Jeff Luers Only Has Himself to Blame for Long Prison Term

Dylan Kay has written an amusingly inept and contradictory defense of his convicted arsonist Jeff Luers for Satya magazine. Luers was sentenced to more than 22 years in jail for several arsons he carried out in June 2000 in Oregon.

Kay wants readers to think that there is something odd about the length of Luers’ sentence. Kay writes,

Jeff was slapped with a 22.5 year sentence — which was not only longer than his lifetime at that point, but is one usually reserved for the most heinous of crimes like rape and murder, not acts of property destruction.

Jeff’s sentence has been criticized for its length [nice use of the passive voice], given that in Oregon, most arsonists receive sentences of 50 to 96 months; Jeff got over 230.

. . .

From the prosecutor’s actions, it seemed that Jeff was a trophy conviction — one that would deter future actions and allay criticism of Oregon’s inability to solve cases of property destruction by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF).

So why did the judge sentence Luers to such a long period in jail? Because, as Kay admits just a few paragraphs later, the judge had no choice. Under mandatory minimums in place in Oregon, the judge was forced to give Luers a long minimum sentence,

After five days of trial, Judge Lyle Velure found Jeff guilty of 11 of 13 charges. Because of Oregon’s mandatory minimum sentencing guideline [sic], Jeff received a seven year mandatory sentence for each car burned as well as charges of possession of incendiary devices and attempted arson — totaling 22 years and eight months.

If there are mandatory minimums, why do most arsonists only receive 50 to 96 months? Probably because they don’t make the same stupid mistake that Luers did — insisting on going to trial in the face of overwhelming evidence of his guilt. Luers’ co-defendant, Craig Marshall, did precisely this — accepting a plea bargain and ending up with a sentence of just 5 years.

Kay’s article concludes with this amusing flourish,

This is a pivotal case for activists nationwide because it is setting the tone for how actions in defense of the Earth that injure no people will be viewed by the public and punished by the state. Prior to Jeff’s case, activists getting arrested for actions like arson or liberating animals could expect sentences of about five years or so. Jeff’s sentence is a radical departure from that model and goes hand in hand with the manner in which these actions are described by the government and media. What was once ‘direct action’ has been transformed into ‘eco-terrorism,’ and now we are seeing more often simply the term ‘terrorism’ being used. Legislators on the state and federal levels are pushing for strong anti-terrorism legislation, and are drafting the bills in such a way that actions like Jeff’s are included and punished severely—which also serves as a deterrent for future actions. Over and over, letters printed in areas in which actions occur are stating that they are one and the same with the terrorism of groups like al-Qaeda. If we want to get anywhere, we are going to have to combat this misrepresentation of our actions and not allow people that get arrested and imprisoned to fade away and be forgotten.

Of course the only people who ever referred to these as “direct actions” were the idiot extremists themselves. The media and law enforcement have regularly referred to ELF and ALF actions for what they really are — domestic acts of terrorism.


Free Free: The Case of Jeff Luers. Dylan Kay, Satya, January 2004.

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