Rebecca Rubin, 40, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and arson charges in October. The sentence was the lowest Rubin could have received under federal sentencing guidelines.
U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken said Monday in federal court in Portland, Oregon, that Rubin showed contrition and lived in "an emotional prison cell" during seven years as a fugitive in Canada, from December 2005 to November 2012.
Aiken said she understood Rubin's desire to see a change in how animals and the environment are treated, but she said Rubin's actions, which included contributing to several arsons, did serious damage.
"That kind of damage is not how democracy works or how true change is accomplished," Aiken said.
Rubin's mother drove her from Vancouver, British Columbia, to the U.S. border at Blaine, Washington, where a surrender to the FBI had been negotiated for her role with the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front.
Investigators blame the groups for 20 fires across the West from 1996 to 2001 that did $40 million in damage. They burned a ski resort in Colorado, wild horse corrals in Oregon and Northern California, and lumber mills and Forest Service offices in Oregon. There were no injuries, and no one died.
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, whose attorney said she had turned down multiple interview requests since turning herself in, spoke in a trembling voice while acknowledging her role in the fires.
"I was so convinced of the righteousness of my beliefs that I ignored the shortcomings of my own actions," Rubin said.
She was ordered to pay more than $13 million in restitution upon her release and perform 200 hours of community service. Rubin is a Canadian citizen. Her sentence will not be carried out until she is naturalized in the U.S., which Aiken said she expects soon.
Aiken included in her sentence an order to read two books: "David and Goliath," by Malcolm Gladwell, which Aiken said Rubin could learn non-violent means to protesting systems she perceives as unjust; and "Nature's Trust," by University of Oregon environmental law professor Mary C. Wood.
At issue to government prosecutors, who sought a 90-month sentence, was the nature of Rubin's role in plotting and executing the arsons and the celebrity status they say she has achieved among anarchists for refusing to talk to investigators about the two people still at large.
Rubin's attorney, Richard Troberman, said Monday that Rubin didn't seek any of the fame associated with her flight from justice or ensuing silence, and that she would discourage anyone else from taking similar actions.
"Rebecca is not a hero," Troberman said, "and she does not see herself as a hero."
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