News and Press Releases

Prosecutors Decide Against Retrial on Charges Where Jury Deadlocked

March 27, 2008

BRIANA WATERS, 32, of Oakland, California will not face a second trial on three charges where a jury in U.S. District Court in Tacoma was unable to reach a verdict. The United States Attorney’s Office will not seek to retry WATERS on Conspiracy, Possession of a Destructive Device, and Use of a Destructive Device in relation to a Crime of Violence. The jury convicted WATERS of two counts of Arson earlier this month following four days of deliberation. Each arson count carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison up to 20 years in prison. WATERS is being held at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac, pending sentencing on May 30, 2008.

“The jury held Ms. Waters accountable for the criminal conduct at the heart of this case:
the arson of the Center for Urban Horticulture,” said U.S. Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan. “After careful consideration, we feel the interests of justice are served by moving forward with Ms. Waters’ sentencing on those counts of conviction.”

Had WATERS been convicted of Use of a Destructive Device in Relation to a Crime of Violence, she would have faced a mandatory minimum term of thirty years in prison. The count was filed against each defendant involved in the UW arson and the arson spree attributed to the Earth Liberation Front/Animal Liberation Front Cell known as “The Family.”

“Ms. Waters was treated no differently than any other defendant in this case. The charges filed against each defendant were the same, and the opportunities to resolve the cases were the same,” said First Assistant United States Attorney Mark Bartlett. “We respect the hard work and diligence of the jury and believe the counts of conviction are a just result.”

At trial, prosecutors showed how rental car, telephone and bank records corroborated the testimony of two cooperating witnesses, Jennifer Kolar and Lacey Phillabaum. Both women have pleaded guilty for their roles in the May 21, 2001, fire that destroyed the Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle. Both women independently named WATERS as the person who served as the lookout for the arson team.

Testimony at trial revealed that Justin Solondz, 28, then a student at Evergreen and WATERS boyfriend, built the destructive devices used in the fire in a “clean room” in the garage of WATERS’ rented Olympia home. WATERS arranged for her cousin’s wife (also an Olympia resident) to rent a car that was used to get the arson team from Olympia to Seattle. The May 21, 2001, fire caused approximately $6 million in damage. The fire destroyed samples of rare and endangered plants. Some researchers lost important data for their work to protect endangered plant species.

The UW fire bombing was one of a string of arsons across the West by the radical group the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). Most of the defendants have entered guilty pleas for their roles in the conspiracy. Some have been sentenced to as much as 13 years in prison. The leader of the arson cell, William C. Rodgers, 40, of Prescott, Arizona, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Seattle in connection with the case, but committed suicide December 22, 2005, while being held in the Coconino County Jail in Prescott, Arizona. Justin Solondz remains a fugitive and is actively being sought by law enforcement.

This case is the result of a nine year investigation by law enforcement. Participating in the extensive investigation were the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the Eugene Police Department, the University of Washington Police Department, and other state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Friedman and First Assistant United States Attorney Mark Bartlett. For additional information, please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington, at (206) 553-4110.

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