Environmentalist Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison, and a Book Report on Malcolm Gladwell

by Will Potter on February 4, 2014

in Terrorism Court Cases

Rebecca RubinA fugitive Earth Liberation Front activist has been sentenced to five years in prison and, in a bizarre twist, ordered to read Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book.

Rebecca Rubin was wanted for a decade in connection to crimes by the clandestine ELF, which destroyed against property. Her co-defendants have been sentenced to prison as terrorists, and even housed in a secretive prison facility called a Communications Management Unit. Despite knowing that her sentence would likely be severe, Rubin turned herself in for punishment.

Her heavy sentence should be expected, especially considering that Rubin has—unlike many of her co-defendants—refused to “name names” or cooperate in the investigate of environmental groups in any way.

However, in an especially paternalistic and retributive move, Judge Ann Aiken also ordered Rubin to read Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book David and Goliath: Underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants. 

The message, of course, is that Rubin needs to learn the right way to social change. And Judge Aiken is the one to teach her.

This isn’t the first time Aiken has used the bench to preach her superficial view of social change. Rubin’s co-defendant, Jonathan Paul, was sentenced to read Three Cups of Tea. 

As I wrote in Green Is the New Red, Aiken repeatedly pulled stunts like this, and was frustrated when the defendants didn’t play along.

Here’s an excerpt of when two defendants were sentenced, and they refused to compromise their beliefs:

What upsets friends and family more than anything is when Aiken says Block and Zacher are not well read. “For many of us old people, we read books,” she says. “I wonder if people read. . . .” the last word or two in her thought gets lost in the grumbling, whisper- ing and shifting on the wooden benches. Friends who were unfazed when prosecutors described the arsons nearly become incensed when the judge questions their erudition.

“Really at this moment I don’t understand who you are, what you are, your belief system,” she says. “I don’t think you even really understand what life is about.”

Block and Zacher stare ahead.

“I didn’t hear anyone say they’re sorry,” she says. “I didn’t hear anyone apologize. I didn’t hear anyone say they would work to pay restitution.” Aiken pauses and glares at the defendants. One last chance. One last chance to condemn sabotage and embrace com- pact fluorescent light bulbs. Pregnant pause. “You could have stood up right now and addressed these things, but I noticed no one is moving.”

More silence, as tense as the seconds of quiet delay between a lightning flash and the thunderclap.

These “eco-terrorism” sentences aren’t just about punishment, they are about sending a message to the broader environmental movement. The defendants have been expected to not only apologize for their crimes, but apologize for their entire belief system. Apparently, they need to replace it with the sanitized moralizing of pop best-sellers.

So, as Natasha Lennard noted at Salon: “One hopes that Rubin’s supporters send her ample countervailing reading supplies, too.”

Her current mailing address is:

Rebecca Rubin #770288
11540 NE Inverness Dr.
Portland, OR 97220


Previous post:

Next post: