Two arraigned in arsons claimed by Earth Liberation Front
EUGENE, Ore. – Two of the eleven people indicted on charges they were part of a cell known as "The Family" that set a string of arsons from 1996 to 2001 claimed by the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front were arraigned Monday in U.S. District Court.
U.S. Magistrate Thomas Coffin entered innocent pleas on behalf of Suzanne Savoie of Applegate and Kendall Tankersley, formerly known as Sarah Harvey, of Flagstaff, Ariz. Savoie worked in a group home for the developmentally disabled in Ashland. Tankersley worked at Northern Arizona University and was trying to get into medical school.
Both women face charges of conspiracy, which allege that they were part of a group still planning to carry out more attacks.
Savoie, who turned herself in to the FBI last week and has known she was under suspicion since December, is accused of being the lookout in the 2001 firebombing of the Superior Lumber Co.'s offices in Glendale. A bail hearing was scheduled for Tuesday.
Tankersley is accused of being the lookout for the 1998 firebombing of the now-defunct U.S. Forest Industries offices in Medford. Arrested last December in Flagstaff, Ariz., she is free on $250,000 bail.
The women were the first to be arraigned on a 65-count indictment handed up last week. Six others in custody will be arraigned over the next week. Three others remain at large, and authorities believe they are out of the country.
The indictment alleges the group conspired to carry out attacks on U.S. Forest Service ranger stations in Oregon, government and university research labs in Washington, a horse slaughterhouse in Oregon, a meat packing plant in Oregon, a Colorado ski resort, lumber mills and offices in Oregon, a tree farm in Oregon, a power transmission tower in Oregon, an SUV dealer in Eugene and federal wild horse corrals in Oregon, Wyoming and California. The fires cased more than $100 million in damages.
The government's case depends heavily on the testimony of at least four unnamed informants, some of whom took part in the firebombings. Evidence includes five-gallon plastic buckets filled with a mix of gasoline and diesel that didn't go off, homemade timers, and the remains of firebombs that did ignite.
During some of the attacks, the arsonists wore masks and dark clothing and communicated with radios.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Engdall said the investigation is continuing, and more people are expected to be indicted.
Six others in custody are to be arraigned over the next week.
Three people remain at large and are believed to be out of the country – two in Europe and one in Canada, Engdall said.
Due to the number of defendants and volume of evidence – 35 CDs of recorded conversations and 40,000 pages of transcripts, police reports and photographs – Judge Coffin declared this a complex case, giving lawyers for both sides more time to prepare.
All eight defendants arrested so far will be tried at once, and Engdall estimated it would take at least five weeks. No trial date has been set yet, but it appears likely to be set for sometime this fall.