Environmental activist Tre Arrow entered a not guilty plea and U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis J. Hubel set a trial date of May 6 in a small courtroom filled to occupancy in Portland's Federal Courthouse at 1:30 pm Monday.
Arrow, who returned to Oregon last Friday night
after losing his fight against extradition, faces felony charges including conspiracy, arson, attempted arson and use of destructive devices (incendiaries).
A crowd of about 20 braved Portland's notorious mist in front of the courthouse beforehand in support of Arrow in the city where his environmental radicalism began.
The supporters congregated in peaceful protest to play drums, blow bubbles and wave signs.
“Whether or not you agree with his political beliefs, in America you deserve a free trial,” said supporter Chani Geigle-Teller, 25, as she held one end of a large “Free Tre Arrow” banner.
The charges are a result of Arrow allegedly setting aflame trucks belonging to Ross Island Sand and Gravel Company and Schoppert Logging Company in 2001.
Arrow spent 20 months as a fugitive in Canada before being arrested in 2004 for shoplifting a pair of bolt cutters and has since battled extradition to the United States.
Prosecutor and Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Peifer says if Arrow is found guilty of the crimes, he faces life in prison.
Arrow's sister, Shawna Scarpitti, 38, spoke with Arrow Sunday evening and says, “his spirits are high.”
She has not seen her brother since last April and hopes to get a face-to-face with him this evening.
“The charges he faces are property damage,” she says. “He's completely innocent.”
Arrow is being held in Multnomah County Detention Center.
There was speculation in the courtroom that Arrow would be detained until trial in Sheridan, Oregon, at which point Loney requested of the judge that Arrow be held locally for easier trial preparation.
His detention location remains unconfirmed as Hubel replied that the matter should be taken up with the U.S. Marshal.
Other issues brought before the court included Peifer stating that he received a phone call Monday morning from attorney Andrew Bates, who says Loney's representation of Arrow presents a conflict of interest.
Bates represented Jacob Sherman, another defendant in Arrow's case who pleaded guilty to arson charges and completed a 41-month federal prison term. Bates contends there is a conflict because Loney works in Belmont Law Center with attorney Stu Sugarman, who also represented Sherman.
“There's no actual conflict of interest here at all,” Loney told the judge. “We had separate practices and just shared a waiting room and copier like many other Portland lawyers.”
Hubel said Bates can move for a disqualification if desired, and the issue was not discussed further.
Loney also requested before the court that Arrow's raw vegan dietary needs of his strict Buddhist practice be accommodated while in confinement.
Hubel said it would be appropriate for those to be accommodated as soon as possible.
The arraignment took all of 20 minutes, and as Arrow took one last glimpse of the crowd, he bowed to his supporters with his long curly black hair falling around his face and whispered, “Namaste.”
His calm demeanor and publicized spirituality seem contradictory to his government label as a terrorist.
His sister, Scarpitti, blames the fear-based post-9/11 climate for what she calls an unfair application of the term "terrorist" to Arrow.
“He protected nature on a ledge for 11 days and ran for congress,” says Scarpitti, who believes Arrow's scaling of the Regional U.S. Forest Service headquarters in Portland in 2000 to protest logging in Mount Hood National Forest was instrumental in canceling the Eagle timber sale. “He's not some covert guy living in a cave.”