Tre Arrow Accepts Plea Deal

by Will Potter on June 5, 2008

in Terrorism Court Cases

Blessings to all of you.

Perhaps you’ve heard that I’m set to take a plea bargain on June 3rd. In the aftermath of Briana Waters’ and Eric McDavid’s trials, I have weighed the options and decided that i don’t want to take the risk of potentially being convicted and spending the rest of my life in prison.

That’s how Tre Arrow began a recent message to supporters, announcing a plea agreement with prosecutors that ends a long legal battle with prosecutors who have relentlessly labeled him an “eco-terrorist.” Arrow pled guilty to two counts of arson, for sabotaging cement trucks and logging trucks in 2001. He’ll receive credit for his four years in prison Canada, and have two more years to go.

It’s a non-cooperating plea agreement, similar to the deal reached for some of the defendants in the Operation Backfire cases. Like those non-cooperating defendants, Arrow will not have to provide information to the government and incriminate others in exchange for a reduced sentence (which is part of the reason he has ended up in this situation, with Jacob Sherman pointing a finger at Arrow in exchange for leniency).

So what does all this mean? Is the guilty plea of a long-time, prominent environmental activist—held up on a pedestal by many for his refusal to cooperate—a blow to the environmental community? Is it a victory for Arrow, escaping the rest of his life in prison?

The short answer is: I have no idea. It may be either, or both, or something else entirely.

Because if there’s one thing that has become increasingly clear in this “Green Scare,” there are no easy decisions. As I wrote after the Operation Backfire non-cooperating plea agreements, “…legal decisions in court cases are often made for pragmatic reasons, not factual reasons: the criminal justice system is often about evaluating options in light of other options, taking the lesser of two evils.”

I spoke with James Pitkin, a reporter at Willamette Week. Here’s an excerpt from his story:

Critics say all three cases are examples of a vicious crackdown on environmental dissent by the feds. In all three cases, investigators pressured informants to turn on other defendants, who were in turn accused of domestic terrorism.

Will Potter, a freelance reporter in Washington, D.C., who covers environmental activists, says Arrow’s supporters will likely sympathize with his guilty plea. Arrow faced life in prison if he’d gone to trial.

“You just have to make the best decision you can, considering that you’ve been labeled a terrorist and you have the entire weight of the U.S. government coming to bear on you,” Potter says. “You really can’t point fingers.”

To clarify, though, I think you CAN point fingers. You can point them at FBI agents hiring provocateurs to coax “eco-terrorists” into action. You can point them at Feds who consider infilitarting vegan potlucks a national security priority. And you can point them top level officials in the government who, by labeling nonviolent crimes as the number one domestic terrorism threat, force people into a situation where they must decide between taking a plea deal—whether or not they committed the crime—or spending the rest of their lives in a concrete cell.

Those are the decisions Arrow, 34, faced. And he came to the conclusion that “they offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse.”

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