ELF militants convicted of (dubious) “terrorism”

Declaring fires set at a police station, an SUV dealer and a tree farm were acts of “terrorism,” US District Judge Ann Aiken May 23 sentenced former Earth Liberation Front militant Stanislas Meyerhoff to 13 years in prison. Judge Aiken commended for informing on his fellow arsonists after his arrest, saying he had the courage to “do the right thing.” But he said: “It was your intent to scare and frighten other people through a very dangerous and psychological act – arson. Your actions included elements of terrorism to achieve your goal.”

Meyerhoff, 29, admitted to being a member of a Eugene, OR, cell of the ELF known as The Family, which was responsible for more than 20 arson fires from 1996 through 2001 in five Western states that did $40 million in damage. Meyerhoff was involved in fires at a Eugene police substation, a Eugene SUV dealer, an Oregon tree farm, federal wild horse corrals in Wyoming and California, and a ski resort in Vail, CO. He also helped topple a high-voltage transmission line tower in Oregon.

After a member of the cell, Jacob Ferguson, agreed to turn informant and wear a hidden recording device, Meyerhoff and five others were arrested, starting in December 2005. Soon after his arrest, Meyerhoff turned informant as well, which Aiken said resulted in more arrests. Defense attorney Terri Wood said Ferguson has a deal with the prosecution that involves one count of arson and no prison time.

In a statement before being sentenced, Meyerhoff denounced the ELF, saying its tactics were counter-productive. “I was ignorant of history and economy and acted from a faulty and narrow vision as an ordinary bigot,” Meyerhoff read from his four-page handwritten statement, his voice breaking at times. “A million times over I apologize…to all of you hardworking business owners, employees, researchers, firemen, investigators, attorneys and all citizens whose property was destroyed, whose holidays were ruined, whose welfare was thwarted, and whose sleep was troubled.”

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Aiken said, Meyerhoff was eligible for 30 years to life in prison. However, prosecutors recommended reducing that to 15 years, eight months, based on his cooperation with investigators. AP states: “Aiken further reduced that to 13 years, noting that Meyerhoff showed courage by naming names and opening himself to retribution.”

Prior to sentencing, Wood asked for leniency, arguing that most of the fires were not acts of terrorism because they were set at businesses, not government facilities.

The prosecution countered that based on ELF communiqués, the blazes were meant to retaliate against the US Forest Service for allowing the Vail ski resort to expand, the University of Washington for genetic engineering research and the government for prosecuting radicals who set earlier fires at the SUV dealer.

“The communiqués are powerful, powerful evidence that the defendants and Mr. Meyerhoff intended to influence the conduct of government,” said Assistant US Attorney Kirk Engdahl. “It is our position that the terrorism enhancement clearly applies to Mr. Meyerhoff.”

Again from the AP: “Aiken rejected the argument the ski resort arson was terrorism, noting the communique made no direct reference to the Forest Service. But she declared that a fire set at a Eugene police substation was terrorism because it was a direct attack on government. The Romania Chevrolet SUV dealership arson was terrorism because the communique said it was revenge for sending arsonist Jeff Luers to prison for 22 years. And the Jefferson Poplar Farm arson was terrorism because the communique spoke of affecting pending legislation.” (AP, May 23)

How much unchallenged abuse of the English language can be packed into one small wire story? For starters, the litmus test for terrorism is assuredly not whether a government facility is targeted. By this standard, the World Trade Center attacks were not terrorism! The more logical standard is whether civilians are targeted—and by this standard, the ELF actions (which resulted in no casualties) were clearly not terrorism. It is sad that Meyerhoff is accepting these dangerous distortions. Worse still is Judge Aiken’s invocation of Meyerhoff’s “courage.” The ELF are basically adventurist kids who are in way over their heads, and they have never taken “retribution” against turncoats. Ratting out your pals to get a reduced sentence is not our idea of “courage.”

See our last post on the ELF.

  1. More…
    From KOIN, Portland, May 25:

    EUGENE, Ore. – A federal judge sentenced Earth Liberation Front arsonist Chelsea Dawn Gerlach to nine years in prison.

    DawnThe judge decided Gerlach committed acts of terrorism by setting fires at a police substation and a tree farm and toppling a high voltage transmission line.

    But the judge also said she was impressed by Gerlach’s cooperation with the investigation, including convincing some of her co-defendants also to own up to their crimes.

    A cogent report from Infoshop News:

    In the new federal courthouse in Eugene, arguments were heard on issues regarding the government’s attempt to apply terrorism enhancements to the District of Oregon eco-sabotage defendants. Whatever is decided on the basis of this hearing, individual defendants may still make their own arguments on the issue at their own upcoming sentencing hearing. No court rulings were made at the conclusion of this hearing.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Peifer presented opening arguments for the government’s position that the defendants deserve the terrorism enhancement under §3A1.4 of the federal sentencing guidelines. He argued that the purposes of the conspiracy were to coerce or influence government, commerce, private business and the populace, and that the sabotage was dangerous to human life. He claimed that, despite claims of lofty goals, that “this is a classic case of terrorism.” Peifer added that, “it was pure luck that no one was injured.” He stated that the crimes targeted people, not just property. Under the arguments made by defendants, he alleged, arsons by the Ku Klux Klan against churches or by white supremacists against synagogues would not constitute terrorism. Peifer launched into a list of people who had been sentenced under the terrorism enhancement although no person was injured—people who he claims are comparable to the eco-sabotage defendants.

    Peifer then addressed what he called the “doomed to the dungeon” argument of defense attorneys, in which it is claimed that those convicted under the enhancement will end up at the maximum-security United States Penitentiary at Terre Haute, IN, or a like facility. He listed the whereabouts of the aforementioned arsonists who qualified for the enhancement, who for the most part ended up in medium-security institutions.

    We wonder if these guys are going to get “terrorism enhancement”?