Wednesday, December 14, 2005

$12 million 1998 Vail ski resort arson

Eugene, Oregon - Chelsea Gerlach, who was arrested last Wednesday along with six other individuals suspected of animal and earth liberation arson charges, was arraigned Tuesday in the Portland, Oregon U.S. District Court. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Engdahl alleged that Chelsea, who is charged with toppling high-tension power lines near Bend, Oregon in 1999, is also responsible for: the October 11, 1998 attempted arson at Bureau of Land Management wild horse corrals in Rock Springs,Wyoming; the October 19, 1998 firebombing of a ski resort in Vail, Colorado; the May 9, 1999 meatpacking fire in Eugene, Oregon; the December 25, 1999 arson of a Boise Cascade office in Monmouth, Oregon; the firebombing of the Jefferson Poplar Farm in Clatskanie, Oregon (for which two others have been arrested); and the May 21, 2001 firebombing of the University of Washington horticultural research center in Seattle, Washington.

When the 80-foot Bonneville Power Administration tower was toppled on December 30, 1999, the FBI said it appeared to be a case of mischievous vandalism rather than a Y2K terrorist attack. The vandals used a wrench to loosen the tower's support cables and left numerous beer cans at the scene. The power was rerouted in less than a second after the high-voltage line was broken.

Chelsea's Federal public defender Craig Weinerman argued that the evidence against her is meager and has so far amounted only to statements from two informants involved in the meatpacking plant arson. The Gerlach family released a statement saying that "the person we know and love is incapable of such acts." They also expressed concerns that the media's portrayal of Chelsea as an "eco-terrorist" would taint the case and vowed to be involved in her defense. Video