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Briana Waters To Be Sentenced For 2006 UW Arson

Phyllis Fletcher

Federal prosecutors say the last arsonist in a fire that destroyed a University of Washington building in 2001 will be sentenced Friday in Tacoma.

Her case is part of an operation that charged 17 people with federal crimes. Three are still on the run.


In 2006 the feds called it Operation Backfire, an investigation of environmental and animal rights activists. The government accused them of destroying businesses and buildings all over the western United States. The FBI said it was terrorism.

One incident happened in Seattle, in 2001, at the University of Washington. A fire destroyed the Urban Horticulture Center. Federal prosecutors said the arsonists were opposed to research there on poplar trees.

They charged five people. One killed himself. Two pled guilty, testified against Briana Waters, and helped a jury convict her and send her to prison. An appeals court overturned the conviction. She was released and set for a new trial. But the fifth accused arsonist had been arrested in China and was about to be extradited to the US. Waters agreed to cooperate in his trial. In separate hearings, they pled guilty.

Now prosecutors are asking the court to send Waters back to prison. With credit for time served, it could be as little as five months. But Waters is asking the court to find a way to punish her without punishing her seven–year–old daughter with another separation.

Three people have so far escaped punishment in Operation Backfire. One of them grew up in Seattle and worked at Microsoft. The feds have said they may be living in Canada, Spain and Syria.

I'm Phyllis Fletcher, KUOW News.

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