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Tacoma Jury Convicts Woman of Arson; Hangs on Other Counts (Civil Rights Outreach Ctte.)

Tacoma, WA - A federal jury was unable to reach a decision on conspiracy and transportation of a destructive device but convicted Briana Waters, a 32-year-old mother and violin teacher and former resident of Olympia of arson. The government charged her with being a lookout in connection with the May, 2001 arson of the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington in Seattle. If convicted on all counts, Waters would have faced a sentence of 35 years. The two informants who testified against her in the case, who admitted to participating in the arson, face between three and seven years. Ms. Waters' sentencing is set for May 30.
Civil Rights Outreach Committee

For immediate Release: March 6, 2008
Contacts: Kassey Baker, 360-561-5261
Lauren Regan, Atty, Civil Liberties Defense Center, 541-687-9180

Tacoma Jury Convicts Woman of Arson; Hangs on Other Counts

Tacoma, WA - A federal jury was unable to reach a decision on conspiracy and transportation of a destructive device but convicted Briana Waters, a 32-year-old mother and violin teacher and former resident of Olympia of arson. The government charged her with being a lookout in connection with the May, 2001 arson of the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington in Seattle. If convicted on all counts, Waters would have faced a sentence of 35 years. The two informants who testified against her in the case, who admitted to participating in the arson, face between three and seven years. Ms. Waters' sentencing is set for May 30.

Without any physical evidence linking Ms. Waters directly to the arson, the government built its case on the testimony of the two informants, and a number of pieces of circumstantial evidence. The defense argued that the informants falsely accused Waters in order to avoid 35-year prison sentences themselves, and that their testimony was demonstrably false.

Among the pieces of circumstantial evidence introduced by the government was a folder with a note on the cover from Waters to one of the informants, Jennifer Kolar, containing various radical pamphlets and publications. Prosecutors highlighted the most sensationalist passages in the articles, and sought to ascribe these views to Ms. Waters. Waters testified that she did not write the materials, did not agree with them, and did not pass them to Kolar. The defense argued that the informant must have substituted other articles for the ones that Waters actually put in the folder. While Waters' fingerprints were on the folder, they were not on any of the articles. The government countered that Waters' boyfriend's fingerprints were on the articles, and that he is a "fugitive" suspected of one or more arsons. The defense pointed out that the boyfriend is not on trial.

"The government's case was primarily based on character assassination and guilt by association," said civil rights attorney Ben Rosenfeld, a member of the Board of Directors of the Civil Liberties Defense Center. "Evidence of other people's writings never should never have been allowed to be used against her."

Briana Waters has maintained her innocence to all the charges. An appeal is likely.

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 with a federal firearms enhancement applying to bombs and missiles, and branded them as terrorists, even though none of the events resulted in a single injury.

Central to the jury's consideration of two of the charges against Ms. Waters was the question whether she was responsible for helping to build or transport explosive devices. The jury deadlocked on these charges. During the first stages of the investigation of the "Street of Dreams" fires in a housing development in Snohomish County, WA, officials falsely reported that explosive devices were found. Later, BATF Spokesman Kelvin Crenshaw made that no such devices were found. "It is inconceivable that officials could have made such a mistake. It raises the question of deliberate jury tampering by the government, and also calls into question the reliability of the government's information in general," said Rosenfeld.

Briana Waters has steadfastly maintained her innocence.
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. ###

want clarification 06.Mar.2008 14:50

supporter

I hope someone can clarify what is the maximum potential sentence. AP reported 20 years, Seattle times five years for each count (which seems to add up to ten if sentenced consecutively). Now I see a report that five years is minimum, not maximum. Can someone familiar with sentencing guidelines for arson in federal court please clarify what is the maximum sentence Briana is facing?

p 06.Mar.2008 15:36

p

each arson charge is a minimum of 5 years, but they run together.

"Waters was convicted of arson of a building receiving federal funds and arson of a building used in interstate commerce -- "two prongs" of the same act, according to U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Emily Langlie. The penalties for each run concurrently."

source
 http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/353989_ecoterror07.html?source=mypi

Min and Max sentence 06.Mar.2008 18:13

watching

...it is a mandatory minimum of 5 years with a maximum of 20 years.

terrorism 06.Mar.2008 20:06

gk

With a "war on terrorism," the government is paranoid on this and call ELF people "terrorists." This has a higher fine than it would normally have.