[Ppnews] Briana Waters expected to plead guilty in 2001 UW arson

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jun 9 10:09:15 EDT 2011


http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2015269427_arsonplea09m.html

Woman expected to plead guilty in 2001 UW arson

Briana Waters, who was awaiting a retrial for her alleged role in the 
2001 Earth Liberation Front arson attack on the University of 
Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture, is expected to plead 
guilty to federal charges next week.

By Mike Carter

Seattle Times staff reporter

A California woman who is awaiting a retrial for her alleged role in 
the 2001 Earth Liberation Front arson attack on the University of 
Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture is expected to plead 
guilty to federal charges next week.

Briana Water's change-of-plea hearing is scheduled for Tuesday before 
U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton. It comes as the Department of 
Justice prepares for the return of her one-time boyfriend and the 
attack's alleged ringleader, Justin Solondz, who faces extradition 
from China, where he's spent the last three years in prison on drug charges.

Waters, a 34-year-old violin teacher from San Francisco, was 
convicted in 2008 and sentenced to six years in prison in 2008 for 
her role in the arson at the center, which caused an estimated $6 
million in damage. Waters allegedly helped secure the car used by the 
group and was a lookout the night the fire was set.

She was acquitted of or the jury couldn't decide on several other 
charges, including a count of manufacturing a destructive device, 
which carried a mandatory 30-year prison sentence.

However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the 
conviction last year, saying her trial before U.S. District Judge 
Frank Burgess, now deceased, was riddled with judicial errors. The 
appeals-court judges said that, while the evidence against Waters may 
have been sufficient for a conviction, "our review of the record does 
not leave us convinced that her conviction was fairly obtained."

The government has since moved toward a retrial and Waters has been 
home after she was released pending her retrial.

Details of the plea arrangement were not immediately available.

Waters' attorney, Neil Fox, acknowledged a plea agreement was 
pending, but said he could not discuss the specifics. The U.S. 
Attorney's Office in Seattle did not immediately return telephone 
messages for comment.

Waters was reportedly part of a five-member Earth Liberation Front 
(ELF) cell that conspired to burn the center down. Prosecutors say it 
was part of an ELF-sponsored spree of arson attacks throughout the 
West from 1996 to 2001.

Damage to targets that included a slaughterhouse, timber-company 
headquarters and a ski lodge at Vail, Colo., was estimated in the 
tens of millions of dollars.

Two other women, Lacey Phillabaum and Jennifer Kolar, pleaded guilty 
to the UW arson and were sentenced to three and five years, 
respectively. Both testified against Waters.

Also charged in the UW arson were William C. Rodgers, who committed 
suicide in December 2005 in an Arizona jail, as well as Solondz. 
Solondz, who was on the FBI's most-wanted list, was a fugitive until 
his arrest in Dali, China, in 2009.

Michael Nance, the attorney appointed to represent Solondz in the 
U.S. proceedings, said he did not know when his client would be 
returned to the U.S., but suggested it would be "in the near, or 
relatively near, future."

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter at seattletimes.com

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.



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