Defendant in arson attacks asks for mercy |

Defendant in arson attacks asks for mercy

AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Kevin ClarkAccused arsonist Stanislas Meyerhoff, 28, right, is taken from U.S. District Court in Eugene, Ore. Tuesday, after a hearing.

EUGENE, Ore. – A Virginia man accused of firebombing a tree farm and a lumber mill office in attacks tied to the Earth Liberation Front made a request for mercy Tuesday during a hearing in U.S. District Court.”I pray that the court is merciful with those who have renounced these crimes and have moved on to be students and professionals,” Stanislas “Jack” Meyerhoff said after being granted permission to address the court by U.S. Magistrate Thomas Coffin.Meanwhile, a motion was filed on behalf of one of Meyerhoff’s co-defendants, Chelsea D. Gerlach, 28, of Portland, arguing she should be granted bail because the only evidence against her so far was statements from two government informants who took part in some of the firebombings.

Public defender Craig Weinerman would not discuss the motion in detail. The motion was not immediately posted on the court web site. Weinerman had characterized the informants in court earlier as “serial arsonists.” U.S. Magistrate Thomas Coffin is scheduled to hear the motion Thursday.Gerlach, who has been called a suspect in the 1998 Vail Mountain arson attacks, is scheduled to go on trial along with Meyerhoff Feb. 28 on charges they toppled a an electrical transmission tower east of Bend, Ore. in 1999. A third person accused in that case, Josephine Overaker, remains a fugitive.Meyerhoff and Gerlach were both students at South Eugene High School here, where they were pictured together in the yearbook as members of a club called Student Coalition Advocating Peace and Equality.Meyerhoff was in court for a status hearing when he made the statement. His attorney, Richard Fredericks, refused to elaborate on it. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Engdall said Meyerhoff made a similarly contrite statement after he was arrested in Virginia.

In addition to the tower toppling, Meyerhoff was scheduled to go on trial Feb. 15 on charges he helped firebomb the offices of Superior Lumber Co., now Swanson Group, in Glendale, Ore. and the Jefferson Poplar Farms in Clatskanie, Ore. Both fires were in 2001. If convicted on either of two counts accusing him of being in possession of a fire bomb, he faces a mandatory life sentence.Daniel G. McGowan, 31, of New York City was indicted along with Meyerhoff in the lumber mill and tree farm firebombings. He has yet to be transported from New York to appear in court.Earth Liberation Front, a shadowy underground group, took credit for the tree farm and lumber mill fires, but not the electrical transmission line tower.Federal authorities have said in court that an unnamed informant wearing a hidden microphone talked to McGowan, obtaining evidence against him.

A total of six people have been arrested in four states on charges they took part in some of a string of ecoterrorism attacks from 1998 to 2001 in Oregon and Washington.Other targets involved in the investigation include the Vail fires., another lumber mill in Medford, Ore., two federal research labs near Olympia, Wash., and the University of Washington Urban Horticultural Center in Seattle.Vail, Colorado

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