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Come Support Waters - She Testifies Wednesday

Briana Waters is expected to take the stand in her own defense as early as Wednesday, February 27, in Tacoma's federal courthouse (1717 Pacific Ave.). Ms. Waters is on trial for allegedly acting as a lookout during the arson of the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001. Ms. Waters, a 32-year-old mother and violin teacher, steadfastly maintains her innocence.
Civil Rights Outreach Committee

For Release: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008
Contacts:
Kassey Baker, 360-561-5261
Lauren Regan, AAL, Civil Liberties Defense Center, 541-687-9180

Woman Stands Up Against Her Own Harsh Federal Prosecution

Tacoma, WA - Briana Waters is expected to take the stand in her own defense as early as Wednesday, February 27, in Tacoma's federal courthouse (1717 Pacific Ave.). Ms. Waters is on trial for allegedly acting as a lookout during the arson of the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001. Ms. Waters, a 32-year-old mother and violin teacher, steadfastly maintains her innocence.

If convicted, Waters faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 35 years in prison. This trial is another chapter in the federal government's "Operation Backfire," also dubbed the "Green Scare," in which the government has hounded the environmental activist community, overcharged a number of individuals, and branded them as terrorists, even though none of the events resulted in a single injury.

The prosecution rested its case against Ms. Waters on Friday, February 22, after two weeks. The government's case is not based upon any concrete or forensic evidence, but instead almost entirely relied on the testimony of two informants who confessed to setting the University of Washington fire and who will receive vastly reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony.

The defense began presenting its case on Monday, February 25, and is expected to conclude by the end of the week. The defense impeached several of the government's witnesses, including the informants, by demonstrating that their accounts are inconsistent and unreliable. "Several witnesses were clearly testifying in order to reduce or eliminate the government's threat of their own lengthy prison sentences," said attorney Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center of Eugene, Oregon.

The defendant who admitted to over a dozen arsons in the Oregon conspiracy, Jacob Ferguson, will receive no punishment at all as a result of his extensive cooperation with the government. Stan Meyerhoff, who admitted to playing a leadership role in setting numerous fires across the country was sentenced to approximately 10 years. Regan continued, "Waters, who is solely alleged to have held a radio as a lookout, faces three times the punishment of these much more serious arsonists simply because she has plead not guilty and exercised her constitutional right to a jury trial. Such severe punishment does not fit the alleged crime and once again demonstrates the government's true intentions in scaring the public into submission and apathy."

The government is placing politics before justice and community safety by charging Ms. Waters and her codefendants with Draconian criminal statutes that carry disproportionate punishments. Whether a person burns a building for personal gain or a stated political reason, the US Constitution ensures equal protection under the law. Both must be prosecuted and punished equally. Further, the government must not punish citizens for exercising their rights to a fair trial.

"Briana Waters is innocent, a victim of the government's rabid persecution of environmental activists under the guise of fighting terrorism. The idea that this nonviolent mom is facing 35 years behind bars for something she didn't do is outrageous," said Jim Flynn of the Civil Rights Outreach Committee. "Doesn't our government have more serious crimes and national security threats to prosecute than an alleged incident of property damage that did not physically harm anyone."

Copies of a press packet with current related articles and background information are available from  civilrightsoutreach@gmail.com. For more information, go to www.cldc.org.

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