Skip to comments.Grad student pleads innocent in SUV vandalism (Ecoterrorism Alert)
Posted on 03/29/2004 3:02:24 PM PST by presidio9
A Caltech graduate physics student pleaded innocent today to firebombing and vandalizing more than 100 sports utility vehicles in a suspected protest attack by a radical environmentalist movement against the gas-guzzling vehicles.
William Cottrell, 23, a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., pleaded not guilty to the charges laid out in a nine-count indictment. Cottrell could face more than 30 years in prison if he is convicted.
According to the indictment, Cottrell and "other known and unknown co-conspirators" went on a spree of firebombing and vandalizing sports utility vehicles in the Los Angeles area in August of last year.
Cottrell and his accomplices tossed Molotov cocktails into some of the cars, spray-painting others with such slogans as "GREEDY LITTLE PIG," "FAT, LAZY AMERICANS" and "ELF," the indictment charges.
He is also accused of sending e-mails to the Los Angeles Times claiming responsibility on behalf of the radical environmental group Earth Liberation Front.
Just got a bit carried away.
LOS ANGELES A graduate student with alleged connections to a radical environmentalist group was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of firebombing and vandalizing dozens of sport utility vehicles, authorities said Wednesday.
Billy Cottrell, 23, a physics student at California Institute of Technology, was indicted in connection with vandalism that damaged or destroyed about 125 vehicles at car dealerships and homes in the San Gabriel Valley last August. The indictment was returned Tuesday and announced Wednesday.
Cottrell appeared Wednesday in court where a judge ordered him to remain held without bond.
The indictment charged him with one count of conspiracy to commit arson, seven counts of arson and one count of using a destructive device, specifically a Molotov cocktail.
The indictment also alleged that Cottrell vandalized and destroyed vehicles with "known and unknown co-conspirators," who were not identified by federal prosecutors.
If convicted of all counts, Cottrell faces a prison sentence ranging from 35 years to life, the U.S. attorney's office said.
Cottrell, jailed since his arrest on March 9, was scheduled to be arraigned March 29.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Turchin denied a request to release Cottrell during a 45-minute hearing at which Cottrell's attorney and father said they didn't think he was a flight risk.
"Human life is risked by the nature of these offenses," Turchin said.
William Cottrell of Concord, N.C., testified he would be willing to put up his home and $200,000 in cash for bond to get his son out of jail.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Beverly Reid-O'Connell argued Cottrell should be held because he might otherwise flee the country, obstruct the investigation and pose a danger to others. She also said Cottrell previously "thumbed his nose at the system" by failing to appear in court on several traffic violations.
Reid-O'Connell told the judge that Cottrell proposed marriage to a friend to prevent her from testifying against him. The friend, fellow student Claire Jacobs, turned him down, according to court documents. Jacobs did not return a call seeking comment.
Cottrell told Jacobs he started the fires and that two other people were involved, FBI agents said in court filings. The other two were identified as a female and male.
Prosecutors said they believe the co-conspirators fled the country as a result of the FBI's investigation and would help Cottrell flee as well. Reid-O'Connell identified the others as "targets" in an ongoing investigation, but declined further comment.
Defense attorney Stephen Alexander called the case "weak" and said outside court he planned to appeal the judge's decision.
Cottrell, a second-year graduate student in the physics department at Caltech, used an alias when he contacted the Los Angeles Times by e-mail and informed the paper he was involved in the SUV firebombings, the FBI alleged in an affidavit.
In messages sent to the newspaper, Cottrell confirmed he was affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front, a radical group of environmentalists that has claimed responsibility for other acts of arson and vandalism, the affidavit said.
The Aug. 22 vandalism spree hit car dealerships east of Los Angeles in suburban West Covina, Duarte and Arcadia, and four privately owned vehicles in Monrovia. A fire set at the West Covina dealership destroyed or damaged 72 vehicles, mostly SUVs, and a parts warehouse.
Words including "ELF," "Fat, Lazy Americans" and "I (heart) pollution" were painted on the SUVs. Prosecutors estimate the total damage was about $2.3 million.
The indictment states that Cottrell printed out maps showing the locations of SUV dealerships near Pasadena, and drove with others in his car to set fire to the vehicles. They filled Corona beer bottles with gasoline, lit fabric dipped in the bottles and threw them to start the blazes, according to court filings.
Authorities initially arrested Josh Connole, 25, of Pomona, then released him for lack of evidence.
An ELF Web site identifies Cottrell as an "environmental campaigner." The group has claimed responsibility for a string of arsons in Detroit, Philadelphia and San Diego, where last year fire destroyed a 206-unit apartment complex under construction. The $50 million worth of damage made it the single largest act of property destruction by a radical group in U.S. history, the FBI said.
See Billy streak.
Streak, Billy, streak. Streak, streak, streak.
That stuff goes over big in prison.
Billy is going to make some lonely terrorist in Guantanemo Bay a very lucky man...
What's that translate into in Northern California Prison years?
Like there's any chance in hell a N. Calif. jury will convict him. I don't care if there's videotapes of him caught in the act.