In June 2000, Jeff Luers and Craig Marshall went to a Chevrolet dealership in Oregon and set three pickups on fire, causing an estimated $40,000 in damage. Almost a year later, on June 11, 2001, the 22-year old activist was sentenced to 22 years in jail for those acts of arson and related crimes. A large portion of that sentence does not carry any parole option, so Luers will likely spend close to 15 years in jail. Good for him.
The facts behind Luers’ case show that whatever else he is, he is not very bright. Luers had been just released from jail on a disorderly conduct charge. Plainclothes police were tailing him but lost him near the car dealership. He was arrested 10 minutes after the fire by another office on a traffic violation!
Luers received a 22-year sentence for two reasons. First, unlike Marshall, he refused to plea bargain. Marshall plead to lesser charges and received 5 1/2 years. As one newspaper account put it, Luers chose to roll the dice on a trial and lost big time. Second, Luers was also convicted of trying to ignite a gasoline tanker at Eugene’s Tyree Oil Co. in May 2000. The judge apparently decided that based on those two incidents, Luers was a serial arsonist and gave him a stiff sentence in response.
Of course animal rights and environmental extremists see Luers as a victim due to his long sentence. They seem to think that Luers and the right to commit arson because his conscience told him it was the right thing to do, but society does not have the right to protect itself against arsonists such as Luers.
Luers himself recently wrote a letter to Rep. Scott McInnis, who is conducting hearings into ecoterrorism, which is reproduced in its entirety below,
Dear Mr Scott McInnis,
I am writing in response to your recent statements and questions about me. I do not appreciate your deliberate and malicious misrepresentations of my words to further your political goals. Not only have you taken my words and formed new sentences with them attributing them to me, you have quoted me as saying things that I have never said. As an elected Representative of the people, I believe it is your legal and moral duty to be truthful when carrying out the political and legal activities of your office.
However I do appreciate your concern about me ” [wasting] away in prison for the next two plus decades.” You will be pleased to know that is not the case. I have stayed quite active in my college studies working towards my BA. Also, I have had a unique opportunity to discuss my situation with media from around the globe who have shown a surprising interest in my sentence.
You must realize Scott, that two years ago I was just a young man frustrated by the increasingly severe destruction of the environment. I burned some tires on some trucks as a result of that frustration. Perhaps my actions were misguided. Perhaps they can be rationalized as the lesser of two evils. It is all perspective.
Had I been given a reasonable sentence I would have been forgotten by the public. I would have been one news story.I would have served my sentence and finished my BA. I would have been released, reunited with my family and enjoyed the rest of my life. Yes, I would have continued to be active in efforts to protect the environment, but I would have avoided activities that would lead me back to prison.
By giving me a sentence of 22 years, viewed by a majority of people as overly harsh and extreme, the system has put me in the spot light, giving me international attention. I have been made to be an example. However, that has only served to make me a political prisoner and for some perhaps even a martyr. This is not a role I chose to fill. It was forced upon me. It is oppression that creates revolutionaries Scott, and it is injustice that ignites revolutions.
In defense of Mother Earth
If Luers thinks he has much of a spotlight, he is deluding himself — in a couple years no one but the small cadre of true believers will remember him (his case was barely reported nationally as it was). But he has received a lot of attention from other extremists.
According to an article by Josh Harper in a recent issue of No Compromise, for example,
The fire Free was convicted of setting was an act of compassion. The gas guzzling monstrosities known as SUV’s slaughter more animals each year than the fur industry, emit fumes that harm the well being of plants and animals alike, and take us further down the path of a world without green spaces. As forests, grasslands, and other wild areas fall to make more room for parking lots and freeways, is it any wonder that people are beginning to attack the auto industry?
Animal rights, extremist environmental sites, and anarchist sites are filled with similar screeds condemning the injustices supposedly done to Luers.
Luers is appealing his sentence, but faces an uphill battle. Meanwhile the car dealership recently filed a civil suit against Luers and Marshall to cover the cost of the destroyed property.
With any luck, the dealers will have to wait 20 years before seeing any money from Luers.
Man Called ‘Free’ Sits In Prison. Bryan Denson, The Oregonian, September 25, 2001.
Chevy dealer sues anarchists convicted in arson fire. Associated Press, February 27, 200.
In Honor of Jeff Luers. Josh Harper, No Compromise, Issue 18, Summer 2001.