8-year sentence for 2003 arson at eatery
A 23-year-old New Jersey man who set fire to a McDonald's restaurant in Seattle, later claiming he did so on behalf of extremist environmental...
Seattle Times staff reporter
A 23-year-old New Jersey man who set fire to a McDonald's restaurant in Seattle, later claiming he did so on behalf of extremist environmental groups, was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison by a federal judge.
After he set the Jan. 20, 2003, fire, Christopher McIntosh phoned an arson tip line and stated: "There was an E-L-F-A-L-F [Earth Liberation Front/Animal Liberation Front] hit at McDonald's across from the Space Needle," according to a plea agreement he signed in September.
Friday, McIntosh did not express remorse for his crime, telling U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly, that "the Earth is being destroyed [and] animals are being led to mechanized slaughter. ... I don't consider myself a terrorist, but the Earth is being terrorized by corporate greed. ... I felt I had to do something to protect it."
Zilly told McIntosh the world is not perfect, and acknowledged that we "might not be treating Mother Earth with the care that is appropriate." But the judge went on to say that unless society adheres to the rule of law, "Mother Earth will not survive."
Zilly encouraged McIntosh, on his release from prison, to participate in efforts to protect the environment. But the judge admonished him to do so lawfully, and to avoid "firebombing, or other acts of violence or terrorism."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Friedman, who prosecuted McIntosh, said the government is making no allegations of a connection between McIntosh and six others arrested last week for a series of Northwest arsons in Oregon and Washington tied to the same extremist groups with which McIntosh claimed affiliation. Those crimes, which took place between 1998 and 2001, include the May 2001 firebombings of the Jefferson Poplar Farms in Clatskanie and of the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture.
Still, when McIntosh addressed Zilly, he noted that, like other ALF/ELF activists, he did not intend to hurt anyone when he set the McDonald's fire. The fact that the groups take care to make sure they don't harm people when they set buildings on fire "bodes well," McIntosh said.
In sentencing McIntosh to eight years, Zilly cut two years off the 10 years the government had sought. The judge also imposed three years' supervised release, but did not order McIntosh to pay any restitution for damage caused by the fire, which was estimated at $5,000.
In asking for 10 years, Friedman said, it was necessary to "protect the public."
In court papers, the prosecutor wrote that McIntosh was "proud of his crime, and, given the chance, he would do the same thing again."
Defense attorney Stephan Illa said McIntosh, who was 20 at the time he set the fire, had grown up "on the streets" and lived by his wits. He characterized his client's prior convictions for possession of stolen mail and shoplifting as "crimes of necessity." There is no history, Illa contended, of an intent "to overthrow the government."
In a letter to the court, McIntosh's parents, Ronald and Kathryn McIntosh of Maple Shade, N.J., wrote that Christopher is their adopted son who came to live with them as a foster child when he was 21 months old.
"We were told by the case worker that he had been neglected for several months and the flattened back of his skull was indication that he had been left alone lying in a crib for long periods of time," the parents wrote.
They described his school years as "turbulent," saying he was "bused out of town for his early education because our town did not have the special education classes he needed. He desperately wanted to belong and be accepted by his peers. It never happened."
Several supporters wearing T-shirts with "I love Chris McIntosh" silk screened on the front showed up to witness the sentencing.
One, Christina McLean of Pennsylvania, noted the punishment "was the best he could have gotten" under the plea agreement, but assailed it as excessive "for someone who caused $5,000 damage."
Peter Lewis: 206-464-2217 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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