Woman Pleads Guilty in Sacramento Ecoterror Case
Posted: May 31, 2006
One of three people accused of plotting to destroy federal property, cell phone towers and power generation facilities in the name of the Earth Liberation Front has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy.
Lauren Weiner, 20, of Westchester County, New York, pleaded guilty in Sacramento federal court to conspiracy to commit an offense or defraud the U.S. on May 30, 2006. Weiner agreed to cooperate with investigators and to testify against two other co-defendants as part of her plea agreement.
Weiner was arrested in January along with Zachary O. Jenson, 20, and Eric Taylor McDavid, 28, in a Placer County shopping area parking lot after they allegedly bought bomb-making materials. They were carrying shopping bags containing bleach, glass cleaner, rubber gloves and masks - items that can be used to make homemade bombs, according to an affidavit filed by the FBI.
In addition to U.S. Forest Service facilities, the suspects also allegedly plotted to destroy banks and commercial trucks. Weiner admitted the group planned to take credit for the actions on behalf of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), the most active environmental extremist movement in the United States
During the investigation, authorities gathered information using electronic surveillance and from a paid FBI informant posing as an ELF sympathizer. Prior to their arrest, the three defendants, along with the informant, satyed in a cabin that had been rigged by the FBI for audio and video surveillance before the foursome moved in. During that time, they scouted the Nimbus Dam, a fish hatchery on the American River and the Forest Service’s Institute of Forest Genetics, near Placerville, prosecutors said.
Placer County has experienced a rash of ecoterror-related acts since December 2004.
During the arrest, FBI agents took a notebook from McDavid that contained drawings of pipe bombs, lists of ingredients for creating homemade explosives and drawings of the Forest Service’s Institute of Forest Genetics, an FBI affidavit says. McDavid was an “associate” of Ryan Daniel Lewis, a Newcastle resident who pleaded guilty to arson-related charges linked to ELF in October 2005, according to court documents.
McDavid and Jenson have been held without bail in Sacramento County Jail since being arrested. They face five to 20 years in federal prison if they are convicted of conspiring to use fire or explosives to damage property. Weiner is scheduled to be sentenced August 8.
During the past two decades, radical environmental and animal rights groups have claimed responsibility for hundreds of crimes and acts of terrorism, including arson, bombings, vandalism and harassment, causing more than $120 million in damage. While some activists have been captured, ecoterror cells - small and loosely affiliated - are extremely difficult to identify and most attacks remain unsolved.