UW eco-arson defendant pleads not guilty

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TACOMA, Wash. (AP) -- A man charged in the 2001 arson at the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture has pleaded not guilty to federal charges.

The U.S. attorney's office alleges that 31-year-old Justin Solondz built the firebombs that started the $6 million blaze in Seattle. At a Wednesday hearing in federal court in Tacoma, he entered pleas to charges including conspiracy, arson and using a destructive device in a violent crime.

Solondz was arrested July 6 in Chicago following his expulsion from China, where he had been serving a prison sentence on drug charges. His lawyer told The Seattle Times his client was glad to be back in the U.S.

The UW fire was part of a string of 17 arsons across the West by the radical environmental groups, the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. Fourteen people have been convicted of crimes related to the fires.

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Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com