Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Former ELF member gets 5 years in heroin case

A convicted arsonist who avoided federal prison five years ago by helping officials lock up fellow Earth Liberation Front activists is headed to state prison for selling heroin.

Jacob Jere­miah “Jake” Ferguson, 38, was sentenced Monday to nearly five years in prison after pleading guilty to manufacturing, possessing and selling heroin; possessing cocaine; and neglecting and endangering his 4-year-old daughter in the process.

County prosecutor JoAnn Miller told Lane County Circuit Judge Charles Zennaché that the latter charges reflect Ferguson’s allowing the girl to stay in his south Eugene residence while drugs were being manufactured and dealt there.

Miller said police found within the child’s “easy access” a toolbox with pull-out drawers “loaded with syringes.”

Ferguson’s attorney, Robert Hutchings, told Zennaché that a long-standing drug addiction is his client’s downfall.

“At one point he was very cooperative with the federal government in bringing down a number of very serious arsonists,” Hutchings said.

Hutchings said that Ferguson did well for a time on a methadone program, but he returned to heroin after losing his job and insurance to pay for the methadone, an alternative drug that staves off withdrawal without delivering a high.

Detectives found nearly 2 ounces of heroin in the home, Miller said.

Ferguson faces possible federal prison time arising from the drug charges, as well. Avoiding criminal conduct was a condition of his probation under a 2007 plea deal that spared him prison time for his role in a politically motivated series of arsons by a local ELF band known as “The Family.” Their targets included a meat-packing company and a car dealership in Eugene; a U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Oakridge; and Superior Lumber Co. in Glendale.

Ferguson is depicted as a leader of the group in a documentary about the group, “If a Tree Falls,” that opened across the country last weekend.

He was scheduled to go back before U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken this week, but a probation revocation has been postponed until July 14.

In his court appearance Monday, Ferguson appeared heavier than the wiry activist depicted in documentary footage from a decade ago. A cherry-sized growth protruded from the top right side of his head, above one of the points of a large pentagram tattoo encircling his head.

He declined comment when Zen­naché asked if he had anything to say.

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