Oregon man faces longest sentence for environmental sabotage
EUGENE, Ore. – Stanislas Meyerhoff’s attorneys say he got involved with an arson-committing cell of the Earth Liberation Front out of love for another radical environmentalist. Federal prosecutors say he was a “career anarchist” and should be sentenced as a terrorist.Meyerhoff’s motives will be considered when he goes before a federal judge for sentencing on Tuesday.Federal prosecutors say Meyerhoff, also known as “Country Boy,” was a key figure in the ELF cell that carried out a series of arsons and other crimes across the West in the name of protecting the environment. They included attacks on a Vail, Colo., ski resort; national forest ranger stations; meatpacking plants; research laboratories; lumber company offices; a tree farm; and an auto dealership.Meyerhoff was involved in 21 criminal acts over three years, ranging from vandalism to arson and conspiracy to commit murder, according to federal prosecutors.Meyerhoff will be the first of 10 militants sentenced in the government’s Operation Backfire case. The others will be sentenced over the next few weeks. All 10 have pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and arson.The federal government has recommended that Meyerhoff be sentenced to 15 years and 8 months in prison.With the exception of Kevin Tubbs, facing 14 years, and Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, facing 10 years, the rest of the co-defendants face sentences ranging from less than eight years to just over three years.The federal government is also asking U.S. Judge Ann Aiken to declare Meyerhoff and the nine others to be terrorists. Attorneys for the 10 say they are not terrorists, because they took precautions not to harm anyone.Practically speaking, a ruling they are terrorists is not likely to boost the time they spend behind bars. Prosecution recommendations, which balance the seriousness of the crimes against how much defendants cooperate with investigators, already include it. But it could send them to tougher prisons.A government sentencing memo said Meyerhoff, who turns 30 next month, became a “troubled and violent individual, and a career anarchist.””His crime spree resulted in the loss of thousands of hours of scientific research, millions of dollars in property damage and jobs and family incomes of the personnel of affected businesses and government facilities,” the document states.According to the memo, Meyerhoff was a “leader and organizer of arsons.”It says he developed “newer and more effective destructive devices” used in the arson attacks, helped write manuals describing how to make incendiary devices “for use against businesses and government,” and traveled across the country “to teach others how to use such devices to destroy university research facilities.”When the group’s arson attacks failed to change government policies, he and another key member of the cell – William C. Rodgers – “had discussions” about assassinations, the memo states.Rodgers took his own life in an Arizona jail after his arrest in 2005, the year the roundup of members of the cell began.In their own sentencing memorandum, Meyerhoff’s attorneys describe him as a “foot soldier, applying his analytical mind to the technical challenges of constructing crude timing devices and the logistics of carrying out the actions, but never alone selecting the targets, nor authoring the communiques claiming credit.”They also argue that he got involved with the ELF cell because he had fallen in love with Gerlach and wanted to prove himself to her as an “eco-warrior,” and because he had always struggled to fit in with his peers and was looking for acceptance.Federal authorities had struggled for years to round up the radicals. They finally did it after persuading one of them – Jake Ferguson – to wear a wire. Although Ferguson was also involved in the crimes, so far he has not been indicted.Meyerhoff was raised in Arizona. As a teenager, he moved in with an aunt in Eugene, according to his attorneys’ sentencing memo.Meyerhoff tried and failed to find acceptance within the local punk rock scene, the document states. He found friendship with Gerlach, who attended the same high school. He moved into a cheap apartment with her and they got their food partly by “Dumpster diving,” the document states.Through Gerlach he eventually got to know radicals like Rodgers, the document says.The ELF cell disbanded in 2001. Meyerhoff’s attorneys say he then rejected the “meaningless destruction wreaked by the ELF” and decided he wanted to “join the middle class.”He enrolled at Central Oregon Community College in Bend and got a job at a fencing company. He moved to Virginia in 2005 and enrolled at the Piedmont Virginia Community College.Authorities arrested Meyerhoff at the entrance to the college on Dec. 7, 2005, more than four years after his last arson. Meyerhoff’s attorneys say he has fully cooperated with federal investigators.
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