[Ppnews] Briana Waters - A Casualty of GreenScare

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Feb 22 10:59:03 EST 2010


http://www.counterpunch.org/stclair02192010.html
February 19 - 21, 2010


A Casualty of GreenScare

The Case of Briana Waters

By JOSHUA FRANK and JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

Smoke billowed as a wing of the University of 
Washington's Center of Urban Horticulture burned 
in the early morning hours of Monday, May 21, 
2001. It was not the result of a science experiment gone awry -- it was arson.

Situated under a tree, safe from the heat of the 
blazing inferno, were boxes of little snakes 
staked neatly on top of one another, prompting 
former UW researcher Valerie Easton to wonder 
"who would torch 20 years of research and plant 
and book collections, yet take the time to save a 
couple of pet snakes?" They must have been 
amateurs she thought, not entirely certain why 
anyone would want to burn the research center to the ground.

The group of five men and women, associated with 
the covert Earth Liberation Front (ELF), broke 
into the building through a window, connected a 
digital timer to a 9-volt battery, which in turn 
was hooked up to an igniter that was positioned 
to spark tubs filled with gasoline. When the 
timer went off the igniter clicked and the 
gasoline blew. The result was a small, yet fierce 
explosion that spread fast through the University’s modern science facility.

The flames, first spotted by campus security, 
were so intense that it took fire fighters two 
hours to quell, but the damage was done. UW 
claimed over $3 million in loses. Botany labs 
burned and decades of scientific research was 
lost. Investigators had no leads and only 
suspicions of who was behind the mysterious arson.

Five days after the fire investigators got their 
first tip in the form of a press release 
dispatched by Craig Rosebraugh in Portland, which 
claimed the ELF was behind the attack. The target 
was UW professor Toby Bradshaw, who received 
funding from timber industry to develop 
fast-growing cross-pollinated poplar trees, which 
are used to produce paper and lumber products. 
The genes Bradshaw identified through trial and 
error cross-pollination experiments were used by 
Oregon State University professor Steve Strauss 
who took the genes, often resistant to specific 
diseases, and inserted them into poplar seeds 
creating genetically engineered (GE) organisms. 
Bradshaw in turn grew these poplar trees in greenhouses at UW.

Many environmentalists believe GE trees are, as 
the ELF’s communiqué stated, “an ecological 
nightmare.”  The development of GE applications 
in nature, in the absence of environmental 
safeguards, is a recipe for disaster. Wild trees 
can interbreed with GE trees causing problems 
scientists can only speculate about. Genes from 
GE poplar trees, for example, are free, just like 
pollen or seeds that blow with the wind and can 
invade forests, spreading fast and disrupting the 
genetic diversity that allows forest ecology to evolve naturally over time.

The ELF activists targeted Prof. Bradshaw’s lab 
for this reason, but they missed their mark. The 
fire did not damage the majority of Bradshaw’s 
actual scientific research. He made backups of 
all of his work, which was previously targeted by 
anti-GE activists during the WTO protests in 
1999. Bradshaw was not happy about being on placed on the ELF’s shitlist.

“It's very hard to have a discussion with [these 
types of environmentalists]. The most vocal 
critics don't know very much about the science,” 
Bradshaw publicly bemoaned.  “They don't have the 
ability to distinguish good science from bad 
science or even non-science. They just don't have 
the background ... In order to support (the) ELF, 
you have to espouse terrorism as a tactic which 
after Sept. 11, I think is pretty untenable.”

And just like that the radical environmentalists 
who besieged Bradshaw’s work at UW were deemed a 
terrorist threat even though they were meticulous 
in the execution of their act, making sure nobody 
would be injured. Their target was property, not 
human life. They did their homework, ensuring 
that janitors were not on duty that night, and 
despite what the mainstream media reported about 
Bradshaw’s research, they knew exactly what type 
of science the professor was practicing and where 
his research funds originated.

"[These people are] anti-intellectual bigots 
incapable of making a reasoned argument in a 
public forum, but capable only of throwing a 
firebomb in the dead of night," Bradshaw wrote in 
a sternly worded opinion piece for the Seattle 
Post-Intelligencer shortly after the incident.

The ornery professor remained undeterred, but it 
was clear the ELF act had struck a nerve.

***

The UW research facility was just one in a string 
of attacks by the nebulous group, and as a result 
in 2004 the FBI merged seven of its on-going 
investigations into “Operation Backfire” in an 
attempt to round up the eco-bandits who allegedly 
struck a Vail ski resort, a horse slaughterhouse, and even an SUV dealership.

“Investigating and preventing animal rights and 
environmental extremism is one of the FBI's 
highest domestic terrorism priorities,” said FBI 
Director Robert Mueller. “We are committed to 
working with our partners to disrupt and 
dismantle these movements, to protect our fellow 
citizens, and to bring to justice those who 
commit crime and terrorism in the name of animal 
rights or environmental issues.”

Until the FBI coordinated efforts with local 
authorities and other agencies, they didn’t have 
much to work with in regard to the UW fire. No 
real evidence was left behind, and any that did 
exist went up in smoke. They needed someone on 
the inside to come forward, who would name names 
and point fingers. The FBI found the informant 
they needed in late spring 2003 and the fact that 
their man was a heroin addict by the name of Jacob Ferguson.

Ferguson was a tattooed strung out drifter who 
traveled across the country, apparently leaving 
nothing but ashes behind. He admitted to over a 
dozen arsons, mostly in Oregon where he spent the 
majority of his time. He claimed to know almost 
every member of the ELF, and became the FBI’s 
go-to guy in amassing hours upon hours of tape 
recordings of conversations he had with his 
friends. As a drug abuser, Ferguson likely came 
forward ready to tell all, or make up stories, in 
order to cash in the reward of $50,000 the FBI 
announced in May of 2004 that they would offer 
anyone with information about the UW fire.

Ferguson’s drug use may have made him vulnerable 
to the FBI’s persuasive ways, and money is 
usually a great impetus for junkies with heroin 
habits. Over the course of almost two years 
Ferguson was showing up in places he had not been 
seen before. He’d been sighted at environmental 
law conferences and Earth First! outings, events 
he avoided in the past, likely wired the entire 
time, recording conversations that had nothing to 
do with the FBI investigation.

When news broke in late December 2005 that 
Ferguson was a “government witness”, anger spread 
like an ELF fire across the Pacific Northwest 
environmental community. Acquaintances turned to 
enemies, and some even left responses about their 
former ally on Portland’s Independent Media 
webpage in contempt for his actions.

“The entire [investigation] 
 seems to rest on 
the words, actions and credibility of this one 
man, a man we now learn has lived a double life. 
In a community where there is consensus distrust, 
even disgust for the federal government and 
especially its law enforcement operatives, Jake 
pretended he was one of us. He was and is one of 
them,” commented a poster named Mongoose.  “How 
long has Jake been a federal narc? The reason 
this issue is critical turns on the fact that 
some of the alleged arsons may actually have been 
planned or implemented with federal law 
enforcement help. That could well constitute entrapment.”

It wasn’t long after Ferguson turned informant 
that the FBI began rapping on doors of 
environmental activists across the country, 
picking up where Ferguson left off. He was 
leading them straight to his friends, people who 
welcomed him into their homes and around their 
dinner tables. It seemed as if Ferguson would do 
whatever it took to keep himself out of prison, 
even if that meant losing those people who were closest to him.

The chase started by Ferguson eventually led to 
the front stoop of a wholesome violin teacher 
living in Berkeley, California in 2004. Briana 
Waters, 32 at the time, was not someone you’d peg 
for a terrorist. She simply didn’t look the type. 
A strung out Ferguson, on the other hand, with a 
pentagram tattoo sprawled across his balding 
head, fit the stereotypical profile a bit better. 
He looked like an arsonist. Waters looked like a 
young mother, which was exactly what she was.

Raised in suburban Philadelphia, Waters came from 
an upper-middle class household and left her 
family behind to attend college at Evergreen 
State College in Olympia, Washington in the late 
1990s. Evergreen is a bastion of progressive 
activism and has a strong reputation for turning 
out radical students, with the list including 
Rachel Corrie who lost her life while standing up 
to an Israeli Defense Force bulldozer in an 
attempt a spare a Palestinian home from 
demolition in 2003. Waters and Corrie were 
Evergreen students at the same time, and like 
Corrie, Waters was a committed, well-known activist on campus.

Waters headed up the animal rights group on 
campus and was committed to naturalist education, 
leading hikes through the nearby wilderness on 
weekends teaching people about the native flora. 
By her senior year Waters was becoming seasoned 
environmental activist, cutting her teeth as a 
tree-sitter in an effort to stop the logging of 
Watch Mountain, an old-growth preserve in the 
Cascade Mountain range in Washington.
While tree-sitting was a frequent tactic of 
environmentalists in Oregon and even British 
Columbia, but Washington state was not accustomed 
to this type of direct action:

“These tree-sitters, calling themselves the 
Cascadia Defense Network, don't like the 
government's plan to give 25 square miles of 
heavily forested mountain land on the west slope 
of the Cascades to the timber company in exchange 
for 75 square miles of prime hiking land near 
Snoqualmie Pass,” reported Robert McClure for the 
Seattle Post-Intelligencer in August 1999. 
“Loggers for generations, many local residents 
have stood by as the local mill closed and timber 
companies began shipping timber overseas for 
processing. Like the protesters, they are not happy with big timber companies.”

Waters and her green comrades were not only 
confronting the logging industry and the 
government, they were also tossing dirt in the 
face of big environmental groups in Seattle who 
signed off on the deal let Plum Creek Timber Co. 
log Watch Mountain, near the small town of 
Randle, Washington.  It may have been Waters 
first real brush up with the radicals of the 
Northwest environmental movement, one that would 
later be used to discredit her true intentions.

“We just want to sit up there in those trees and 
be a spectacle for you,” fellow activist Tim Ream 
told local Washington residents about the protest 
his group organized. “We're going to sit up there 
until there are chain saws buzzing all around us 
and they take us to jail. And we're not going to make it easy for them.”

The direct action worked, after five long months 
the Cascadia Defense Network was victorious and 
Waters caught the victory on film for his senior 
project at Evergreen State College. Her heartfelt 
footage documented the struggle with the timber 
barons as well as friendly relationship between 
the activists and the local townsfolk. Over 
28,000 acres of prime wilderness was ultimately 
saved and the public land was never handed over to Plum Creek Timber.

***

The FBI was out to track down the perpetrators of 
the UW fire and they were more than ready to use 
the testimony provided by cooperating witnesses 
to do so. Two of the government’s key informants 
in the UW case were 31 year-old Lacey Phillabaum 
a former editor of Earth First! Journal, and 
Jennifer Kolar, 33, a millionaire yacht 
enthusiast with a mater’s degree in astrophysics. 
In order to shorten their own sentences, Kolar 
and Phillabaum agreed to testify against Waters, 
claiming she was the lookout for the arson and 
borrowed a car to drive to the campus that night. 
They even insisted Waters lived on the property 
where the explosive device was assembled by her 
boyfriend at the time, Justin Solondz.

On February 11, 2008 at Western U.S. District in 
Tacoma, Washington, the government’s case against 
Briana Waters began with U.S. District Judge 
Franklin D. Burgess presiding. The location of 
the trial was moved from Seattle, as prosecutors 
believed she’d have a less sympathetic jury 
outside the Emerald City. The jury was selected 
during the first day and at 9:00am the on 
February 12 the courtroom theatre began, with a 
packed room full of Waters’ friends, family, and supporters.

The prosecution was led by Assistant United 
States Attorney Andrew Friedman and First 
Assistant United States Attorney Mark Bartlett. 
The duo’s opening remarks to the jury painted 
Waters as a dangerous environmental extremist who 
was willing to do whatever it took to terrorize 
their target, Prof. Toby Bradshaw.

“What the defendant and her accomplices did that 
night was wrong in every way,” Friedman told the 
12-person jury as he described Waters as the 
lookout that night. “... If there was one 
building in Seattle that helped the environment, 
it was probably the Center for Urban 
Horticulture. They plotted [their attack] for 
weeks and built complicated firebombs at a house 
the defendant rented,” Friedman continued. “She 
had her cousin rent a car to use in the action 
and they drove it to Seattle, ate dinner, drove 
to the Urban Horticulture building, near a 
residential area, parked on a hill in the 
residential neighborhood a block away from the 
building. Waters stayed in the bushes with a 
radio while the others broke into an office [and planted the firebomb].”

The defense team, made up of attorneys Neal Fox 
and Robert Bloom, claimed the federal prosecutors 
were barking up the wrong tree, and the hunt for 
the real perpetrators led them to an innocent 
woman. They argued that the evidence was simply 
not there to support the prosecutor’s claims.

“Not only has Briana Waters pleaded not guilty, 
she is not guilty 
 She is completely innocent, 
not involved in this or any other arson. The 
government’s proof is what is on trial,” Bloom 
asserted to the jury. “The government must prove 
beyond a reasonable doubt ... Ms. Waters is 
innocent not because of some technicality, but 
because she was not involved with this group of 
people in any arson, in any discussion of arson ... that's not what happened."

While prosecutors seemed to draw on guilty by 
association tactics, Waters’ defense team 
cautioned jurors to look at the facts of the 
case, not just the illegal actions of her former 
acquaintances. Both Kolar and Phillabaum began 
cooperating with the FBI shortly after their 
initial roundup along with five other 
environmentalists for a separate Oregon arson in 
2005. In exchange for helping the government 
build its case against fellow activists by 
wearing a concealed wire, prosecutors promised to 
cut them a deal. Minimum sentences for arson 
alone carry a statutory minimum of 30 years with 
the threat of a maximum life term. It’s little 
wonder why Kolar and Phillabaum felt pressured to 
name names, even if those people were close 
friends and legitimate fellow activists.

Problem was, Kolar, when first interviewed by the 
FBI in December 2005, only fingered four other 
participants in the UW arson. Kolar even told the 
FBI what each of their aliases were. Briana 
Waters was not on her list. A surprising lapse in 
memory considering Waters supposedly drove to the 
site of the arson that night. It was only later, 
after being pressured by government prosecutors, 
that Kolar named Waters as the lookout. According 
to the FBI’s notes provided to Waters’ defense 
team, Kolar was interviewed five or six times 
before identifying Waters as the lookout.

As Jennifer Kolar sought to strike a plea bargain 
with the feds she abruptly “remembered” who the 
lookout was that night. In mid-January 2006 Kolar 
was shown a photo of Waters, which she recognized 
by name, but did not say Waters was involved in 
the incident. It was almost a full month later, 
in March 2006, that Kolar informed the FBI of Waters alleged participation.

Aside from the testimonies of Kolar and 
Phillabaum, the FBI had little to work with. 
Their original informant, Jacob Ferguson had a 
drug problem, which would certainly dispel any 
legitimacy he would have on the stand, plus he 
was not even directly involved in the UW 
incident, he only led the FBI down Kolar and 
Phillabaum’s trail. Anything he confessed would 
be hearsay. The alleged ringleader of the UW 
arson, argued the prosecution, was Bill Rodgers, 
known to others in as Avalon, a man who committed 
suicide by wrapping a plastic bag over his head 
in his jail cell shortly after being arrested in 
Arizona in December 2005. There was simply no 
hard evidence that tied Waters to the crime scene 
that night. No fingerprints were left behind, no 
minuscule strains of DNA were found. All the 
prosecutors had were suspicion and the testimony 
of two activists who struck plea deals in order 
to save themselves from decades in prison.

Lacey Phillabaum’s fiancé, Stan Meyerhoff, a 
friend of Jacob Ferguson, was a cooperating 
witness in other ELF cases. While Meyerhoff 
didn’t participate in the UW arson, he attended 
secret Book Club meetings leading up to the event 
and said Waters was not involved in the UW arson. 
The Book Club, hosted at different locations, 
served as the organizing nucleus for the group’s 
covert actions. Meyerhoff even ratted on the love 
of his life, Lacey Phillabaum. He did not seem to 
be holding any information back from the FBI.

"Within twenty-four hours [of being arrested], 
with no deal of any sort on the table, Stan was 
supposedly squealing like a pig," said Lauren 
Regan, a lawyer with the Civil Liberties Defense 
Center in Eugene, Oregon. "Given that Jake had a 
heroin-riddled mind; Stan was able to fill in a 
lot of blanks for the prosecution.”

But apparently when the blanks weren’t filled in 
to the Justice Department’s liking, they simply 
invented scenarios based on innuendo and stories 
told by cooperating witnesses who were copping 
plea deals.  On March 17, 2006, Stan Meyerhoff, 
handed over to the FBI by his pal Jacob Ferguson, 
was questioned by the feds and shown pictures of 
people who were under investigation for numerous 
ELF actions. One of those photos was of Briana 
Waters. Meyerhoff told investigators that the 
woman in the photo looked familiar but stated 
that she was not involved in any action. He was 
sure of it. The case, according to Water’s 
defense, should have ended right then and there. 
Meyerhoff admitted to being intimately involved 
in numerous ELF acts and knew all the players, 
but stated outright that Waters was not one of them.

This little bump in the road didn’t stop the 
prosecution, however. Waters did know Bill 
Rodgers, which was the cornerstone of the FBI’s 
case against her. Rodgers, like Waters, was also 
an above ground environmental activist who was 
often strapped for cash and had credit problems. 
As a result Waters purchased a cell phone for him 
and paid his phone bills to help him out. 
Prosecutors argued that Rodgers and ELF were 
cautious and meticulous in all of their crimes. 
They left no trail, absolutely nothing that could 
lead authorities to their whereabouts.

So why would Briana Waters purchase a cell phone 
for Bill Rodgers if she was worried about being 
caught? Rodgers, according the FBI’s profile, 
would not have asked Waters to buy him a phone if 
she was in anyway connected to any illegal 
activities. They weren’t that careless. That was 
the case Waters’ defense attempted to make: 
purchasing phone and paying its monthly bill is 
not a crime, and in no way put Waters at the 
scene of the crime that night. But what did, the 
prosecution countered, was the vehicle she had 
her cousins rent for her that Waters allegedly 
used to drive from Olympia, Washington to UW’s campus in Seattle.

***

On February 15, 2007 Lacey Phillabaum took the 
stand. Expressing sympathy for all involved, 
Phillabaum was still clear why she was testifying 
against Briana Waters. “I had regrets and did not 
want to spend 30 years in jail,” she told the prosecutor.

An entire day on the stand and Phillabaum did her 
job in implicating Waters in the UW arson.

She claimed Rodgers vouched for her since she 
never attended any of the underground Book Club 
meetings. Phillabaum said her and Waters saw the 
“clean room” where the bomb device was 
constructed by Rodgers and Waters’ boyfriend, 
Justin Solondz. Waters, according to Phillabaum, 
was put in charge of procuring a car for the 
drive to the UW campus. On her second day of 
testimony Phillabaum told of regret for what she 
did and her tumultuous transition back in to ordinary life with Stan Meyerhoff,

“[Stan Meyerhoff and I] got to know each other 
and began reintegrating back [into] mainstream 
[culture], it was hard to do,” Phillabaum said. 
“First part of getting uninvolved [with the ELF] 
was admitting to each other that we didn’t want 
to be involved. Which was hard to do having met 
in this context ... After 9/11 I decided it was 
intolerable to be involved with anything like 
this. We shared a mutual reinforcement of values.”

Phillabaum, whose parents are both lawyers, was 
certainly primed for the barrage of questions the 
defense peppered her with. Phillabaum, insisted 
the defense, slept with Water’s boyfriend Justin 
Solondz. Phillabaum told Waters’ defense attorney 
Robert Bloom that she did not remember Waters 
ever confronting her, where Waters yelled, “how 
dare you have an affair with my boyfriend!”

“I think the implication is that we had a sexual 
interaction. That is not correct,” Phillabaum 
told Bloom. “I never gave him a blow job either 
if that’s what you’re implying.” To which Bloom 
replied, “It is about whether you bear ill-will 
toward Briana ... Briana called you all kinds of 
names.  ‘Disrespectful, unprincipled, not fit to 
be involved with the movement’.

“I bear no ill-will toward Briana Waters,” she protested.

Later Bloom asked, “If you stay with your deal, 
the best sentence for you is three years, the worst is five years right?”

“Yes,” Phillabaum responded.

“...One of the inputs of the sentence is what the 
prosecutors tell the judge about how well you do 
on the stand, right? It’s fair to say you have an 
incentive to please the prosecutors,” defense attorney Bloom asked.

“I am not particularly motivated by my plea 
deal,” Phillabaum explained to Bloom. “I am 
committed to fulfill it, but emotional and moral 
commitment which drives me to be honest is to the 
researchers who I victimized. I would rather do 
three years than five, but I will do no more than five no matter what I say.”

Overall Bloom’s questions to Phillabaum were not 
overly interrogating. She held her composure and 
stuck to her story. Briana Waters, Phillabaum 
recalled, was involved in obtaining the vehicle 
for the night and met with all involved for 
dinner at the Green Lake Bar: Justin Solondz, 
Bill Rodgers, Jen Kolar, Briana Waters and 
herself. Had she not implicated Waters, claimed 
defense attorney Bloom, Phillabaum would face up to 35 years in prison.

The real linchpin in Waters’ trial was not Lacey 
Phillabaum, but Waters’ cousin Robert Corrina. On 
February 19, Corrina was called to testify 
against his cousin. He was repeatedly interviewed 
by the FBI, with varying stories leading up to 
the trial. At first Corrina said he did not know 
Waters, who even lived with him and his wife when 
she first moved to Olympia. In preceding 
interviews he said he did, but didn’t know 
anything about a rental car which was in fact 
rented by his wife on Waters’ behalf and even 
deposited $200 cash the week before.

Defense attorneys insisted that since Corrina 
told contradictory stories to the FBI on numerous 
occasions that “now the feds hold your life in 
their hands.” To which Corrina responded, “Not 
true.” The FBI even went to his wife’s place of 
employment and threatened them both with the 
possibility of a perjury charge, a felony 
offense. Like their case against Briana Waters, 
the feds also had Corrina cornered.

As Corrina squirmed in his seat as he was grilled 
with questions, the Waters defense seemed to be 
unraveling. The jury did not seem to be buying 
the fact that Corrina was bullied by the FBI to 
indict his cousin in order to save both him and 
his wife from prison. What the jury was presented 
with by the prosecution was a soft man who was 
telling the truth after having initially lied in 
an attempt to protect his cousin. Corrina’s early 
statements to the feds only portrayed Waters as having done something wrong.

On the Sunday night of the arson, recalled 
Corrina for the first time on record, her 
boyfriend Justin Solondz drove Waters in the 
rental car to the Emergency Room because Waters 
was having abdominal pains. Olympia’s hospital 
wouldn’t allow her, so she drove to Seattle, said 
Corrina. It was the first time Waters was said to 
have been with Solondz on the same night as the 
arson. It was damning testimony, and it sent the 
defense’s case for a tailspin. Now they didn’t 
only have to argue that Phillabaum was lying to 
save herself, they had to say her cousin was too.

Waters’ ER story also didn’t hold up well under 
the prosecution’s scrutiny. Neither hospital 
Waters reportedly sought treatment or had any records of her visit.

Jennifer Kolar was up next, who’s testimony, 
despite the fact that she had at first not 
included Waters as involved in her FBI 
interrogation, did not help Waters’ cause. When 
questioned about her memory trouble, Kolar 
replied, “I contradicted myself and my memory.” 
The defense backed off right at the very moment 
they should have pounced. They painted Kolar as a 
cold-hearted rich girl who, unlike Phillabaum, 
had little remorse for the actions she committed 
as a clandestine member of the Earth Liberation 
Front. But however cold Kolar was on the stand, 
the defense did not attack her truthfulness in 
such a way that would convince the jury that she 
was lying to reduce her own sentence.

Waters’ case was falling apart at the seams. Her 
cousin Robert Corrina put her in the car he 
helped obtain and Phillabaum and Kolar put her at 
the scene of the arson as a lookout. Despite a 
lack of hard evidence, Waters did not have a 
solid alibi. As for boyfriend Justin Solondz, the 
one person who could have either corroborated or 
confirmed Waters’ whereabouts that night – he was 
long gone, having fled after the initial arrests 
and is currently a fugitive on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

On February 25, it was FBI Special Agent Tony 
Torres took the stand as a witness for the 
prosecution. Torres was the note-taker for 
Jennifer Kolar’s interview on January 12, 2006 
where she was shown a photo of Briana Waters and 
recognized her, but did not say she was in any 
way involved in the UW arson. After a long, 
evasive testimony, Torres was forced to admit 
that Kolar never named Briana Waters as a 
participant until well after the FBI already fixed on her as a suspect.

According to Torres’ interview with Jennifer 
Kolar, she recalled events that were in direct 
contradiction to Phillabaum’s testimony. Not only 
did Kolar not originally recall Waters being 
involved, she also thought that Budget rental car 
used for the night’s event was obtained by Bill 
Rodgers, not Waters. Also, Phillabaum testified 
that the car was scrapped while speeding out of 
the neighborhood where they parked near UW, but 
Kolar did not recall this happening, nor could 
Special Agent Torres provide any evidence from 
Budget that the car returned by Robert Corrina 
sustained any damage. Torres also testified that 
Phillabaum told the FBI that both Briana Waters 
and Justin Solondz acted as lookouts during the 
UW arson, in contrast with the government’s 
allegation that Waters alone acted as a lookout.

The big gap in Torres’ testimony was that the FBI 
did not record Jennifer Kolar’s testimony, even 
though it is FBI protocol to do so. He also 
admitted he stopped taking notes in the middle of 
the interview in an attempt to avoid the 
“confusion” that resulted in major discrepancies 
between him and Special Agent Ted Halla’s notes 
from their interview with Jennifer Kolar’s on 
December 16, 2005. Defense attorneys accused 
Torres of falsifying documents in order to set up their case against Waters.

It wasn’t a smoking gun, but Torres was perhaps 
the weakest link in the prosecution’s case 
against Briana Waters. He confirmed that the 
FBI’s two main witnesses’ stories did not match 
up with one another and had not from the 
inception the FBI’s investigation. Kolar changed 
her account of events numerous occasions. She 
didn’t recall a scrap on the car, nor did she 
even remember that they used a rental car, as she 
told the FBI originally that they drove a van to 
UW, a much more realistic vehicle given the 
number of people allegedly involved in the arson.

Both Phillabaum and Kolar also said that Waters 
and crew met at the Greek Lake Bar on the night 
of the crime. Kolar said they met " around 9 at 
night, 8 at night,” while Phillabaum testified 
they met in the "early evening".  Defense lawyers 
challenged both Kolar and Phillabaum’s 
recollection and presented a bank card receipt 
which put Waters 60 miles away in Olympia at 7:12 
p.m, and given that their was a Seattle Mariners 
game and construction that evening, it was 
unlikely, with even normal traffic on Interstate 
5, that Waters would have been able to drive to 
UW in time to meet the others at the bar.

While Briana Waters took the stand in her own 
defense, a wave of trepidation filled the air, 
even sending Judge Burgess into afternoon siesta. 
Supporters in the courtroom were convinced there 
were simply too many conflicting testimonies and 
evidence to convict Waters of any crime. It was 
now Waters’ turn to speak in her own defense. She 
denied any involvement whatsoever in the UW 
arson, or any arson for that matter. She did not 
attend any Book Club meetings. She knew Bill 
Rodgers, but only for his above ground 
activities. Waters did not believe that arson was 
a legitimate form of environmental activism, 
something she realized during her time on Watch 
Mountain as she worked with others to organize 
local communities against proposed logging.

As the defense and prosecution laid out their 
final arguments for and against Briana Waters, a 
fire erupted in a posh Seattle development 
project called Street of Dreams and the ELF 
claimed responsibility. Perhaps it was more than 
poor timing. Or perhaps it set by contractors in 
an attempt to cash in on some insurance money 
before the housing boom reached their cul-de-sac. 
Regardless, it certainly did not help Waters.

The prosecution went first, admitting that 
Jennifer Kolar’s memory was suspect, but that she 
was certain Waters was a lookout for the arson. 
They cautioned the jury to see past Waters’ soft 
veneer, for she was a radical environmentalist at 
heart. A domestic terrorist willing to use the 
threat of violence to spread her 
anti-establishment message. It was their duty, 
prosecutors insisted, to put Waters behind bars 
where she belongs, even though all they really 
ever accused her of was holding a walkie-talkie 
as lookout. But domestic terrorism is serious, 
they contended, and she must be punished for her 
actions, no matter how minor they may seem.

The defense believed they provided the jury with 
numerous examples that ought to lead to 
reasonable doubt. Enough that would set Briana 
Waters free. They pointed out Kolar’s mangled 
testimony and Special Agent Torres’ bad note 
taking habits. They said the fact that they had a 
receipt from Waters in Olympia made it virtually 
impossible to meet at the Green Lake Bar with the 
rest of the arsonists. They pointed out that 
cooperating witness Stan Meyerhoff, second only 
under Bill Rodgers, said Waters was never 
involved in any actions. They said that the cell 
phone payments and her cousin’s rental car was 
not evidence that she committed the crime. There 
were just too many unanswered questions and too 
much innuendo to find Briana Waters guilty, the defense argued.

On June 2, 2008, Waters’ defense attorneys filed 
a motion which they claim revealed that Jennifer 
Kolar patently lied and deceived the FBI and 
jury, and that an investigation was required to 
determine was action needs to be taken in light 
of such a disclosure. The defense motion was 
based upon documents the government disclosed 
after the trial. The new information, the defense 
claimed, should have resulted in a mistrial.

Unfortunately, Judge Burgress didn’t agree and 
jurors were unable to convict on all counts, but 
they did find Waters guilty on two counts of 
arson. While awaited her sentencing, Waters’ 
lawyers asked that she be released until her 
sentencing so she could spent more time with her 
partner and 3-year-old daughter. The U.S. 
attorney’s office opposed the request, and 
claimed they had new evidence that Waters was 
involved in more than one arson, insisted that 
Lacey Phillabuam’s fiancé Stan Meyerhoff, who 
said before that Waters was never involved, that 
Waters participated in an attack at the 
Litchfield Wild Horse and Burro Ranch in Susanville, California.

On Thursday, June 19, 2008, Briana Waters was 
sentenced to 6 years in prison. Letters of 
support and a tearful plea by her own mother 
could not keep her out of prison. Lacey 
Phillabaum and Jennifer Kolar dramatically 
reduced their sentences, with Phillabaum 
receiving 36 months and Kolar 60 months.

“Prosecutors used scare-mongering to get the jury 
to convict an innocent person," Waters' lawyer, 
Robert Bloom, told Salon shortly after the trial 
ended. "This is really a study in American 
prosecution. It was an absurdly slanted American prosecution."

Joshua Frank is co-editor of Dissident Voice and 
author of 
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1567513107/counterpunchmaga>Left 
Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush 
(Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with 
Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of 
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1904859844/counterpunchmaga>Red 
State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in 
the Heartland, published by AK Press.

Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of 
<http://www.easycartsecure.com/CounterPunch/CounterPunch_Books.html>Been 
Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the 
Politics of Nature and 
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1567513360/counterpunchmaga>Grand 
Theft Pentagon. His newest book, 
<http://www.easycartsecure.com/CounterPunch/CounterPunch_Books.html>Born 
Under a Bad Sky, is published by AK Press / 
CounterPunch books. He can be reached at: 
<mailto:sitka at comcast.net>sitka at comcast.net.

(This article is excerpted from Green Scare: the 
New War on Environmentalism by Jeffrey St. Clair 
and Joshua Frank, forthcoming from Haymarket Books.)








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