Back in 2003 there was a widely-publicized incident of vandalism at several car dealerships and homes in an L.A. borough. 125 SUVs were destroyed either by arson or spray painting them with environmental slogans such as “Fat Lazy Americans”, “polluter”, and “ELF” (Earth Liberation Front).

William Jensen Cottrell was identified as one of the culprits after emails to the L.A. Times were traced to him at Caltech (not the brightest move for a doctoral candidate). His co-conspirators, Tyler Johnson and Michie Oe, are believed to have fled the country.

Cottrell, however, was caught and has received no leniency in spite of his pleas to the judge.


U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner said Cottrell had engaged in domestic terrorism and “we’re very, very lucky” that no one was killed in the arson attacks.

Cottrell, 24, was convicted in November of conspiracy to commit arson and seven counts of arson for an August 2003 vandalism spree that damaged and destroyed about 125 SUVs at dealerships and homes in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles.

Cottrell was acquitted of using a destructive device — Molotov cocktails — in a crime of violence. That was the most serious charge he faced and it carried a sentence of at least 30 years in prison.

The judge said he felt sorry for Cottrell, a doctoral candidate in the physics department at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, but he had only himself to blame.

“What a talent to have wasted,” Klausner said.

[Cottrell was] sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison and ordered to pay $3.5 million in restitution.

Rot in prison, you little bitch. We’re not accepting the “I made a mistake, I’ll never ever do it again” thing anymore. Such wanton destruction, regardless of the strength of your convictions, is totally unacceptable. Grow up.

23 Responses to “SUV Eco-Terrorist Gets 8 Years In the Slammer”
  1. Jason says:

    Anyone who would support what was done to Mr Cottrel is sick and heartless. Gloating over something like that shows a lack of empathy and compassion that is hardly deserving to be called human.
    Fuck you and everyone like you.

  2. Alan Furman says:

    “Anyone who would support what was done to Mr Cottrel is sick and heartless.”

    Can there possibly be a right more precious than the right to shove one’s idea of political correctness down the throats of others by force? O! The humanity!

    “Gloating over something like that shows a lack of empathy and compassion that is hardly deserving to be called human.”

    You can’t hardly set fire to an abortion clinic, gay bar, or pornography collection any more without being hassled by the Man. Some people call that “justice” and act like it’s a good thing. All for causing a little innocent damage to INANIMATE OBJECTS! As inanimate as the shop windows that were smashed the night of November 9, 1938.

    “Fuck you and everyone like you.”

    Go on, boobie, chuck a few Molotovs. Your warm fuzzy little heart is so full of FEELINGS of compassion that anything you do is automatically ethical.

  3. Jason says:

    Why dont you try to look at the situation from his perspective? Youre so absorbed in your ideals of Right and Wrong you have cant imagine anyone sane thinking differently than yourself. You should pull your head out of your moral majority ass and think about if it was you in his position. Not to mention that instead of trying to come up with a decent opposing argument you just picked apart everything I said and made snide comments affirming your righteousness. Who made you to judge the world?

  4. Anonymous says:

    “Why dont you try to look at the situation from his perspective? Youre so absorbed in your ideals of Right and Wrong you have cant imagine anyone sane thinking differently than yourself.”

    What a nifty closing summation that would make at Saddam Hussein’s trial. Ramsey Clark, eat your heart out.

    “You should pull your head out of your moral majority ass and think about if it was you in his position. Not to mention that instead of trying to come up with a decent opposing argument…”

    Childish whining does not constitute an “argument” in the first place, therefore making an opposing argument is not possible.

    “…you just picked apart everything I said and made snide comments affirming your righteousness. Who made you to judge the world?”

    Uh, you mean like: “…sick and heartless…hardly deserving to be called human. Fuck you and everyone like you.”

  5. Alan Furman says:

    The preceding comment was by me.

  6. Jason says:

    Yes, it was obvious the comment was made by you. No, childish whining does not constitute an arguement. Yes, “Uh, you mean like: “…sick and heartless…hardly deserving to be called human. Fuck you and everyone like you.” could be considered judgemental. I dont consider bombing abortion clinics to be some kind of noble cause, violence isnt going to solve anything, but there is a difference between blowing up a clinic and vandalising cars. As for including even using gay bars, pornography (censorship or lack thereof), and abortions as arguements against my viewpoint here, I would like to ask you what your position is on these issues, as I assume you probably used them only as examples to support yourself in this instance, whilst on the other hand railing against them. To say some tree hugger trying to destroy SUVs is the same as a mob of Nazis attacking Jewish property is absurd. You’re comparing apples and oranges, son. Not to mention that using that as an example to justify yourself only cheapens and makes light of something many many times worse.

    Also, Cottrell and Saddam? Again with the apples and oranges. That was a total cop out. If George W. Bush was on trial instead of Saddam, you could make the same arguement. Would you then? Both Saddam and Bush are powerful men with questionable objectives who used reasoning based heavily on THEIR PERSONAL sense of morality and religious justification. There are very few core differences between Christian Conservatives, Zionists, and radical Muslims. This isnt about Saddam or abortion, numbnuts, the whole point is that a guy fucked up some cars in a obviously misguided attempt to save the Earth, and that he was punished much too harshly IN MY HUMBLE OPINION. He wasnt gassing Kurds or attacking Jewish shopkeepers or gay people.
    You’re coming off as being about 5% as intelligent and objective as you think you are.

  7. Anne Haight says:

    Why dont you try to look at the situation from his perspective? Youre so absorbed in your ideals of Right and Wrong you have cant imagine anyone sane thinking differently than yourself. You should pull your head out of your moral majority ass and think about if it was you in his position.

    Totally irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what Cottrell thought of his actions, or whether he believed he was morally justified in them. That’s relativism, which is not a legitimate philosophical school of thought. Cottrell destroyed private property and endangered people’s lives. He committed a crime and will now pay the price for it.

  8. tonecluster says:

    Bumper sticker seen on an H2 in Topanga, CA:
    “Respect Mother Nature”.

    I hope it’s someone’s attempt at pseudoironic humor, but I doubt it.

    Anyway: sympathy for Cottrell? Why? And if it were me in his position, I would not have done it in the first place! DuH!?!? Hello? Personal responsibility and all.. consequences of actions thereof… sheesh. Guy torches a few car dealerships and we’re supposed to be sorry for his widdle ickle misunderstood a$$?

    Maybe Cottrell shouldn’t have left Ivory Tower so unprepared for the world.. eh?

  9. Scaramonga says:

    Over at Portland’s Indymedia site, they’re calling Cottrell a traitor of the worst kind – an informant. They used to have a “Free Billy” campaign but have dissolved it. Seems Mr. Cottrell, in an attempt to save his own skin ratted out his two accomplices, Tyler Johnson and Michie Oe. Man of high principles, no? Here’s a quote from Indymedia

    ELP has some bad news.

    It is with deep regret that ELP has to announce that William “Billy”
    Cottrell has testified against others at his trial.

    Earlier this week, William “Billy” Cottrell testified that he had been
    present at the scene of an Earth Liberation Front action. He admitted to
    painting ELF slogans and to causing criminal damage. However he then went
    onto say that he did not start any fires and named two people, Tyler Johnson
    and Michie Oe, who he claims were responsible for the fires.

    It should be noted that, as has been proven time and time again, you can not
    trust the word of a police informant, as they will happily name innocent
    people to get themselves off the hook and no charges have ever been bought
    against Tyler or Michie, although the FBI have now named them as “fugitive
    co-conspirators”.

    A full report on Cottrell’s trial will appear in the next issue of “Spirit of Freedom (January 2005)” and ELP will be putting out a joint statement with the former “Free Billy Support Network” in the next few days, after Cottrell has been sentenced. (The “Free Billy Support Network” has been dissolved because of Cottrell’s decision to blame others).

    However as of now Cottrell is regarded as a police informant and will receive no more support from ELP.

    ELP would like to apologise to all those who have supported Cottrell and we would remind everyone that although Cottrell has turned traitor there are many other good prisoners who need our support and we hope this will not put you off supporting them.

  10. Mike says:

    Why dont you try to look at the situation from his perspective?

    What is his perspective? And what does that have to do with what he did? He knowingly broke the law and destroyed private property to the tune of millions of dollars. And Jason, the comparison of doing the same thing to abortion clinics and gay bars is appropriate. Regardless of how you feel about such things, it doesn’t mean others feel the same way. That is why we have laws. And that is why when someone breaks those laws, they get punished. It doesn’t matter what their perspective is.

    Ask yourself, should we feel sorry for Eric Rudolph? Do you know who he is? He is a radical anti-abortion activist that was responsible for shooting and killing doctors (and others) responsible for performing abortion, he also admitted to the Atlanta Olympic bombing. He was just found after a 10 year manhunt. Now I’m sure from his perspective he was doing work for the greater good of society. Now should we feel sorry for him too, like you want us to for this idiot Cottrel?

  11. Mark says:

    For the record, I think both Cottrell and Rudolph should be punished for their crimes. Which are on two different sides of the political spectrim. They are still both criminals.

  12. Mike says:

    Mark, I agree and obviously Rudolph deservers a far harsher penalty than cottrel. Hopefully, Jason now understands that no crime committed because of someone’s perspective is a reasonable one.

  13. GekkoBear says:

    Ok, lets look at this from his perspective.

    I get to decide what other people get to own, and to destroy their property at my whim with willful disregard for the lives of others. I take no responsibility for my actions, and I get to use force to make things the way I want them to be. Oh, and fire is cool.

    Ok, now; with my new perspective; let me consider this case…

    Hmm, I think the judge should have killed him. Maybe his family. Did he have any pets?

    Ok, I don’t like that perspective. Maybe thats why what he did is criminal…

    Oh, and don’t ask me to take the perspective of a criminal using a lethal weapon when committing a crime again. I don’t really enjoy that sort of thing.

  14. Jason says:

    “Oh, and don’t ask me to take the perspective of a criminal using a lethal weapon when committing a crime again. I don’t really enjoy that sort of thing.”

    WTF is that? Way to show how close minded you are. If you can only see an issue from one perspective how can you form a well- based opinion on it? You really dont enjoy that sort of thing? Lets hear those hallelujuhs, you must really be a saint.

    Also, I said that the comparison between the abortion clinics was rediculous and inappropriate also, that was in response to what Alan Furman posted.

    I never said that what Cottrell did was justified or the right thing to do, I referred to him as misguided. I do not think what he did was good, if anything it created more waste on the planet. My whole point was that he was punished too harshly for what he did. Murderers get away with less than what he has been sentanced to.

    Clearly Cottrel did not have a malicious desire to physically injure or kill someone. Erik Rudolph, Saddam, and whatever other psychos you guys are coming up with had entirely different motives. The only reason I said to place yourself in his perspective was that hopefully you could understand the harshness of his punishment.

  15. Jason says:

    Scaramonga, thanks for the interesting post. That he snitched about his friends made me care a lot less about what happened to him, and again, I never supported what he did in the first place. He’s a rat bastard police snitch who makes everyone who cares about the earth look bad. However, I still believe that his punishment was too harsh, regardless of the circumstances.

  16. ronin says:

    Jason – you just dont seem to have the mental ability to understand why people are not buying your side of the story. Billy and others went and used deadly weapons to cause havoc. So, what, am I supposed to think that what they did was a good thing, and that the judge out to have let him go free? Billy is no different than the members of al-Qaeda, or other Islamist terrorists. In fact, I am surprised that he got such a light sentence.
    You can try to use all manner of sophistry to justify your position, but the fact is that once you get to committing acts of terrorism, you have to pay a heavy price. There are no free rides becasue you are ‘protecting Mother Earth”

  17. Luke Davis says:

    Jason: Your point seems to be that Cottrell was punished too harshly. Even allowing his claim that he never set fire to anything, and completely disregarding anything related to arson (accessory to felonious arson, for example), and only noting that–according to one article–125 SUVs were destroyed, if he were charged with one count of vandalism for each vehicle defaced or destroyed, in accordance with California State Code on vandalism (found here: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/waisgate?WAISdocID=73713928966+1+0+0&WAISaction=retrieve), then he could have received up to 125 years in prison, or $1,250,000 in fines (this would not be related to the $3.5 million in restitution, which is entirely different from a fine). Clearly, he was not charged with 125 counts of vandalism; however, when viewed against a possible 125 years in prison, 8 years does not sound so bad. Noting that $2.3 million worth of property was damaged, $3.5 million in restitution is really pretty low, when compared to the sort of restitution that is often awarded by our justice system. As such, his punishment appears not overly harsh, but lenient. Regardless of whether what he did was morally right or not, or whether his perspective is important, in a strictly LEGAL sense, he got what he deserved–or less than it.

  18. ronin says:

    And to folow Luke’s comment, just becasue you think that the defendant in this case was doing something that you support as a “moral act”, he still has to pay for the consequences of his criminal action. remeber Gandhi too stood against laws that he thought were wrong – only difference being that Gandhi did not resort to criminal and terrorist behavior. I think your pal actually got off easy if 8 yearsis all that he is going to serve.

  19. Gekkobear says:

    ‘”Oh, and don’t ask me to take the perspective of a criminal using a lethal weapon when committing a crime again. I don’t really enjoy that sort of thing.”

    WTF is that? Way to show how close minded you are.’

    Sorry, I didn’t realize I had to fully intergrate my being into a willful and happy criminal for this exercise to be useful. I’m guess I don’t live up to your ideal for “considering another’s position”. I didn’t realize liking it was a requirement. Heck somedays I’m not happy with myself…

    Call me closed-minded if you like, but I still don’t see destruction of property and willful disregard of the life of others to be something to be condoned in any fashion.

    Oh, and the fact that he didn’t “want” to hurt anyone didn’t really stop him from actions that very obviously could have killed several people. I realize that his “intent” may not have been the use of a lethal weapon, but we don’t criminalize “intent” as much as “action” and his actions were not only momentarily poor judgement, but quite capable of killing people. Do you support leniency for Drunk Drivers as thier “intent” isn’t to harm anyone?

  20. Smappy says:

    someone got owned ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. doug says:

    I was peripherally involved with the victims of the arguably illegal Joint Task Force search which violated the 4th Amendment and which wrongly arrested Josh Connole for the West Covina Hummer crime committed by COTTRELL, OE and JOHNSON and for which COTTRELL was convicted.

    OE and JOHNSON, reputedly students at Cal-Tech, were “reported to have left the country”. There is no family history, no friends, no provenance at all of these two identities, and it appears no one is searching for them.

    I suspect that the entire operation was planned by OE and JOHNSON, who were some sort of undercover agents. If so, the story is much bigger than “domestic eco-nutz”; it might have been a misuse of federal power, and/or a test case for the upcoming clampdown on dissent.

    The loose end of the MICHIE OE and TYLER JOHNSON history is what intrigues this speculation. The CIA uses “legends”, which are IDs that are pre-created, and when they are replaced on the shelf, the “legends” just vanish into thin air.

    The lack of investigation of OE and JOHNSON, who instigated the entire event according to testimony, is damning:

    1. JOHNSON gave $200 to COTTRELL to buy bumper stickers which allegedly were the original basis of the crime.

    2. JOHNSON bullied COTTRELL into going out that night, or else pay back the money, according to COTTRELL.

    3. JOHNSON hid and used the actual incendiaries, according to testimony by COTTRELL. COTTRELL claims ignorance of this more destructive activity, although he admits complicity in the vandalism activity, for which he was sentenced to 8 years. It was the incendiaries that attracted nationwide attention, although COTTRELL was a conspirator in a crime, it was the incendiaries that took it out of the realm of felony malicious mischief to that of a potentially fatal crime of arson and worse.

    The involvement of OE and JOHNSON must be clarified. The city of West Covina apologized to Josh Connole for the false arrest, paying his lawyer $20,000 as partial compensation. There remains at least one multi-million-dollar federal claim for compensation for Josh Connole for false arrest, and for the other victims of the illegal search of at least 4 houses in two cities.

    Tracing down OE and JOHNSON would help resolve the issue of the false arrest of Josh Connole and the illegal search and arguable detention of 18 students in the houses that were invested, surrounded and ransacked by over 100 federal agents.

    For example:

    –What is the OE and JOHNSON family history?

    –What do their friends say?

    –What classes did they take at Cal-Tech? You can’t just “pop-in” to Cal-Tech, there is a lengthy process of application, not many are approved. They look into family history, unless these two were Agents planted, who somehow avoided the application process. Where are the records of OE and JOHNSON?

    –Where did they come from? We are not even told their age or where they were living.

    –What was their undergraduate college? What was their High School, what city was it in, what clubs were they in, did they get into trouble then, and so on.

    NONE of these avenues were made available; it’s almost as if these two just popped into existence, conceived, instigated and enhanced the crime, involving COTTRELL as a “patsy”, and then vanished into thin air. Just as if they were “legends”.

    If so, Cottrell’s conviction could be impugned as possible “entrapment”. In addition, if the CIA was involved, it would violate federal legal prohibitions against domestic operations.

  22. Nance says:

    Did any of you people saying he should rot in jail even bother to find out the details? That he’s got Asperger’s symptom (a form of autism and social retardation) that makes it nearly impossible for him to tell right from wrong. He obviously got roped into it by his “friends.” Yes, he should be in jail for a few years because maybe it’ll help him learn. But the judge threw out the evidence of his psychiatric evaluations (is that even legal to do?) and slapped on an extra 3.5 years to his 5 year sentence merely because he didn’t like him…. Uh, yeah. Hard to like someone who’s not trying to fit into your ideas of what a remorseful, empathetic person would be. BECAUSE HE IS MENTALLY INCAPABLE OF IT. There is much precedence for different treatment of people with disabilities of this sort, and it’s completely unfair that Billy didn’t get that treatment. The thing that sickens me the most is now his current treatment in jail. They’re ruining one of the brightest minds of the nation and turning him into the very terrorist they claimed he was.

  23. ..... says:

    hmmm I actually knew Tyler Johnson back in the day when I was a wee one. I just really can’t believe he was ever invovled in this. I know his parents too and they are just crushed that they will never see their son again or see any possible grandchildren. This is a lesson to us all, think of outcome of your actions, you are never only hurting yourself.

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