Thank you for letting me address the court today.
A lot of horrible things have been said about me today and I would like to offer some additional information. I do not blame anyone else for my actions or words. It is not anyone else's fault that I engaged in burning Superior Lumber and Jefferson Poplar Farms. Not my codefendants, either living or dead, nor my parents. No one forced me into it and I was fully cognizant of what I was doing at the time.
However, this does not mean I am ok with what I did. I am not. I feel deep regret for the actions because they have frightened people. Although I now know it is hard for people to believe, my intention at the time was to be provocative and make a statement, not to put individual people in fear. It pains me now to think that I did not see at the time that these arsons would obviously cause fear. I have read in the newspaper and heard from my lawyers about the victims who testified and talked about how scared they were. This was very upsetting and it made me quite ashamed of myself. I thought of my sister Lisa and how she would feel if someone burned down her place of employment-how pictures of my niece and family would be destroyed, and it stung. To the workers at Jefferson Poplar and Superior Lumber, I am truly sorry for the damage I did and the fear I caused you.
I was a lookout for the arson at Superior Lumber and while I am as responsible as anyone else, I was insulated in some ways from the incident. While I saw the actual building, I did not set the devices nor was I involved in their creation. It made it seem less real to me. Even when I heard the alarm over the radio, it still did not seem real. My participation at Jefferson Poplar, a few months later was completely different - it freaked me out badly. I remember standing there in the middle of the vehicle shop feeling dizzy from the fumes emanating from the gasoline and wondering, "how did I get to be standing here right now"? My decision to leave the Earth Liberation Front was crystallizing in that moment. I attended a meeting weeks later but I was so disenchanted by my involvement in that action, by the real world ramifications of the arson at Romania and how it affected my friend and discussions about violence.
It is hard to hear tapes of conversations I had with Jacob Ferguson, where I speak with false bravado about our past together. There are no tapes of some of my most private thoughts, about how I got sick to my stomach before these acts, about the fear and discomfort I hid from my friends and family. None of it is an excuse, but I want you to know, Judge Aiken, that when I became involved in the arsons, it was after being involved in environmental activism for a few years, and at a time when I felt utterly desperate as my attempts to change anything failed almost always. Moving to Oregon changed my life as it is so beautiful and the forests are amazing. There is nothing like it on the planet and it caused me great pain to see the old growth forests being logged. I wish I had the answers for how to fix this problem but I didn't and I took the easy way out. I allowed myself to choose extreme tactics because I felt the environmental situation in the world was getting more and more dire by the day. Things I spoke about and thought about how to fix 7 years ago are being discussed on television and online now and it gives me some hope. At the time though, I was feeling quite hopeless. This seems now to be a hollow excuse for my actions. But it is the truth.
When I got back from a trip to Canada, I made a resolution to myself. I wanted to settle down in a community and do above-ground and community based activism. I had been already been engaged in this sort of activism while I was destroying property. I now wanted to stop the illegal actions and concentrate on positive, solution-based activism. I am lucky to have met my wife Jenny when I was visiting home. I decided to move back home to NYC, I quickly found employment at a rainforest and indigenous rights foundation, organized computer recycling events and open air free markets. Since 2005, I have worked as a website assistant for a domestic violence organization that helps women escape from horrible situations.
My life since my arrest has been tumultuous and I have been trying to make the best of a bad situation. Although I had to abandon my acupuncture program, I recently was accepted to Antioch University McGregor's distance learning masters program and I will be finishing my first quarter on June 15th. I hope to apply my education in ways that will further my goals of environmental preservation and protection of human rights. I also intend to make the best of my incarceration and utilize my education to help my fellow prisoners with legal, educational and translation issues.
Your honor, I hope you can see that I have turned away from a path of destruction a long time ago. I accept the fact I will be imprisoned and will do in prison what I do out here-try to make the lives of those around me better. After all this is done, I hope to be released and continue positive activism in my community once again and be a good role model and uncle to my two nieces and a good husband to my wife Jenny.
I want to thank my family, friends and community for standing with me through this very difficult time.