One of the more fascinating aspects of animal rights and environmental acts of violence are those in relatively mainstream liberal and environmental circles who choose to excuse and diminish the nature and scope of such crimes. Former UPI reporter Kelly Hearn typifies such fellow travelers, especially in his use of extremely deceptive reporting on one such act.
Hearn opens an article published by Alternet by comparing the sentence received by one eco-terrorist to that received by a young man convicted of rape and assault,
A remorseless rapist in Hamilton County, Ohio is sentenced to 15 years in prison for beating and raping a 57-year-old woman. An environmental activist in California is sentenced to 22 years and 8 months for burning three SUVs at a car dealership after taking precautions to harm no lives.
The disparity helps illustrates [sic] what animal rights and environmental groups say is an expanding Orwellian attack on American environmentalism being waged under the pretext of eco-terrorism.
Of course, the only thing genuinely Orwellian is how utterly deceptive and factually incorrect the above two paragraphs are. They are so deceptive, in fact, that either Hearn did not actually do any original research about either of the young men he mentions, or he is lying through omission in order to make the cause of violent animal rights and environmental extremists seem more palatable to Alternet’s liberal readers.
The first paragraph above is the only reference made to these incidents, which helpfully makes it difficult for casual readers to verify what Hearn says. Who is this environmental activist who was sentenced to 22 years in California? Who is this remorseless rapist from Ohio? Did Hearn get their stories right?
For those who follow the extremists in the animal rights and environmental movement, its obvious that the environmental activist Hearn is referring to is Jeffrey Luers. But Hearn’s description of Luers’ well-deserved predicament is deceptive.
Luers, of course, was convicted in Oregon, not California. And in addition to being convicted of setting fire to three SUVs, he was also convicted of attempting to set fire to gasoline tanker and to possession of incendiary devices.
All of these details are important for understanding an odd circumstance that Hearn cannot be bothered to mention — Luers partner in these arsons, Craig Marshall, was sentenced to just 5 years. If prosecutors wanted to wage a war against environmentalism, it is a bit odd, to say the least, that they would let Marshall off so easily.
The difference, of course, is that Marshall accepted a plea bargain in which he plead to lesser charges. Luers was also offered a plea bargain but rejected it despite the abundant evidence of his guilt.
Luers, instead, decided to roll the dice and go to trial. Luers was well aware what he was possibly facing. Oregon’s Measure 11 sets strict mandatory minimums, and Luers and his lawyers knew full well that if convicted on most of the charges, he would spend a very long time in jail, much of it without the possibility of parole. Luers gambled, and lost, with his freedom both when he set those fires and then in facing the legal system for those crimes.
So, now that we’ve got a bit better picture of Luers’ predicament than Hearn could be bothered to present, what about that Ohio rapist. Presumably Hearn is writing about Terrell Wilkins, whom prosecutor Steve Tolbert said, “(He) might be the most dangerous human being I’ve ever prosecuted in all these years.”
In 2003, then 17-year-old Wilkins assaulted and raped his 57-year-old literacy tutor. He was reportedly angry that she decided to end their tutoring session early.
Wilkins plead no contest to rape and assault charges, and was sentenced to six years in prison for assault and nine years for the rape charge. The 15 years was just three short of the maximum 18 years he could have been sentenced to.
Why didn’t Wilkins get more time? The news reports on Wilkins’ case, unfortunately, do not give a lot of information on this point, but there are a number of possibilities. Wilkins plead “no contest” to the charges shortly before his trial was to begin, suggesting he may have reached a plea bargain with prosecutors.
Second, Wilkins did not use a weapon of any sort during his assault. Ohio statutes for rape and assault — as similar statutes across the country — generally treat acts of violence committed without weapons differently than acts of violence committed with weapons.
Third, Wilkins committed a single, unpremeditated rape. Again, most statutes for rape and assault generally reserve their longest sentences for convicts who fit sexual predator profiles — i.e, those who plan and carry out multiple assaults.
That being said, Hearn offers a false dichotomy. The clear implication of Hearn’s article is that if a brutal assault and rape only garners 15 years in jail in Ohio, a premeditated act of arson in Oregon should not draw an almost 23 year sentence. But the correct conclusion is that Wilkins should have been sentenced to a much longer period in jail, not that Luers’ sentence should have been shorter. Certainly the voters of Ohio can, if they choose, increase the mandatory minimum for violent crimes just as Oregon voters decided to increase the mandatory minimums for violent crimes in their state.
Moreover, Hearn’s defense of animal rights and environmental violence is the latest in a disturbing trend of left-liberals coming to the defense of violent extremists who happen to tangentially share their ideologies. Presumably if Luers and Marshall had torched an abortion clinic, Alternet would not be running an article complaining about the long sentence.
This is why, for example, no one at Alternet complains that Peter Howard received a 15 year sentence just like Wilkins. Howard is an anti-abortion extremist who tried to destroy an abortion clinic. At about 2 a.m. on March 17, 1997, Howard rammed his pickup truck into an abortion clinic. The truck was loaded with 13 gasoline cans and three propane tanks which Howard planned to use to set fire to the building. Howard’s concoction of gasoline and propane failed to ignite, however, and he was apprehended at the scene.
If Hearn wrote that a man who attempted to burn down an abortion clinic received the same sentence as a man who raped and assaulted a woman, thereby demonstrating that the government is persecuting anti-abortion activists in an Orwellian attack, the Alternet editors would file his story in their wastebaskets. Change the ideological cause to environmentalism and animal rights, however, and well, you know . . .it is only arson after all.
Hearn’s article serve the same role that much pro-life propaganda in the 1980s and 1990s did. It attempts to recast those committing acts of arson as the victims, and in the process of excusing and diminishing their crimes also glamorizes them. Jeff Luers, after all, is no longer simply an arsonist who liked to set fire to things, he’s now a victim in an “expanding Orwellian attack on American environmentalism.” Hell, they should probably give that kid a medal, not send him to jail!
Stepping up the attack on green activists. Kelly Hearn, AlterNet, September 30, 2005.
Teen sent to jail for raping tutor. Jennifer Steiner, WCPO.Com, November 18, 2003.
Remorseless rapist gets 15 years. Janice Morse, The Cincinnati Enquirer, November 19, 2003.
Would-be clinic bomber gets 15-year term. Jerry Bier, The Fresno Bee, February 10, 1998.
YWCA rape victim file lawsuit. Jessica Brown, Journal News (Hamilton, Ohio), December 5, 2003.