Judge Orders Eco-Terrorist to Read Malcolm Gladwell's New Book While in Prison

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 28 2014 2:33 PM

Judge Sentences Eco-Terrorist to Read Malcolm Gladwell's New Book While in Prison

154364982-malcolm-gladwell-attends-wsj-magazines-innovator-of-the
Malcolm Gladwell attends WSJ. Magazine's 'Innovator Of The Year' Awards at MOMA on October 18, 2012 in New York City

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Rebecca Rubin, a Canadian eco-terrorist who had been on the lam for the better part of a decade until she turned herself over to U.S. authorities this past fall, was sentenced this week to five years in prison for her role in fires started by the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front back in the 1990s.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Rubin's sentence was the lowest she could have received under federal sentencing guidelines, and was significantly less than the 90 months prosecutors had been hoping for. Nonetheless, it came with an extra punishment that was certainly unusual—whether it was cruel depends on how you feel about a certain best-selling author of pop science books, via CBC/AP:

U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken said Monday in federal court in Portland, Ore., that Rubin showed contrition and lived in "an emotional prison cell" during seven years as a fugitive in Canada, from December 2005 to November 2012. ... She was ordered to pay more than $13 million in restitution upon her release and perform 200 hours of community service. ...
Aiken included in her sentence an order to read two books: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell, which Aiken said Rubin could learn non-violent means to protesting systems she perceives as unjust, and Nature's Trust by University of Oregon environmental law professor Mary C. Wood.
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For those wondering, some back of the envelope math tells me that Rubin would need to spend a little more than five hours a day for every day of her five-year sentence to master the art of reading Gladwell. (Jokes!)

All told, investigators blame Rubin and her fellow environmental radicals, collectively known as "The Family," for about 20 fires across the West between 1996 and 2001 that caused an estimated $40 million worth of damage. The highlights included setting fire to a Colorado ski resort, a Northern California wild horse corral (they freed the horses first), and an Oregon lumber bill. There were no casualties. One reason the feds were asking for a longer sentence for Rubin, however, was because of her refusal to talk about her co-conspirators, two of which are still believed to be at large.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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