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William Jensen Cottrell

William Jensen Cottrell

Apr 20, 2005 - A graduate student was sentenced Monday April 18, 2005 to eight years in federal prison for conspiring to vandalize Sport Utility Vehicles. He was also ordered to pay $3.5 million in restitution to the victims of the arson.

William Jensen Cottrell, 24, a physics student at the California Institute of Technology, was convicted last November for his part in damaging or destroying about 125 SUVs in the San Gabriel Valley East of Los Angeles. During the August 2003 arson and vandalism spree, some vehicles at dealerships and homes were torched with Molotov cocktails, while others were spray painted with "polluter" and the initials of the radical environmentalist group Earth Liberation Front.

Approximately one month after the attacks, Cottrell, using an alias, sent several e-mails to the Los Angeles Times that claimed responsibility for the SUV fire bombings and stated his affiliation with the Earth Liberation Front. In the messages, Cottrell offered specific details of the attacks to prove his involvement and emphasized his support of ELF actions. These e-mails led investigators to Cottrell.

Cottrell does not deny that he vandalized the SUVs by spray-painting them with slogans such as "SUVs Suck" and "Smog Machine". But he insists it was his accomplices, Tyler Johnson and Michie Oe, who threw the Molotov cocktails that ignited the SUVs and a building at the dealership. He claims he retreated to his car in protest when their actions grew violent.

Cottrell blames his two accomplices for scrawling "ELF" on the vehicles. The Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the firebombing on their website, but Cottrell still maintains that he is not associated with that group.

William Cottrell admits he does not like SUVs. He admits to the spray-painting of some SUVs. He has now been convicted of being a participant in an arson spree through the San Gabriel Valley that has cost nearly $2.5 million in property damage to SUVs at automobile dealerships and private residences during the month of August of 2003.

Cottrell is considered to be a genius, yet he was not smart enough not to engage himself with this selfish and illegal activity.

And for those that consider the Earth Liberation Front to be a non-violent organization, the use of Molotov cocktails in order to make a statement invalidates that ideal.


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