Below is a newspiece from an Eau Claire, WI paper, regarding the sentencing of cooperating Rhinelander defendant Aaron Ellringer. If you have any information regarding the plea agreements and sentencing of either of the remaining defendants- Katherine Christianson and Bryan Rivera aka Bryan “Rat Dog” Lefey- please contact EWOK! by emailing email@example.com.
*Note that this and many news articles refer to a nonexistent fourth co-defendant because of the multiple names Bryan Riverahas gone by.
Co-op store owner sentenced to four days in jail
By Kevin Murphy, Special to the Leader-Telegram, 12/30/2008 11:22:01 PM
MADISON – An Eau Claire man will spend four days in jail for trespassing at a U.S. Forest Service facility near Rhinelander while the people he drove there damaged research projects and equipment valued at $500,000. On July 19, 2000, Aaron Ellringer drove four people at their request to a research facility, where they damaged 500 trees and vandalized vehicles.
The FBI pursued the case for eight years before charging Ellringer, 35, in July and three others with conspiring to destroy government property, a federal felony with a maximum of 10 years in prison. In October, Ellringer pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor trespass charge. He faced maximum penalties of six months in jail and a $10,000 fine. He must begin serving his four-day sentence in the Chippewa County Jail by Feb. 6.
Also charged in July with the federal felonies were Katherine Christianson of Santa Fe, N.M., and Bryan Rivera and Bryan “Rat Dog” Lefey, both of Washington state. All have pleaded guilty. The fourth passenger, Ian Wallace, wasn’t charged.
Ellringer never asked his passengers the purpose of the trip and didn’t take part in the destruction, he said. He knew Wallace, who contacted Ellringer about driving, as “a banner hanger” and someone involved in nonviolent protests.
“If he knew what they would do he wouldn’t have gotten involved,” Ellringer’s attorney, Federal Defender Michael Lieberman, said Tuesday.
“He’s led an exemplary life before that and since then … running a co-op grocery in Eau Claire that helps farmers (market their food) and promotes the environment … and is a member of the Eau Claire Transit Commission,” Lieberman added.
Ellringer is a co-owner of Just Local Food Co-op.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil explained that there wasn’t any proof Ellringer knew what would happen at the research facility and that his only crime was being on a forest road closed to the public.
“He was like an ostrich with his head in the sand,” Vaudreuil said of Ellringer because it’s reasonable to believe a person would ask why he was driving 150 miles.
Ellringer told Federal Magistrate Stephen Crocker that he used “poor judgment” in driving the others and not asking the purpose of the trip.
When he later learned about the vandalism, Ellringer said “it turns my stomach at the thought of what happened.”
Crocker rejected Lieberman’s request to only fine Ellringer, saying it “was more than just a trespass case. He didn’t ask (why he was driving the others) either through a misguided sense of friendship or because he didn’t want to know,” Crocker said.
Crocker and Vaudreuil said Ellringer’s cooperation led the three other defendants to plead guilty to the felony charge.
Murphy is a freelance writer from Madison.