Radical enviro gets prison term | AspenTimes.com

Radical enviro gets prison term

William McCall
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

EUGENE, Ore. ” A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced the last of 10 radical environmentalists convicted of arson to just over four years in prison for his role in burning down a horse slaughterhouse in Central Oregon.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken stuck to her initial sentence of 51 months for Jonathan Paul after a two-month delay to hear arguments for a lesser term.

Aiken dismissed the arguments from Paul’s attorney, Marc Blackman, calling them “patently incorrect” and reminding him that discretion is “a double-edged sword” that allows judges to increase or reduce a sentence, depending on the circumstances of an individual case.

She also told Paul and his attorney that they, like the other nine defendants, “should thank their lucky stars that there were plea agreements in this case,” suggesting that all of them could have been sentenced to longer terms.

Paul, 41, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy and arson for a fire that destroyed the Cavel West horse slaughterhouse in Redmond in July 1997.

He was a member of a radical environmental cell of the Earth Liberation Front that was called “The Family.” His sentencing caps an investigation into a string of arsons across five Western states from 1996 to 2001.

Aiken ordered Paul to read the book “Three Cups of Tea,” an autobiographical account of the life of Greg Mortenson, who has been working to build schools in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

She said the book serves as an inspirational message against violence, and she ordered Paul to submit a book report before he begins his prison term in about two months.

Paul made a statement in court, again renouncing his involvement with arson and warning others about the dangers of violent tactics ” especially after his own experience with dangerous fires as a volunteer firefighter in Southern Oregon since 2001.

He made a similar statement on the courthouse steps later, but he promised to continue working on environmental issues and animal rights.

“I have no other choice,” Paul told a small crowd of supporters who applauded. “It is in my DNA.”

Before his arrest in January 2006 by a state and federal task force called “Operation Backfire,” Paul was a prominent animal rights activist, trying, for example, to block whaling by the Makah tribe in Washington state.

Paul is the younger brother of twin sisters Alexandra Paul, a star of the former TV series “Baywatch,” and Caroline Paul, an author and former San Francisco firefighter.