Former Alt-Weekly Reporter Pleads Guilty to Arson

October 4, 2006


Both Present at Arson; One Cut Glass to Gain Access to the Building

JENNIFER L. KOLAR, 33, of Seattle, Washington and LACEY PHILLABAUM, 31, of Spokane, Washington pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Tacoma today in connection with the May 21, 2001 arson at the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture. The two are previously unnamed co-conspirators in a string of arsons and destructive crimes across the western United States claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

KOLAR pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Arson, two counts of Arson, and Using a Destructive Device During a Crime of Violence. PHILLABAUM pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Arson, one count of Arson, and Use of a Destructive Device During a Crime of Violence.

Under the terms of their plea agreements, KOLAR faces a sentence of five to seven years in prison. PHILLABAUM faces three to five years in prison.

“These defendants committed these crimes when they were young adults, and now are discovering there is a high price to pay, surrendering their freedom for years,” said United States Attorney John McKay. “These violent acts of destruction are not a valid form of political speech. We hope these significant prison terms will dissuade others who mistakenly believe these dangerous and destructive acts will go unpunished.”

According to the statement of facts recited in court this morning, KOLAR was a participant in two arsons: one at the Wray Gun Club in Colorado in October 1998, and the fire at the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture in May 2001. At the UW arson, KOLAR admits she used a knife to cut the glass to gain entry to the office of Professor Toby Bradshaw. A destructive device was then placed in Bradshaw’s office. The fire destroyed the Center for Urban Horticulture. Priceless research and endangered plants were destroyed. It cost more than $7 million to rebuild the facility. The arson at the Wray Gun Club did not go as planned. KOLAR and a co-conspirator broke into the building, spread gasoline around, scattered papers and ripped wall board off the walls. However the timing devices they left to ignite the fire failed. About $1,700 worth of damage was done to the structures.

According to the statements of facts at PHILLABAUM’s plea hearing, she traveled to Olympia the weekend of May 20-21 and joined with other co-conspirators preparing for the UW arson. The group traveled to Seattle where they met up with KOLAR. PHILLABAUM and the others carried the destructive device from the location where it had been hidden earlier in the evening near the Urban Horticulture Center. She remained outside while others went in and set the fire. In addition, PHILLABAUM admits she helped plan or participated in two more “actions” in 2000 and 2001, aimed at destroying what she and co-conspirators believed to be genetically engineered crops. In 2000, PHILLABAUM and co-conspirators destroyed five acres of canola plants being grown by Monsanto in Dusty, Washington. In March 2001, PHILLABAUM and co-conspirators attempted to destroy what they believed were genetically engineered poplar trees grown by Oregon State University at two locations near Corvallis, Oregon. PHILLABAUM called off the action when she thought she saw a vehicle approach. The co-conspirators returned in the next few nights to complete the destruction.

Two others have been charged in connection with the UW arson. BRIANA WATERS, 30, of Berkeley, California and JUSTIN SOLONDZ, 27, most recently of Jefferson County, Washington are charged with Arson, and Using a Destructive Device in a Crime of Violence. SOLONDZ, a fugitive, is charged with Making an Unregistered Firearm (in this case an incendiary bomb) in Olympia, the day before the UW fire. WATERS is charged with Possession of an Unregistered Firearm (an incendiary bomb) also a day before the UW fire. In addition to WATERS, SOLONDZ, KOLAR and PHILLABAUM, a fifth co-conspirator, William C. Rodgers (now deceased) also participated in the UW arson. Rodgers, of Prescott, Arizona was indicted by a federal grand jury in Seattle, but committed suicide December 22, 2005, while being held in the Coconino County Jail in Prescott, AZ.

Finally, one more co-conspirator has been indicted in the Western District of Washington in connection with the conspiracy. JOSEPH M. DIBEE, 38, previously of Seattle, was indicted by a grand jury last week for Possession of an Unregistered Device and Possession of a Destructive Device in Connection to a Crime of Violence. According to the indictment, DIBEE, who is a fugitive, made the destructive devices in the Western District of Washington in October 2001. The devices were then transported and used in the arson of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Litchfield Wild Horse and Burro Corrals in Susanville, California.

An indictment contains allegations that have not yet been proven at trial beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.

These indictments and pleas were the result of a nine-year investigation of numerous arsons in the Northwest and elsewhere. In many of the fires the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF) claimed responsibility. Participating in the extensive investigation were the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the Eugene Police Department, the University of Washington Police Department and other state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The Western Washington indictments are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Friedman and First Assistant United States Attorney Mark Bartlett. For additional information, please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington, at (206) 553-4110.