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Unusual punishment: Woman sentenced to read Malcolm Gladwell

January 28, 2014|By Carolyn Kellogg
  • The cover of "David and Goliath" and author Malcolm Gladwell.
The cover of "David and Goliath" and author Malcolm Gladwell. (Bill Wadman / Little, Brown…)

Ecoterrorist Rebecca Rubin was sentenced Monday to five years in prison -- and to read a book by Malcolm Gladwell. The prison sentence was the shortest she could have received under federal sentencing guidelines, Slate reported.

The reading assignment: That was extra.

Rubin belonged to a group that acted as part of the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front in the 1990s. Rubin admitted in her plea agreement to freeing horses at a Bureau of Land Management facility and failed attempts to set fire to a U.S. Forest Industries facility in Medford, Ore., and to buildings and ski lifts in Vail, Colo.

In 2012, Rubin turned herself in after years on the run. When handing down her sentence in federal court, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken said that Rubin lived in "an emotional prison cell" during seven years as a fugitive in Canada, the Associated Press reported.

The judge said she understood Rubin's desire for animals and the environment to be treated better, but that her actions, including contributing to several arsons, did serious damage, the AP said.

Aiken ordered Rubin to read two books: Gladwell's "David and Goliath" and "Nature's Trust" by Mary C. Wood. Gladwell is on her reading list, the judge explained, because it would help Rubin learn nonviolent means to protest against systems she perceives as unjust.

Maybe it will work -- or maybe not. In our review, The Times found "David and Goliath" to be "alternately compelling and essential and then scattershot and unconvincing."

Upon her release from prison -- and, presumably, after reading those two books -- Rubin has been ordered to pay more than $13 million in restitution and perform 200 hours of community service.

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