Two Women Plead Guilty in Seattle Ecoterror Arson
Posted: October 10, 2006
Two women affiliated with the most active radical animal and environmental rights movements in the United States have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Washington, to burning down a University of Washington horticulture building and other crimes.
Lacey Phillabaum, 31, and Jennifer Kolar, 33, pleaded guilty on October 4, 2006, to conspiracy, arson and using a firebomb on behalf of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF). The attack caused $7 million in damages at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle in May 2001. The Center was allegedly targeted “to stop genetic engineering of trees.” An ELF communiqué, issued five days after the arson attacks, read: “Our message remains clear: we are determined to stop genetic engineering.”
Phillabaum and Kolar agreed to cooperate in a continuing federal investigation - dubbed Operation Backfire - into more than a dozen suspects calling themselves “The Family.” Between 1996 and 2001, these suspects targeted facilities in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming, including U.S. Forest Service ranger stations, Bureau of Land Management wild horse facilities, meat processing companies, lumber companies and a high-tension power line.
Kolar, who also pleaded guilty to an attempted arson charge for a failed 1998 firebombing in Colorado, faces five to seven years in prison. Phillabaum faces three to five years. Both were released without bail following their pleas and are scheduled to be sentenced in January.
Prior to the University of Washington attack, ELF and ALF members met in Oregon, Arizona and California for what they called “Book Club” meetings to practice making firebombs and plan for attacks, according to court documents. At those meetings, they apparently agreed to target companies and government facilities involved in genetic engineering.
Prosecutors have stated that the University of Washington attack was planned at a secret meeting in Olympia, where members produced time-delayed fire bombs in a garage. Phillabaum and Kolar were allegedly part of a five-person team that carried out the attack. The three others indicted for their role in the attack were Bill Rodgers, who allegedly helped set the fire bombs inside the Center; Justin Solondz, who allegedly helped assemble the fire bombs in the garage and joined Rodgers in setting the devices; and Briana Waters, who allegedly 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 earlier this year. Solondz is now a fugitive.
During the past two decades, ELF, ALF and others groups have claimed responsibility for hundreds of crimes and acts of terrorism, including arson, bombings, vandalism and harassment causing more than $150 million in damage. While some activists have been captured, ecoterror cells - small and loosely affiliated - are extremely difficult to identify, and many attacks remain unsolved.