Animal rights activist gets 12 years for arsons

From the Associated Press

A federal judge Thursday sentenced Animal Liberation Front arsonist Kevin Tubbs to prison for more than 12 years, rejecting arguments that he was a minor player just trying to save animals and protect the Earth.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken declared that four of the nine fires Tubbs was involved in -- at a forest ranger station, a police substation, a dealership selling SUVs and a tree farm -- were acts of terrorism intended to influence the conduct of the government or retaliate for government acts.

"Fear and intimidation can play no part in changing the hearts and minds of people in a democracy," Aiken told Tubbs twice before sentencing him to 12 years and seven months in federal prison.

Tubbs is the second of 10 members of the Family, a Eugene-based cell of the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, to face sentencing in U.S. District Court after pleading guilty to conspiracy and arson charges connected to a string of 20 arsons in five states that did a total of $40 million in damage.

Tubbs and his fiancee, Michelle Pace, made emotional pleas for mercy, but Aiken said Tubbs was trying to minimize his responsibility and could have been much more effective in helping save wild horses from slaughter by starting a fund to buy them and using them in programs with children.

Aiken said it was "profoundly and palpably sad" that she had eight more people to sentence who had wasted their lives by choosing violence rather than raising public awareness about threats to animals and the environment.

Aiken noted that the torching of SUVs in the Portland area this week was evidence that the misguided motives of radicals like Tubbs lived on. Portland police arrested three people in the fires and said they were not connected to the sentencing of Tubbs and others this week.

Defense attorney Marc Friedman characterized Tubbs as a gentle young man from Nebraska who once worked for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals organizing demonstrations against killing livestock and came to Eugene with his girlfriend to work for the Earth First! Journal, but soon found himself living in his car and "Dumpster diving" for food.

Tubbs met Jacob Ferguson, who set the Oakridge fire, at a Eugene park where Ferguson was helping hand out food to street people, and they became friends, Friedman said.

Tubbs became depressed when his girlfriend began an affair with another environmental activist, and felt he needed to get involved in violent acts to win her back, Friedman added. After he fell in love again in 2001, Tubbs told his fellow arsonists he was through and was living a productive life, looking forward to having a family, Friedman said.

Friedman acknowledged that Tubbs had identified the Cavel West Inc. horse slaughterhouse as a target after learning that wild horses were killed there for meat, but said Tubbs had no idea when he drove Ferguson and his girlfriend to Oakridge that they would set the ranger station on fire. Friedman said Tubbs took part in the other fires out of loyalty to Ferguson, his only friend in Eugene.

His voice choked with emotion, Tubbs read from a statement saying he was deeply sorry for causing harm to others, particularly after hearing from the two Oakridge Ranger District employees about the fear and pain he caused them.

Acknowledging that it was no excuse, Tubbs said he was motivated by hopelessness and desperation over cruelty to animals and destruction of the Earth.

"I am disgusted, sickened, saddened, and totally ashamed that I played any part in any of the incidents," he said.

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