Rebecca Rubin, a North Vancouver animal rights activist guilty of several arsons, should get a stiff prison sentence to dissuade those who consider her a hero, the U.S. government says
By: Sandro Contenta
In sentencing documents filed Wednesday, the U.S. justice department asks a Portland, Ore., court to sentence Rebecca Rubin to 90 months in prison. It also wants her to pay almost $14 million in mandatory restitution.
In the documents, U.S. attorney Amanda Marshall describes Rubin as a “dedicated member” of a militant animal-rights group responsible for 20 acts of arson over five years, beginning in late 1995. The FBI called those arsons “the largest eco-terrorism case in United States history.”
The arsons occurred in five western U.S. states and caused $40 million worth of property damage. Rubin, 40, was in hiding in B.C. for seven years before giving herself up in late 2012. She has since pled guilty to arson and attempted arson and will be sentenced Monday.
Rubin’s cell disbanded in 2001 but a “new, younger generation of extreme activists has come of age,” the government argues.
“They look to the defendant as a virtual heroine, not just for her criminal acts and years underground, but for her refusal to co-operate with the government against the two remaining fugitives,” it adds.
“A sentence of 90 months . . . would send a strong message to new would-be domestic terrorists and left-over advocates that crimes of violence and years in hiding simply don’t pay.”
Under a plea bargain struck with Rubin’s lawyers, the minimum sentence the judge can consider is five years.
Rubin’s interests in animal rights began when she was 16 and living in Ontario, according to the sentencing document. She started taking part in legal protests to protect animals and the environment after seeing a video from the militant Animal Liberation Front, it adds.
At 18 she moved to B.C. and in 1997 began dating David Barbarash, who would become the AFL’s North American spokesperson. A year later she started dating Kevin Tubbs, considered one of the ringleaders of the arson cell. Tubbs, an American, is still in prison in the U.S.
Rubin has pleaded guilty to charges that include ten counts of arson during four incidents from 1997 to 2001. Places targeted included two corrals for horses destined for the slaughterhouse and the Vail ski resort in Colorado, which Rubin and others accused of endangering a lynx habitat. The ski resort fire caused more than $24 million in damages and lost revenue for the company.
For one incident, Rubin crossed the border from Canada illegally. Sometimes she acted as a lookout, sometimes she helped lug heavy containers of fuel for incendiary devices, other times she would wash down equipment and vehicles to get rid of finger prints.
“In no sense was she a minimal participant,” the U.S. government argues. “Ordinarily a mild mannered person, the defendant had no trouble committing crimes of violence,” it adds. “Her actions were specifically designed to terrorize the government and corporations into changing their policies, but that obviously did not work.”
The group of arsonists “fell apart in frustration” as business and government facilities they targeted were rebuilt. “Cell members essentially grew up, woke up and came to their senses, and their violence ended,” the government argues. “Not a small factor was 9/11, which was a terrorism wake-up call for everyone.”
The group of eco-arsonists was made up of 19 self-proclaimed members of the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. Sixteen have pled guilty, one committed suicide while in custody and two remain on the run — Josephine Sunshine Overaker and Joseph Mahmoud Dibee.
Rubin is given credit for turning herself into U.S. authorities at the border, rather than going through a lengthy and costly extradition process from Canada. The U.S. government also applauds her with giving a full account of her crimes, including some she wasn’t charged with.
But the government notes that Rubin refused to say anything about what she did as a fugitive, including naming those who may have harboured her. She also refused to give up names of other cell members, or say anything about Overaker and Dibee.
“While repentance and change are important sentencing factors, they cannot erase four years of criminal conduct followed by several years of running from justice and a continuing desire to protect the last remaining fugitives,” the sentencing document argues.