according to a statement from the Justice Department.

Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales said the indictment "tells a story of 4 1/2 years of arson, vandalism, violence and destruction claimed to have been executed on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front or Earth Liberation Front, extremist movements known to support acts of domestic terrorism."

The suspects used improvised incendiary devices made from 5-gallon plastic buckets, milk jugs, petroleum products and homemade timers in a series of arsons from 1996 through 2001 in Oregon, Wyoming, Washington state, California, and Colorado, according to the indictment.

The targets included U.S. Forest Service ranger stations, Bureau of Land Management wild horse facilities, meat processing companies, lumber companies, a high-tension power line, a University of Washington horticulture station and a ski area in Colorado.

Responsibility for the crimes was claimed by either the Earth Liberation Front or the Animal Liberation Front. The two groups have said they are not terrorist organizations because they do not seek to harm anyone.

In Eugene, two defendants, Jonathan Christopher Mark Paul, 39, and Suzanne Nicole "India" Savoie, 28, were ordered held without bail pending further hearings.

A criminal complaint filed in federal court in Eugene accused Paul, a firefighter, of setting firebombs that burned down a horse slaughterhouse in 1997. The ALF claimed responsibility for that fire, which caused about $1 million in damage.

Savoie, who works in a group home for the developmentally disabled, is accused of serving as a lookout for a fire in 2001 that destroyed offices of a lumber mill. The ELF claimed responsibility for that fire.

The suspects range in age from their late 20s to late 30s. Some are college students.

Defendants Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, Sarah Kendall Harvey, Daniel McGowan, Stanislas Meyerhoff, Darren Todd Thurston and Kevin Tubbs were arrested in December. Joseph Dibee, Josephine Overaker and Rebecca Rubin have yet to be arrested.

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