British Columbia

North Vancouver woman pleads guilty in eco-terrorism case

A North Vancouver woman accused of taking part in eco-terrorist firebombings pleaded guilty Thursday to arson and conspiracy charges in U.S. Federal Court.

Rebecca Rubin, 40, spent 7 years on the run after a series of arson attacks

This undated file photo provided by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office in Portland, Ore., shows Canadian citizen Rebecca Rubin. (Multnomah County Sheriff's Office/Associated Press)

The North Vancouver woman at the centre of a seven-year manhunt, whose face graced wanted posters around the Pacific Northwest, cast a smaller shadow Thursday on a slow walk to her defence table in a Portland, Ore., federal courtroom.

Now a decade removed from her membership in the eco-terrorism group "The Family," 40-year-old Rebecca Rubin stood slender and erect in her blue jail jumpsuit.

At 10:57 a.m. PT, she said the words she's been dodging since authorities offered a $50,000 reward for her capture.

"Guilty," she said, in a voice so soft a judge had to ask her to speak up.

It was the first of three admissions of guilt she made Thursday to arson and conspiracy charges, and with them, consented to give up at least five years of her freedom. She will be sentenced on Jan. 27.

7 years on the run

Rubin's plea was the latest admission of wrongdoing by members of "The Family" in a series of arsons across three Western states from 1996 to 2001 that did $40 million in damage.

Ten people pleaded guilty in 2007 to conspiracy and arson charges and were sentenced to prison. Two others indicted in the case remain at large.

Her attorney, Richard Troberman, described her seven years on the run as "a prison without walls."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Peifer laid out the factual basis for the charges against her, beginning with the freeing of wild horses from a federal horse-slaughter facility in Oregon in 1997. Other members of the group planted incendiary devices — the indictment doesn't specify the type of devices — which burned the facility.

In 1998, Rebecca Rubin allegedly helped prepare for an arson at a Colorado ski resort. The attempt didn't work, but the targeted building was later burned in a separate arson attack. (FBI)

He then described a December 1998 incident, when Rubin helped ferry equipment for an attempted arson at a U.S. Forest Industries building in Oregon, and later that year, helped prepare for an arson at a Colorado ski resort. Neither attempt worked, but both buildings were later burned in separate environmentally motivated fires.

In the final act for which she's charged, Rubin, a Canadian citizen, freed horses at a federal wild horse facility in California before other members of the group set a barn on fire.

Terrorism accusation 'unfair'

Rubin is not specifically charged with terrorism, but the indictment alleges that she and other members of "The Family" tried to influence businesses and the government and tried to retaliate against the government.

The terrorism allegation serves as a potential enhancement to her sentence, something her attorney calls "grossly unfair."

Troberman said Thursday that Rubin tried to surrender in 2009, but California authorities at first pushed for a 30-year sentence, one she found too long.

But by 2012, when Troberman checked again, he said he found prosecutors amenable to a deal and on Nov. 29, Rubin walked across the Peace Arch border crossing and surrendered to U.S. authorities in Blaine, Wash.

At sentencing, Troberman said he plans to introduce the idea that Rubin has changed since her 20s.

"Of course she feels remorse," Troberman said after the plea hearing. "She's a very different person."

As part of her plea agreement, Rubin agreed to "disclosure sessions" with the U.S. Attorney's Office for Oregon, something Troberman said she's already done and would continue to do if asked. The sessions do not require her to name or give the locations of any of her co-conspirators — including two still on the run — but do require her to remember conversations and describe events to the best of her memory.

She would be subject to a polygraph test if prosecutors request one, and the U.S. Attorney's Office has final say over whether she has co-operated to their satisfaction.

"Look, she's 40 years old now," Troberman said. "There's no question in my mind her motives were always pure, but her methods were not."

With files from CBC News


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