Thursday, January 03, 2008

Misconduct alleged in firebombing case

Attorney of suspect in UW arson says prosecutors, FBI committed perjury


An attorney for a woman facing trial for allegedly participating in the 2001 firebombing of the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington has accused the government of "egregious prosecutorial misconduct."

Briana Waters, 32, of Berkeley, Calif., is one of five people allegedly linked to the Earth Liberation Front to be charged with setting the facility ablaze in what they thought would be a blow against genetic engineering of plants. The fire destroyed years of botanical research. The UW spent $7 million to rebuild the facility.

In a court filing Wednesday asking for a conference with the judge, attorney Robert Bloom asserts that two federal prosecutors and two FBI agents, all based in Seattle, committed perjury and obstruction of justice.

Bloom charges that they suppressed evidence of his client's innocence and prepared false FBI summaries of a witness interview incriminating Waters.

In September, U.S. District Judge Franklin Burgess of Tacoma denied a defense motion seeking an investigation into the alleged misconduct and dismissal of the charges.

In his ruling, Burgess called Bloom's allegations "speculation" and said prosecutorial misconduct "cannot rationally be concluded from the so-called discrepancies pointed to" by the defense.

Bloom insists that a report detailing a December 2005 FBI interview with admitted firebomber Jennifer Kolar was doctored to hide the fact that Kolar did not name Waters during the interview.

Bloom said his Wednesday motion seeking a hearing provides Burgess with information that was not before the judge in September.

"We fully anticipate that the motion will be rejected," First Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Bartlett said Thursday.

The other prosecutor on the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Friedman, had no comment. Neither did an FBI spokesman responding for Special Agents Ted Halla and Anthony Torres.

The Waters case is scheduled for trial Feb. 4. She faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 35 years if convicted.

Kolar, of Seattle, and Lacey Phillabaum of Spokane have pleaded guilty to arson, conspiracy and use of a destructive device during a crime of violence.

Another suspect, Justin Solondz, most recently of Jefferson County, is a fugitive. William Rogers was arrested in connection with the arson and committed suicide in his jail cell.

P-I reporter Paul Shukovsky can be reached at 206-448-8072 or

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