from The Olympian. June 22:
Former Olympia woman sentenced to prison for UW arson
A federal judge sentenced a former Olympia woman to 11 months in prison during a court hearing Friday for her role in a 2001 arson that destroyed the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture.
Briana Waters, 36, of Oakland, Calif., was sentenced to 48 months, but she will return to prison for 11 months because of the approximately 37 months she has already served, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.
Last year, Waters pleaded guilty to conspiracy, arson, possession of an unregistered destructive device and using a destructive device during a crime of violence. As part of her guilty plea, Waters admitted the fire bomb devices used to burn down the horticulture center in May, 2011 were built at her Olympia residence, that she helped transport them and that she served as a lookout during the arson.
The fire, which resulted in $6 million in damages, was part of a string of 17 arsons across the West by radical environmental groups, the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. Fourteen other people have been convicted of crimes related to the fires.
Waters had been convicted in 2008 in connection with the arson and sentenced to six years in prison, but that conviction was overturned in late 2010 after an appeals court ruled that documents containing anarchist materials were improperly admitted as evidence.
Waters served two years and seven months in prison before she was released following that ruling in October, 2010, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Emily Langlie.
Three other defendants, Jennifer Kolar of Seattle, Lacey Phillabaum, of Spokane, and Justin Solondz have also pleaded guilty and been sentenced for the arson.
A fifth defendant, William Rodgers, of Prescott, Arizona, was indicted by a federal grand jury in the case, but committed suicide in December, 2005, while being held in Arizona.
Waters, a student at The Evergreen State College at the time of the arson, was allegedly a member of a cell of the Animal Liberation Front known as “The Family.” The group wanted to destroy corporate and government operations they thought were harming the environment and animals, and prosecutors said members targeted the UW research center under the mistaken belief that poplar trees were being genetically engineered there.
In a news release, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan stated, “The $6 million Ms. Waters and the rest of these defendants owe in restitution will never truly compensate the researchers who lost their life’s work, their sense of security and the endangered plants they were trying to propagate. We are fortunate no lives were lost in the fire. I commend the work of the first responders who controlled the fire and the dedicated agents and officers that tracked down there conspirators to hold them accountable.”
The UW center was rebuilt at a cost of $7 million and reopened three years later.
Waters and the other defendants in the UW arson case share a restitution obligation of $6 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.