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Fugitive ecoterrorist sentenced to read Malcolm Gladwell book

AP file

Rebecca Rubin, in an undated law enforcement photo, turned herself in at the Canada-Washington border in November 2012 after a decade as a fugitive.

As part of her sentence for helping the Earth Liberation Front burn $40 million worth of property, Rebecca Rubin will also have some homework to do: A federal judge ordered her to read two books, including one by famed social sciences author Malcolm Gladwell.

Rubin, 40, who evaded capture for a decade before she turned herself in in 2012, pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy and arson for her role with the extremist ecoterrorism group from 1996 to 2001.

She was sentenced Monday in Portland, Ore., to five years in prison and ordered to pay $13 million in restitution.

That was the minimum sentence available to U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken, who rejected prosecutors' request for a 7½-year sentence.

Aiken was strongly impressed by a heartfelt letter of apology Rubin submitted to the court (.pdf), in which she wrote that while "at the time I believed my only motivation was my deep love for the earth, I now understand that impatience, anger, egotism and self-righteousness were also involved."

"I thoughtlessly disregarded the adverse emotional and psychological impact that would result from my actions," she wrote.

Aiken called the letter a "thoughtful, well-stated, honest, unvarnished apology/explanation," adding: "I understand more than you know when you work in a democracy that all things look like they're black and white when you're young. And there are so many shades of gray."

In addition to lightening Rubin's sentence, the judge ordered Rubin to read "David and Goliath," the latest book by New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell, which traces how the little guy can beat the establishment by alternative means.

Aiken also put "Nature's Trust" by environmental law expert Mary Christina Wood, on Rubin's reading list.

The New York Times has called Gladwell's book "breathtaking and thought-provoking" but "deeply repetitive and a bewildering sprawl."

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