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by Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network Saturday, Oct. 23, 2004 at 3:28 AM

In just over one weeks time, on the 26th of October, 2004, a young man will go on trial accused of Earth Liberation Front activity. If found guilty of all the charges placed against him, this young man faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 35 years imprisonment.


By Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network

In just over one weeks time, on the 26th of October, 2004, a young man will go on trial accused of Earth Liberation Front activity. If found guilty of all the charges placed against him, this young man faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 35 years imprisonment.

Earlier in the year the same young man was threatened with additional charges which would of meant, if found guilty on all charges, he risked a mandatory minimum sentence of Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Happily these additional charges have not yet materialised.

The young man in question is Billy Cottrell, a PhD student from Caltech university. The following article is written in the hope of explaining how an innocent man has ended up behind bars and faces the possibility of such a horrific sentence.


A few years ago the American Government introduced some environmental legislation that forced car manufacturers to produce more fuel efficient vehicles. The manufacturers of Four By Four (Four Wheel Drive) vehicles were concerned about this legislation and looked for loop holes to avoid having to modify these fuel hungry vehicles. They found such a loop hole when they declared that their vehicles weren’t cars, but trucks (as trucks weren’t covered by the legislation). Unbelievably the American Government accepted that Four by Four vehicles (or Sports Utility Vehicles - SUVs - as they are known in America) weren’t cars and were in fact trucks and therefore were exempt from any fuel efficiency legislation.


In protest at the fact SUV’s were allowed to bypass environmental protection legislation and to help raise awareness to the environmentally destructive nature of the vehicles the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) started to target SUVs. They hoped by targeting dealerships they would make the selling of these vehicles unprofitable whilst also generating media interest in the subject.


The ELF anti-SUV campaign had already been going for a few years when in the summer of 2003 the Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility for a number of actions in southern California. In a single night, on the 22nd of August 2003, the ELF hit four SUV dealerships and damaged a small number of privately owned vehicles. In all the ELF damaged and burnt approximately 125 vehicles and caused over ,500,000 damage.

The police response to the ELF actions was to arrest a local vegan peace activist called Josh Connole. The only evidence against Josh was he looked similar to a suspect caught on CCTV security footage. There was no other evidence and whilst Josh was being held in custody someone, claiming to be involved with the ELF, e-mailed a local media outlet saying the police had the wrong person and they should let Josh go.

After a relatively short time in custody the police finally recognised they had no evidence against Josh and they did let him go. Josh subsequently sued the police ,000 for violating his human rights.

Following the police humiliation of having to face the fact they’d arrested an innocent man, the authorities turned their attention to finding the author of the e-mails which had allegedly been written on behalf of the ELF.


The hunt for the person who sent the e-mails, to the media, led the FBI to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). The FBI claim to have identified the exact computer which was used to send the e-mails from (a computer at Caltech) and from that computers records the FBI claim to of identified the person who was using the computers at the exact time the e-mails were sent. Their suspect is William "Billy" Cottrell, a Ph.D. student, a vegetarian, and an outspoken critic of SUVs.


Having identified a suspect the FBI then started quizzing people known to Billy. Through their interrogations they managed to trick at least one person into making a false statement against Billy, claiming that had told them he had been involved with burning one of the SUV dealerships.

From this the FBI came up with a theory. They claim that Billy is the ring-leader of an ELF cell. They claim he searched the internet for the details of SUV dealerships and got maps showing their exact locations. The FBI then claim that Billy staked out the SUV dealerships before the ELF hit the dealers.

Billy was arrested and remanded into custody, without bail, in March 2004.


When he was arrested Billy was charged with seven counts of arson, one count of conspiracy and one count of using a destructive device during a violent crime (this charge relates to the alleged use of a Molotov Cocktail to cause damage by fire). The first eight charges carry sentences of five to 20 years each, which may be served concurrently. The ninth charge, the one which relates to Molotov cocktails allegedly being used to burn some vehicles, carries a minimum, non-concurrent sentence of 30 years and a maximum of life in prison. This means if convicted on all counts Billy faces a mandatory minimum of 35 years imprisonment. The FBI hoped that such a harsh sentence would get Billy to talk and cooperate with them.

When Billy maintained his innocence and pointed out he didn’t know who the ELF were so was unable to answer any of the FBI questions the FBI retaliated in the most vindictive way possible. They threatened to add extra charges related to the alleged use of Molotov cocktails to burn some of the SUVs and warned Billy that if found guilty on all counts with the new charges added he would face a MINIMUM sentence of LIFE IMPRISONM ENT WITHOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE. All this for a few expensive, environmentally unfriendly, fuel guzzling, environment destroying, vehicles. The intention of the threat of the new charges was clear. They wanted Billy to talk. However Billy maintained his innocence and happily, as yet, the prosecution has not carried out its threat and added the new charges against him. However even without the new charges Billy still faces 35+ years imprisonment if convicted on all counts.


The trial of Billy Cottrell is due to start on the 26th of October 2004. Billy has already served over half a year on remand. If the prosecution have their way Billy will be counting his sentence in decades rather than years.

Please do everything you can to support Billy and help raise awareness to his case. Alert people to Billy’s plight, help raise money to help Billy fight this case, and send letters of support to Billy.

All money raised in support of Billy should be made payable to William Cottrell and sent to:

Free Billy Defence Fund

POB 3372, Anaheim, CA 92803-3372, USA.

All donations, no matter how small are gratefully received.

Letters of support for Billy should be sent to:

William Cottrell


Metropolitan Detention Center

PO Box 1500

Los Angeles, CA 90053, USA

Billy welcomes letters of support and has told his defence network “I survive because of the mail I get.”

Billy needs our support. So please do everything you can do to help him.

For more information about Billy and his case contact

Free Billy Support & Defence Network

POB 3372, Anaheim, CA 92803-3372, USA



Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network

BM Box 2407, London, WC1N 3XX, England


(This article is anti-copyright. Please feel free to print it out and show it to your friends; forward it by e-mail to friends/lists; reproduce it in magazines/newsletters; or even post it up on websites. All we ask is you write to Billy and let him know you’re supporting him and have reproduced this article. If you publish this article in a magazine, please send Billy a copy of your magazine).

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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 2 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
Trial Delayed! Free Billy Support Network Friday, Oct. 29, 2004 at 11:14 PM
Snitch na Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2005 at 12:28 AM

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