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.