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    United States Attorney's Office
    Central District of California

    Thom Mrozek
    Public Affairs Officer

    (213) 894-6947
    thom.mrozek@usdoj.gov



    Return to the 2010 Press Release Index
    Release No. 10-007

    January 11, 2010

    GUILTY PLEA IN PASADENA ARSON PLOT LINKED TO DOMESTIC TERRORIST ORGANIZATION

    A Los Angeles-area man who installed a gasoline bomb in a multi-million dollar condominium development under construction in Pasadena pleaded guilty this afternoon to a federal conspiracy charge in which he admitted working on behalf of the Earth Liberation Front.

    Steven James Murphy, 44, pleaded guilty this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles to one count of conspiracy to commit arson.

    Murphy admitted that he conspired with another person involved in the underground environmental extremist movement known as the Earth Liberation Front or E.L.F. to maliciously damage or destroy property. According to a plea agreement filed in the case, Murphy learned from this unindicted co-conspirator how to construct an incendiary device using a 64-ounce plastic juice bottle, gasoline and a delayed ignition timer. The two planned on committing arson on behalf of the E.L.F. by using the incendiary device to burn down a building project in the hope of intimidating and inflicting economic harm on individuals and entities that they believed to be causing harm to the environment. 

    On September 19, 2006, Murphy placed the incendiary device in a partially constructed unit in the multi-million dollar historic condominium project known as the Vista Del Arroyo Bungalows, which was being built directly beneath the Colorado bridge in Pasadena. Before leaving the scene, Murphy lit the device with the intent that it burn down the entire development under construction. The delayed-ignition timer failed, however, before it could ignite the gasoline contained in the device. According to arson investigators from the Pasadena Fire Department and San Gabriel Valley Arson Task Force, if the device had functioned the way it was designed to, there was enough gasoline to destroy the entire Bungalow development, as well as threaten surrounding structures.

    Murphy also admitted disabling the ignition of a tractor used on the job site and crediting the E.L.F. by writing "ANOTHER TRACTOR DECOMMISSIONED BY THE E.L.F."

    Murphy’s crime was unsolved until 2009, when the CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) matched Murphy's DNA to male DNA that the FBI laboratory had extracted from the gasoline bomb. Soon after, Murphy, who had resided in and around Los Angeles but recently had relocated to Texas, was arrested in Texas in relation to the attempted arson.

    Murphy pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Manuel L. Real, who is scheduled to sentence the defendant on April 5. At sentencing, Murphy faces a maximum possible sentence of five years in federal prison for the conspiracy charge.

    Murphy is the second person to be prosecuted in recent years by the United States Attorney's Office for domestic terrorism activities involving Environmental Extremism. The first case involved William Jensen Cottrell, who was recently re-sentenced to 100 months in federal prison for his role in a 2003 firebombing spree in the name of the E.L.F. that destroyed more than 72 sport utility vehicles and a West Covina car dealership building.

    The case against Murphy is the result of the combined efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pasadena Police Department, the Pasadena Fire Department, the San Gabriel Valley Arson and Explosives Task Force, and other law enforcement agencies.

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    Release No. 10-007
    Return to the 2010 Press Release Index