Update: On June 14, 2011, Briana Waters pleaded guilty to multiple federal charges in connection with her role in the 2001 University of Wisconsin arson. Her previous conviction in the case, which resulted in a six year prison sentence and $6 million in restitution payments, was overturned by an appeals court on procedural grounds in September 2010.
A federal jury in Tacoma, Washington, has convicted a California woman on charges relating to a 2001 firebombing at the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington.
Briana Waters, a 32-year-old Oakland native, was found guilty on two counts of arson on March 6, 2008, in connection with the incident. The jury was deadlocked on conspiracy charges and charges relating to the possession and use of the incendiary device that started the fire. Waters faces at least five years in prison for each count of arson.
The Earth Liberation Front (ELF), the most active environmental extremist movement in the U.S., claimed responsibility for the arson, which caused $7 million in damages. Their communiqué said ELF is "growing and spreading…wild fires of outrage will continue to blaze."
Prosecutors have stated that the arson was planned at a secret meeting in Olympia, where the defendants produced time-delayed firebombs in a garage. Lacey Phillabaum and Jennifer Kolar, both of whom pleaded guilty to involvement in the incident in 2006, testified that Waters acted as a lookout while others planted the firebomb. Phillabaum also testified that Waters had obtained the rental car that the team used to travel from Seattle to Olympia.
Two others named in the indictment are William C. Rodgers, who committed suicide in jail in 2006 after being charged with other acts of ecoterrorism, and Justin Solondz, currently a fugitive who allegedly helped assemble the firebombs in the garage and joined Rodgers in setting the devices.
Despite Waters' denial that she was involved in the incident and her further assertion that she would not condone arson as a means of making a political statement, prosecutors cited a 1998 article about radical environmental activists in which Waters, then a college student, stated on the subject of arson, "as long as people don't get hurt, I totally support it."
Waters is one of approximately 20 people indicted in recent years on charges related to 17 acts of domestic terrorism claimed by ELF and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) in five western states between 1996 and 2001. Ten, calling themselves "The Family," were sentenced in 2007 to between 3 and 13 years in prison on charges related to numerous acts of domestic terrorism.