A federal grand jury has charged a radical environmental activist for displaying the procedure of building a firebomb. The activist said this in a speech just 15 hours after a fire that his group claimed responsibility for shattered a large apartment complex being built in the near vicinity.
Rodney Adam Coronado, a 39-year-old member of the Earth Liberation Front, was summoned on a charge of giving directions on how to build a destructive device, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. The indictment was announced on Wednesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Shane Harrigan said that the law under which he was charged has been used just four other times since it was enacted in 1997. The law prohibited to tell others how to build destructive devices with the intent of having them commit crimes.
“In the speech, Coronado mentioned the fire that had just occurred,” Harrigan said. “We have to prove his intent was to have others go out and commit arson.”
No one has been charged in the August 1, 2003, early morning fire that did about $50 million in damage to the complex being built in University Town Center, a high technology and business center near the University of California San Diego.
Authorities say the case is still under investigation.
The Earth Liberation Front took responsibility for the fire, leaving a banner at the site and sending an e-mail to a local newspaper.
Coronado has told reporters he showed people how to build a firebomb, which he used while destroying an animal testing facility in Michigan in 1992. He served four years in prison for that arson.
He is in federal custody in Tucson, Arizona, awaiting sentencing after being convicted of going into a public recreation area to disrupt efforts to trap and move mountain lions there.
Three people who attended Coronado’s speech were jailed for refusing to testify before the grand jury about the content of the speech. All have been released.