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US ecoterrorism suspect pleads guilty

October 10, 2013

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) — A woman accused of taking part in eco-terrorist firebombings pleaded guilty Thursday to arson and conspiracy charges in federal court.

Rebecca Rubin’s plea was the latest admission of wrongdoing by members of “The Family” in a series of arsons across three U.S. Western states from 1996 to 2001 that did $40 million in damage.

Now a decade removed from her membership in the eco-terrorism group, the 40-year-old Canadian citizen consented to serve at least five years in prison. She will be sentenced on Jan. 27.

Ten people pleaded guilty in 2007 to conspiracy and arson charges and were sentenced to prison. Two others indicted in the case remain at large.

Her attorney, Richard Troberman, described her seven years on the run as “a prison without walls.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Peifer laid out the factual basis for the charges against her, beginning with the freeing of wild horses from a federal horse-slaughter facility in Oregon in 1997. Other members of the group planted incendiary devices — the indictment doesn’t specify the type of devices — that razed the facility.

He then described a December 1998 incident, when Rubin helped ferry equipment for an attempted arson at a U.S. Forest Industries building in Oregon, and later that year, helped prepare for an arson at a Colorado ski resort. Neither attempt worked, but both buildings were later burned in separate environmentally-motivated fires.

In the final act for which she’s charged, Rubin freed horses at a federal wild horse facility in California before other members of the group set a barn on fire.

Rubin is not specifically charged with terrorism, but the indictment alleges that she and other members of “The Family” tried to influence businesses and the government and tried to retaliate against the government.

The terrorism allegation serves as a potential enhancement to her sentence, something her attorney calls “grossly unfair.”

Troberman said Thursday that Rubin tried to surrender in 2009, but California authorities at first pushed for a 30-year sentence, one she found too long.

But by 2012, when Troberman checked again, he said he found prosecutors amenable to a deal. At sentencing, Troberman said he plans to introduce the idea that Rubin has changed since her 20s.

“Of course she feels remorse,” Troberman said after the plea hearing. “She’s a very different person.”

As part of her plea agreement, Rubin agreed to “disclosure sessions” with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Oregon, something Troberman said she’s already done and would continue to do if asked. The sessions do not require her to name or give the locations of any of her co-conspirators — including two still on the run — but do require her to remember conversations and describe events to the best of her memory.

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