Ms. Zacher and Mr. Block, both of Olympia, Washington, have been in custody since February for an alleged arson in 2001. Their arrest resulted from a bargain struck between federal authorities and one or more individuals previously arrested for the same alleged crimes. The previously arrested informants claim Zacher and Block's involvement out of hope for future leniency.
The Bush Administration continued to describe the alleged crimes as "terrorism" despite the fact that none of the defendants have been formally charged as such and no injuries or casualties occurred. In fact, Judge Coffin stated that he believes these are "arson cases, pure and simple". However, the judge denied bail despite the fact that Block and Zacher presumably meet the legal standard for bail. Neither fled or hid after others were arrested in December and no weapons were found at their homes.
The grand jury is investigating acts of sabotage linked to the underground ELF and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). There have been grand juries convened in San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Colorado affecting a broad sweep of environmental and animal activists suspected of property damage. The May 2001 fire occurred at the Jefferson Poplar Farm on the Oregon Coast. The "Earth Liberation Front" (ELF) claimed responsibility, citing the farm as a location for field experimentation with trees genetically engineered to grow unnaturally fast that could contaminate native forests.
Alejandro Queral, executive director of the NW Constitutional Rights Center said: "The federal prosecutor continues to refer to these cases as 'terrorism' and is seeking life imprisonment for the defendants even when the judge clearly sees them as 'arson'. This is a thinly veiled political persecution and the U.S. Attorney's Office is using these cases of property destruction as its perfect excuse."
Judge Coffin cited "new information" describing Block and Zacher as being willing to participate in increased violence, despite the fact that no specific statements about violence were credited to them.
US Attorney Engdall cited "philosophical discussions" during a 2001 book club meeting and vague statements from other defendants under coercive pressure to give information. The prosecutor also cited alleged philosophical leanings of deceased defendant Bill Rodgers of Arizona.
Coffin allowed Block and Zacher could come back to the court with arguments for bail release again.