Violent Extremists and the Reporters Who Love Them

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.

June 12 – International Day of Action for Jeff Luers

Supporters of convicted arsonist Jeff Luers are planning an international day of action in solidarity with the extremist who is currently serving a 22 year jail sentence. Luers was convicted for his role in a June 2001 arson at an automobile dealership and May 2000 incident in which he tried to set fire to a gasoline tanker.

According to the release being circulated about the June 12 day of action (emphasis added),

International Day of Action & Solidarity with Jeff ‘Free’ Luers June 12, 2004

June marks the fourth year that our friend and comrade, Jeff “Free” Luers has been imprisoned and held captive by the state. Sentenced to 22 years and 8 months for burning three Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) at Romania Chevrolet in Eugene, Jeff has continued to be active in prison and fight back with his words and inspiration. This June 12, we aim to strengthen his efforts by promoting a day of action and solidarity with Jeff throughout the world.

This day will mean many things to many people – we say do what fits your local situation and your desires. Some ideas are film screenings, protests at SUV dealerships, wheat-pasting campaigns, letter writing and outreach, music shows and direct actions. The important thing is that you ask yourself: will this action help Jeff’s situation? Remember that what we do on the outside has an impact on his life on the inside-sometimes its positive and sometimes negative. Consider this crucial bit of information when planning your event.

There is no central organizing body or group to check in with but the J12 Organizing Committees can help by providing you with flyers, graphics, and merchandise such as videos, zines and stickers about Jeff’s case. It is imperative that you be able to speak about Jeff’s case if you do a public event. Take some time and read about it on our website

Jeff’s imprisonment and sentence is without a doubt, intolerable but keep in mind that his sentence is yours as well. It is meant as a deterrent to social and environmental movements all over. Let us not forget that when you fight with Free for his freedom – you fight for yourselves and your freedom.

There will be events in many US cities and potentially in countries as diverse as England, Australia, Finland, Brazil, Russia and more. There is already a large public outreach event planned for Eugene, which will involve speakers, music and more. If you choose to hold a public event, email us and we can include the event on the website as well as include your information in outreach materials. After the day, you can send us write-ups, photos and updates and that too can be posted online. Many people have emailed us about a desire to do more for Jeff -this is the perfect time to show your solidarity.

As has been pointed out before, rather than accept a plea deal, Luers decided to go to trial and was convicted on 11 of 13 counts. Based on those convictions, the judge in the case had no choice but to sentence Luers to 22 years and 8 months under an Oregon mandatory minimums statute for arson. This was not an attempt to send Luers or activists any message — in fact, Luers’ co-conspirator Craig Marshall received just a 5 1/2 year sentence as a result of a plea agreement.


Day of Action for Jeff Luers – June 12. Infoshop, April 23, 2004.

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.

Jeff Luers Writes from Prison

The Earth Liberation Prisoners web site has a lengthy age filled with things written by environmental extremist Jeff Luers while he’s been serving his 22-year prison sentence for his part in an arson at a Chevrolet dealership in June 2000.

Most of his writing is alarmist “the world is ending, so it’s okay if we blow things up” nonsense like,

For years, decades, we have pleaded and petitioned those in power, those responsible for injustice, genocide and ecocide. This pleading has gone unanswered. It is time to use actions that can not be ignored. In defense of life, these actions are justified. “Strike a math, light a fuse. We only have the Earth to lose.”

Of special interest is Luers statement at the time of his sentencing, especially given that Luers is now appealing that sentence maintaining that 22-years simply does not fit the crime of torching a few SUVs. But this is what Luers said at the time (emphasis added),

I want to make clear why I set a fire at Romania Chevrolet. I’m not going to offer excuses. I want this opportunity to explain my actions so that they are not misunderstood or misinterpreted. I didn’t to this for anarchy or because I’m anti-government. And I didn’t do this because I enjoy property destruction. I don’t. I did this because I’m frustrated that we are doing irreversible damage to our planet, our home. It is not an exaggeration to say that right now we are experiencing a period of extinction equal to that of the dinosaurs.Forty thousand species are going extinct each year. Yet we continue to pollute and exploit the natural world. I’m not going to justify my actions. I can’t do that anymore than one can justify the destruction of the environment for profit. They are both wrong. I take responsibility for what I’ve done. You can judge my actions, but you can’t judge my heart. It can not be said that I am unfeeling and uncaring. My heart is filled with love and compassion.

I fight to protect life, all life, not to take it. I took every precaution to insure that no one would be injured by this fire. If I thought for any reason that anyone- be it Mr.Kelly or any responding firefighter or police officers- would be injured, I never would have set this fire. It was not my intention to hurt anyone or place anyone at risk.

I’m not going to ask the court to grant me leniency. All that I ask is that you believe the sincerity of my words. that you believe that my actions, whether or not you consider them to be misguided, stem from the love I have in my heart.

Of course once he heard 22 years, suddenly he got his lawyers in gear to see about a little leniency. On the other hand, the length of the sentence was largely Luers fault. Luers is almost gleeful when he writes of the prosecutor’s frustration at not being able to reach a plea agreement with Luers, but then he is apparently shocked(!) that going to trial and losing not only on arson but conspiracy to commit arson and a host of other crimes led to such a long prison term.


Writings by Free [Jeff Luers]. Earth Liberation Prisoners, 2001-2003.

Prison Is a Very Lonely Place for Jeff Luers

The Earth Liberation Prisoners Newsletter recently circulated and appeal for help with the case of Jeff Luers. Luers, you may remember, was sentenced to more than 22 years in jail for several acts of arson (including attempting to blow up a gasoline tanker).

Activists are trying to raise money for Luers’ appeal of his sentence (Luers made the boneheaded mistake of failing to plea bargain to lesser charges — his buddy Craig Marshall received only 5 years). But they also want people to send letters to help Luers pass the time in a lonely prison,

Prison is an extremely lonely place and sending letters to [Luers] asking how you can help, sharing stories, telling him about what is going on in the world is a great way to help.

Awww, poor Jeffrey. So if you want to write a serial arsonist with tales of the outside world or share some stories, please by all means don’t let me stop you. His address is:

Jeffrey Luers, #13797671
Oregon State Prison
2605 State Street
Salem, OR 97310


ELP Information Bulletin, December 7, 2002.

The New York Times Profiles Craig Marshall and Jeff Luers' Lunacy

The New York Times Magazine recently ran a long story about Craig Marshall and Jeff Luers. The two were convicted for an incident in which they set fire to SUV’s at a car dealership. Marshall plead to a lesser charge and received a 5 and a half year sentence, while Luers went to trial and was also convicted of a related arson. Luers received the longest sentence for an animal rights or ecoterrorist to date, 22 years and 8 months.

Bruce Barcott interviewed Marshall in jail and provides a lot of unintentionally amusing background information on Marshall and the act of terrorism that landed him in jail. Barcott writes,

Craig Marshall joined the sit [anti-logging protest] that fall. An Eastern reared in a small Massachusetts town, Marshall held political beliefs that weren’t so much pro-environment as anti-authority. “I never had much use for people telling me what to do,” he recalls. “Back in the fifth grade, I was already questioning the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Yes, Marshall was such an anti-authority figure that he thought nothing of resorting to acts of terrorism against those who dared disagree with him.

Barcott explores why Marshall and Luers selected the car dealership,

They chose a target: Joe Romania Chevrolet, a car dealership at the edge of the University of Oregon campus. To the tree dwellers, Romania’s blocklong lineup of $25,000 trucks and SUV’s symbolized consumer decadence at its worst. “They’re gas-guzzling monsters, destroying everything they encounter,” Marshall later explained. “They’re a status symbol for rich American consumers, who are killing more people on this planet than anyone else.”

Which is a fascinating comment given a description of the duo setting the cars on fire,

They nervously passed a cigarette back and forth. Carrying their sloshing milk jugs… [emphasis added]

“Down under the truck, my heart is pounding,” Luers later recalled in an account written for Earth First! Journal. “Wow! I’m really doing this. Why? Then I remember being a kid growing up in Los Angeles, having to stay inside some days because the smog was too bad to go outside. I was 6 [expletive] years old, and I couldn’t play outside because the air was hazardous to my health. It has gotten worse since!”

Got that? He’s doing this because of horrible air quality in Los Angeles and to strike back at those American pig consumers, and while he’s torching the SUV’s, he and Luers are passing back and forth a cigarette likely manufactured by an enormous corporation.

But all is not unintentionally amusing with Marshall. Barcott quotes an ELF expert noting that at some point one of these activists is going to conclude that these actions need to go even further,

“Up until now, they haven’t harmed the people they’re trying to harm,” says Gary Perlstein, the domestic-terrorism expert. “When they destroy a tree farm in Clatskanie, Ore., they’re not hurting the Weyerhaeusers of the world. I worry that they’re going to eventually see that. And then the true believers among the may say, ‘Well, maybe we have to assassinate the president of Weyerhaeuser.'”

Marshall obliges this vision by providing what is a frankly rather millenarian vision of the future of the environmental movement,

I put to Craig Marshall: In a perfect world, what would we do to save the earth? “First, knock down all the concrete,” he says. Thinking further, he adds: “The problem is, we’ve gone too far already. There’s no easy solution. For life to survive as we know it, millions of people are going to have to die. It’s sad to say that, but it’s true. Millions of people are already dying — it’s just gonna have to start happening here.”

Of course this is merely the most extreme version of an apocalyptic form of environmentalism that is not all that uncommon (and appeals to people for the same reason that apocalyptic religions do — it is psychologically empowering to think that the end of the world is at hand and only you have and a select few have the knowledge to prevent or explain it).

In fact, it is interesting just how similar this is to the radical Islamist critique of Western culture — Marshall might use different terminology, but he is simply arguing that we are all doomed precisely because we are decadent Westerners who do not follow the one truth path (and, of course, we must be made to suffer for that).


From tree-hugger to terrorist. Bruce Barcott, The New York Times Magazine, April 7, 2002.