British Columbia

B.C. 'eco-terrorism' suspect to plead guilty in U.S.

A B.C. woman connected to what the FBI calls the largest case of domestic terrorism in U.S. history is expected to plead guilty to all but the most serious of 10 charges against her.

Accused 'eco-terrorist' surrenders

CBC News Vancouver at 6

8 years ago
A Canadian suspected in several eco-terrorism attacks turned herself over to the FBI 2:22

A  B.C. woman connected to what the FBI calls the largest case of domestic terrorism in U.S. history is expected to plead guilty to all but the most serious of 10 charges against her.

Rebecca Rubin, 39, turned herself in to U.S. authorities at the border in Blaine, Wash., on Thursday after working out a plea agreement for her part in a series of spectacular arsons more than a decade ago.

According to the FBI, the Canadian citizen was one of more than a dozen members of a cell of the Earth Liberation Front, a radical group that firebombed businesses and government buildings across five U.S. states in the name of defending the environment.

The charges against Rubin are related to the firebombing of wild horse corrals in Oregon and California, and setting fire to a ski resort in Colorado between 1996 and 2001.

No one was killed in the fires, but they did cause an estimated $40 million in damage.

In 2008, the FBI offered a $50,000 reward for tips leading to Rubin's arrest, noting she may have been living in Nelson, B.C. In 2009, the agency issued at second bulletin saying she might be in Vancouver.

Approached RCMP in 2009

Vancouver lawyer Ian Donaldson said Rubin approached him three years ago looking to turn herself in, but the RCMP did not seem too interested in arresting her.

Donaldson said his client was not taken into custody by the RCMP at that time. Instead she spent the next three years working out a plea agreement, according to her U.S. lawyer.

Donaldson did not say where Rubin had been living in Canada, but did say she decided to turn herself in to deal with the charges so she could move on with her life.

In 2008 and 2009 the FBI issued bulletins saying Rebecca Rubin was likely hiding out in B.C. ((FBI))

"She's certainly remorseful for her actions and feels ashamed of decisions she made. I think that as is the case with many people with the benefit of maturity you see some of your former actions very differently," Donaldson said.

Plea deal took 3 years

Rubin's Oregon lawyer, Rick Troberman, said working out Rubin's plea agreement with U.S. prosecutors took time.

"Rebecca has concluded — and rightfully so — it's time to put this matter behind her. I'm comfortable we will work out a reasonable deal."

Troberman said Rubin will plead guilty to all but the most serious charge of using a destructive device, which carries a mandatory 30-year prison term.

Oregon Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Peifer confirmed Rubin is co-operating with authorities.

"It's very significant that she's decided to co-operate and turn herself in," he said.

After making an appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Thursday, Rubin is expected to be transferred in custody to Oregon to face trial.

10 co-conspirators sentenced already

In 2007, 10 of Rubin's co-conspirators were sentenced to prison sentences ranging from three to 13 years. Two were sent to special Communications Management Units (CMU) normally reserved for al Qaeda-type terrorists.

Rubin's U.S. lawyer said it is unlikely she will be sent to a CMU prison, where communication and visits are severely restricted, because of her plea agreement, but she can expect a similar sentence after she pleads guilty in Oregon to most of the charges.

Rubin is facing eight counts of arson in the Oct. 19, 1998, fires that destroyed Two Elk Lodge and other buildings at the Vail ski area in Eagle County, Colo.

She was also charged in California with conspiracy, arson, and using a destructive device in the Oct. 15, 2001, fire at the BLM Litchfield Wild Horse and Burro Corrals near Susanville, Calif.

Each count of arson and attempted arson carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, up to a maximum of 20 years.

Use of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of 30 years in prison.

Conspiracy carries a maximum sentence of five years. Each count in the three indictments carries a potential fine of up to $250,000.

With files from the CBC's Curt Petrovich