Ecoterrorism suspect pleads not guilty

Rubin accused of string of arsons from 1996 to 2001

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. — A woman who turned herself in after a decade as a fugitive in the largest-ever U.S. ecoterrorism investigation pleaded not guilty Friday to conspiracy and arson charges in federal court.

Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin ordered Canadian citizen Rebecca Rubin, 39, to remain in custody and set trial to begin March 19 in U.S. District Court in Eugene, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Peifer.

A federal indictment accuses Rubin of being a member of the Earth Liberation Front-Animal Liberation Front-related group known as The Family. Investigators blame the Eugene-based group for 20 fires that resulted in $40 million in damage across the West from 1996 to 2001.

Rubin turned herself in to the FBI in November at the Canadian border with Washington.

Defense lawyer Richard Troberman of Seattle did not respond to an email seeking comment Friday.

Investigators blame the related groups for fires at a ski resort in Colorado, wild horse corrals in Oregon and Northern California, and lumber mills and U.S. Forest Service offices in Oregon.

Ten people pleaded guilty in 2007 to conspiracy and arson charges, and were sentenced to prison. Two others indicted in the case remain at large.

Rubin is charged with helping set fire to buildings in Vail to prevent expansion into habitat for the threatened Canada lynx, and to U.S. Bureau of Land Management corrals in Eastern Oregon and Northern California holding wild horses. She also is accused of trying to set fire to a lumber mill office in Medford, Ore.

Rubin is not charged with terrorism, but the indictment alleges she and other members of The Family tried to influence businesses and the government and tried to retaliate against the government.

At the time of the fires, the FBI characterized the ELF and the ALF as the top domestic terrorism threats in the nation.

The Family disbanded in 2001, but a federal task force used an informant to pursue them.

By the time they were sentenced, members expressed regret and frustration that after all their hardships, they had accomplished very little. A horse slaughterhouse in Redmond, Ore., was never rebuilt, but the ski resort and ranger stations were. Timber companies stayed in business, and wild horses were still removed from federal lands.