Two Oregon activists accused of arson
By Bill Bishop
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2006
Investigators of sabotage by radical environmental groups have named two more suspects, both from Southern Oregon, in criminal complaints filed in federal court in Eugene.
Widely known activist Jonathan Mark Christopher Paul, 39, is accused of a July 21, 1997, arson that destroyed the Cavel West horse meat packing plant in Redmond. Damage was estimated at .4 million. He is scheduled to appear in federal court later this week.
Suzanne Nicole Savoie, 29, is accused of the Jan. 2, 2001, arson of Superior Lumber Co., now known as Swanson Group, in Glendale. Savoie, who lives in the Applegate area, had not yet been arrested Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Portland said.
If convicted, each faces at least five years and as long as 20 years in prison. A grand jury is expected to return formal charges against the two within 30 days.
The charges bring to eight the number of activists charged in Oregon since federal agents began making arrests in December. A ninth suspect committed suicide in police custody in Arizona. They are charged with attacks at two lumber mill offices, a tree farm, an SUV dealer, a meat packing plant, a federal research lab and a power line.
Three other activists were arraigned Tuesday in Sacramento on charges they plotted to blow up a U.S. Forest Service research lab and other targets. Eric McDavid, 28, of Foresthill, Calif., Zachary Jensen, 20, of Monroe, Wash., and Lauren Weiner, 20, of Philadelphia were ordered held pending bail hearings.
Paul, who lives in the mountains near Ashland, is widely known and well liked in the activist community, said Jerry Vlasak, spokesman for the Animal Liberation Press Office in Canoga Park, Calif. Internet postings indicate Paul actively opposed logging in Oregon and whale hunting in Washington, and served several months in jail for refusing to testify to a federal grand jury in the 1990s.
FBI Special Agent Paul Caldwell, in an affidavit for the complaint against Paul, alleges investigators learned of Paul's involvement from two unnamed confidential sources who both admitted participating with Paul in the Redmond slaughterhouse arson.
The informants reportedly said Paul prepared the gasoline/diesel fuel mixture used in the attack, helped place one fire bomb, and then served as a lookout while others placed two other fire bombs. The informant said one of the fire bombs prematurely ignited into a fireball, according to the affidavit. Two other unexploded bombs were found at the scene. The packing house was not rebuilt after the fire.
Caldwell's affidavit naming Savoie as a suspect relies on three confidential informants, two of whom admitted being involved with her in the Superior Lumber Co. arson. Altogether, court records in the case seem to indicate investigators have at least five confidential informants, with all but one playing some role in at least one of the crimes charged against the eight defendants. Only one informant appears to be facing charges.
The informants said that Savoie, who went by the name "India," served as a lookout during the attack. Also charged in the Superior Lumber arson are: Stanislas Meyerhoff, 28, and Daniel McGowan, 31.
The spate of arrests in two states over the past month is having little impact on activists, Vlasak, the Animal Liberation Front spokesman, said Wednesday. He said he is surprised by the arrest of Paul, whom he described as a personal friend and widely known longtime activist.
Vlasak predicted the government's charges will turn out to be greatly exaggerated and may be dismissed due to the unreliability of so-called informants.
"The 'informants' are almost certainly not what they are billed to be," Vlasak said. "My impression remains that they are rounding up all the usual suspects. I'll bet my bottom dollar that these people will never be convicted."