Seattle Woman Sentenced for Washington ELF Arson
Posted: July 24, 2008
Update: On August 19, 2008, Lacey Phillabaum, one of Jennifer Kolar's co-defendants, was sentenced to three years in a federal prison and ordered to pay $6.1 million in restitution for her role in the arson.
A Seattle woman involved in the 2001 firebombing of a horticulture building at the University of Washington has been sentenced to five years in federal prison, five years of probation and ordered to pay $7.1 million in restitution.
Jennifer Kolar, 34, who was sentenced on July 18, 2008, pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to commit arson, two counts of arson, one count of attempted arson and using a destructive device during a crime of violence.
Kolar was a member of "The Family," an ecoterrorist cell comprised of over a dozen Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front members. Between 1996 and 2001, the group was responsible for a "campaign of domestic terrorism" in five states, targeting U.S. Forest Service ranger stations, wild horse facilities, meat processing companies, and lumber companies among other targets, according to the Justice Department.
Prior to the attack on UW's Center for Urban Horticulture, "The Family" met in Oregon, Arizona and California for what they called "Book Club" meetings to practice making firebombs and plan for attacks against companies and government facilities involved in genetic engineering, according to court documents.
Kolar was part of a five-person team that carried out the University of Washington attack. An ELF communiqué, issued five days after the arson attack, read: "Our message remains clear: we are determined to stop genetic engineering."
The four others indicted were Lacey Phillabaum, Bill Rodgers, who allegedly helped set the firebombs inside the Center; Justin Solondz, who allegedly helped assemble the fire bombs and joined Rodgers in setting the devices; and Briana Waters, who served as a lookout. Rodgers, considered one of the top organizers of the ELF, committed suicide in jail after being charged with other acts of ecoterrorism. Solondz, 29, is charged with arson, and using a destructive device in a crime of violence. He is currently a fugitive.
After the arson, Kolar, along with co-conspirator, Lacey Phillabaum, agreed to plead guilty and cooperate in a continuing federal investigation - dubbed Operation Backfire - into more than a dozen suspects of The Family. Kolar's cooperation was considered vital in identifying and prosecuting the individuals responsible in the case. Mark Bartlett, the First Assistant U.S. Attorney involved, called her the "lynchpin in breaking that case open."
In February 2008, Kolar and Phillabaum were key witnesses in the trial of Briana Waters, testifying that Waters acted as the lookout while the others entered a window of the facility and planted the firebomb. At her sentencing hearing in June 2008, Waters was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay $6 million in restitution.
During her own sentencing, Kolar, who has a master's degree in atmospheric physics, expressed remorse for her actions. "I am a scientist. I should have known better … I see that I hurt the very cause that I thought that I was helping. I am horribly saddened.
"Not only was it a horrible crime, but it was just stupid. I fully accept responsibility," she said.
Since her guilty plea, which set a sentencing range of five to seven years, Kolar had been free without bail. She is due to report to the Bureau of Prisons on September 22. Phillabaum faces three to five years in prison and will be sentenced on August 19.