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How A Sentence To Read Gladwell Overshadowed The Part About The Prison Time

Jan. 31, 2014 | OPB
CONTRIBUTED BY:
David Steves


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  • An FBI photo of an arson fire set in 1998 at a Colorado ski resort. It was one of the four crimes for which Rebecca Rubin was convicted and sentenced to prison, restitution, community service and mandatory reading. credit: FBI
An FBI photo of an arson fire set in 1998 at a Colorado ski resort. It was one of the four crimes for which Rebecca Rubin was convicted and sentenced to prison, restitution, community service and mandatory reading. | credit: FBI | rollover image for more

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When a federal judge handed down an environmental activist’s sentence in a Portland courtroom this week, the headlines were all about the 5-year prison sentence.

Until they were all about the reading list that U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken’s ordered Rebecca Rubin to work through:

Punishment by Malcolm Gladwell. Hard time reading the work of a University of Oregon law professor, Mary C. Wood.

It’s the reading list that’s led the coverage from The United Kingdom’s Guardian to Slate to the L.A. Times.

Meanwhile, the hometown daily, The Oregonian newspaper, made no mention of the mandatory readling list. And it was in the fourth-to-the-last graph of the Portland-based Associated Press reporter’s story on the sentencing.

The hard facts of this case: Rubin is a 40-year-old Canadian who took part in four arsons committed by environmental activists with the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front in an apparent attempt to advance their agenda.

The crimes, between 1996 and 2001: torching a wild horse corral in Burns, Ore. after wild horses were released, involvement in planning or attempting fires at a building in Medford, Ore. and a ski resort in Colorado, and the release of horses from a corral in California, which other participants set on fire.

After she’s done with her five years in prison, Rubin was ordered to make payments that will work off some of $13 million in restitution and to put in 200 hours of community service work.

And the reading. Gladwell’s new David and Goliath Gladwell’s book makes the case that underdogs often prevail. Aikens said it would teach Rubin “non-violent means to protesting systems she perceives as unjust.”

Wood, though lesser-known than Gladwell, has written a book that may be more on-message for Rubin, given her keen interest in the environment. The UO law prof’s book is titled Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law For A New Ecological Age.

David Steves

© 2014 OPB
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