A Canadian animal rights activist was sentenced to more than three years in prison Tuesday for helping a cell of the Animal Liberation Front set fire to federal wild horse corrals in Northern California.
Darren Todd Thurston, 37, was the fourth of 10 radical environmentalists to be sentenced after pleading guilty to conspiracy and arson charges for his part in a five-year string of fires across five states in the West by a Eugene group known as The Family.
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken sentenced Thurston to 37 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and arson in the 2001 fire at the Litchfield, Calif., U.S. Bureau of Land Management wild horse corrals.
In the name of the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, The Family set more than 20 fires in five Western states that did a total of $40 million in damage. Targets included the Vail Ski Resort in Colorado, forest ranger stations, meat packing plants, wild horse corrals, an SUV dealer, a tree farm and research laboratories.
At the time of his arrest, Thurston was living with fellow defendant Chelsea Gerlach in Portland.
Gerlach was sentenced to nine years in prison for her part in the arsons after evidence was presented that she persuaded Thurston to plead guilty and cooperate with the investigation rather than become a martyr.
A Canadian court document from 1994 identifies Thurston as a "member and leader of the Animal Liberation Front." He was convicted of setting fire to trucks belonging to a fish company in 1991 in Edmonton, Alberta, according to news accounts.
Thurston was also convicted of breaking into and trashing a research lab at the University of Alberta in 1992 and freeing 29 cats.