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The Times' criminal justice team looks behind the scenes and behind the headlines.

July 6, 2011 at 4:34 PM

Suspect in 2001 UW arson back in U.S.; awaits extradition

Posted by John de Leon

-- From Times staff reporter Mike Carter:

The man accused of building the bomb used by Earth Liberation Front (ELF) radicals in 2001 to torch the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture is back in the U.S. and in federal custody, awaiting extradition to Washington state to stand trial.

Justin Solondz, 31, was expelled from the People's Republic of China after serving a three-year prison term for selling drugs.

Solondz was a member of a group of environmental radicals who called themselves "The Family" and was the boyfriend of Briana Waters, 35, who pleaded guilty last month to her role in setting the $6 million blaze and is expected to testify against Solondz in order to avoid any more prison time.

Solondz will appear in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for arraignment on charges of arson and conspiracy.

Prosecutors allege that Solondz built the firebombs in a "clean room" behind a home in Olympia, transported them to Seattle and remained in the car as the getaway driver the night of the arson.

Federal investigators say the UW firebombing was part of a string of 17 arsons across the West by ELF and its sister organization, the Animal Liberation Front, responsible for tens of millions of dollars in damage.

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