PSU student pleads guilty; 4 other activists face arraignment
It was a tough week for Portland's self-described 'forest kids.'
An ongoing crackdown on so-called 'ecoterrorism' has brought a slew of new concerns for the youthful protesters who actively oppose the logging of public lands. Among them:
• Four anti-logging activists will be arraigned later this month for blocking logging operations in Mount Hood National Forest in September.
• A 20-year-old Portland State University student pleaded guilty Tuesday to burning logging and mining trucks. He is expected to serve 41 months in federal prison.
• The hunt for Ÿber-activist and former congressional candidate Tre Arrow continues amid reports that he is suspected of torching a research laboratory in Pennsylvania in addition to two alleged arsons in and around Portland.
Kelly Stoner, executive director of the Wilsonville-based Stop Eco-Violence, said Tuesday's guilty plea by Jacob Sherman of Southeast Portland is 'evidence that we are slowly starting to push back on this form of violent crime,' she said. 'This sends a clear message to other would-be ecoterrorists out there that they will be held accountable.'
Portland attorney Alan Graf countered: 'I find it really objectionable to call any of these people terrorists. Even the guy who admitted setting those fires. You can't compare property crimes to something like the World Trade Center, where thousands of innocent civilians were killed. I disagree entirely with people who do vandalism, but also you have to look at the vandalism of the big lumber companies that are devastating our ancient forests.'
In his plea, Sherman admitted to setting fire to mining trucks owned by Ross Island Sand & Gravel and logging trucks owned by Ray Schoppert Logging Co. 'I accept full responsibility for my actions,' Sherman wrote in his plea agreement. He will be sentenced in February.
Sherman cooperated with the government for several months before pleading guilty. Two other co-defendants in the logging truck arson, PSU students Jeremy Rosenbloom and Angela Cesario, are pleading not guilty to all charges. Their trial is scheduled for Feb. 24.
The fourth co-defendant, Tre Arrow (who also is known as Michael Scarpitti), remains at large, nearly five months after the federal government first put out a warrant for his arrest.
Meanwhile, four other activists are scheduled to be arraigned in Clackamas County Court on Dec. 17 for blocking logging operations in Mount Hood National Forest. They are John Felsner, Namorta Dosanjh, Matthew Ritzinger and Lindsey Krieger.
Volunteers for Cascadia Forest Alliance, the Portland-based environmental collective that specializes in acts of civil disobedience in the woods, would not comment on the Sherman plea, but they have consistently stated that they do not condone acts of sabotage. That's not the case with the Earth Liberation Front. This loosely knit, underground group claimed responsibility for the Portland mining truck arson in an e-mail that proclaimed, 'Let this be a warning to all the greedy corporations who exploit the Earth's natural resources.'
According to the FBI, ELF has caused $43 million worth of damage through economic sabotage since 1997.
ELF also has claimed responsibility for an arson in August that caused $700,000 worth of damage to a U.S. Forest Service lab in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania.
Because Tre Arrow reportedly was staying with a friend in Pittsburgh at the time of the arson, he reportedly is a suspect in that blaze as well.
Portland writer Randall Sullivan, who profiled Arrow in the Dec. 12 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, said an agent for the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms confirmed to him that Arrow was a suspect in the Pennsylvania blaze.
No indictment has been issued in the Pennsylvania case. FBI and ATF officials would not comment on the record about the ongoing investigation.