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Eco-Saboteur Gets Five-Year Sentence

Rebecca Rubin participated in removing dogs from a California testing facility and in releasing wild horses from an Oregon BLM facility where the mustangs were held before some were auctioned for slaughter. Rubin also aided in burning down that BLM facility and another wild horse facility in Litchfield, Calif., according to a government sentencing memo. From her 2006 indictment for what the U.S. government has labeled “eco-terrorism” until 2012 when she turned herself in, Rubin was a fugitive. On Jan. 27, Eugene federal judge Ann Aiken sentenced Rubin to five years in prison. The government had recommended seven and a half years.

Eugene’s Civil Liberties Defense Center calls “the federal government’s ongoing prosecution of environmental and animal rights activists” the Green Scare. The CLDC says that includes “the government, corporations and politicians labeling activists as ‘eco-terrorists’ and national security threats and giving them long prison sentences.”

Rubin apologized for her participation in the eco-sabotage in court and in a letter to the judge, but the government cited her years as a fugitive in Canada and her not giving the names of other participants as reasons for asking for a longer sentence. Joseph Dibee and Josephine Overaker are the last remaining defendants in what the FBI calls “Operation Backfire,” and they remain at large. 

According to her letter to Aiken, Rubin was a fugitive because “I was terrified to be compared to Osama bin Laden in the media, and to have my picture on ‘Most Wanted Terrorist’ posters” and feared 30 years to life in prison. Rubin writes that as a child, books such as Charlotte’s Web had an effect on her, and when she committed her acts of eco-sabotage, “I believed my only motivation was my deep love for the Earth; I now understand that impatience, anger, egotism and self-righteousness were also involved.”

Aiken also sentenced Rubin to read Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath and UO professor Mary Wood’s Nature’s Trust. Aiken previously required another Operation Backfire defendant to read Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea.

The government asked for the  “terrorism enhancement” for her animal rights and ecologically motivated crimes, and several others who served time in prison under Operation Backfire were given the terrorism label. The t the Eastern Oregon slaughterhouse that was also burned was never rebuilt.

This story has been updated.