Teenagers' Activism Takes a Violent Turn
New York Youths Linked to Ecoterrorist Group
By Christine Haughney
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 27, 2001; Page A03
LONG ISLAND, N.Y. - Jared McIntyre, a 17-year-old son of a New York City
police sergeant, devoted many afternoons to researching global warming at
the Brookhaven National Laboratory and writing impassioned essays for his
high school newspaper that depicted prisons as "dungeons" and farms as
But when McIntyre started to burn down newly built homes in the name of
environmental preservation, federal prosecutors said his youthful social
activism took a leap into domestic terrorism. McIntyre pleaded guilty in
mid-February as an adult in federal court here to arson and conspiracy for
burning new homes and planning to torch a fast-food restaurant and a duck
farm. He carried out these crimes under the name of the Earth Liberation
Front (ELF), which the FBI has labeled as one of the country's greatest
domestic terrorism threats.
Within days of McIntyre's plea, two other Long Island teenagers entered
pleas. Matthew Rammelkamp, 16, a high school junior who masters a heavy
course load of Advanced Placement and honors courses, pleaded guilty to
burning down four partially built homes. McIntyre's classmate, George
Mashkow, 17, a junior whom neighbors describe as bright but needy for
acceptance, pleaded guilty to burning down another new home.
A fourth person, Conor Cash, 19, has been charged with leading the three
young men in the destruction. But Cash's neighbors bristle at accusations
that the teenager they know for capricious hairstyles and idealism is a
"This is no mastermind. . . . This is no 007," said Tom Grecco, Cash's
former neighbor. "He's just the kid across the street."
The FBI disagrees. The charges mark the first time federal agents have
caught members of ELF. The group and its partner, the Animal Liberation
Front (ALF), are the most active domestic terrorists, according to the FBI.
ELF has said that members have destroyed $37 million worth of property in
its attacks, mostly in the West. When ELF moved east to Long Island, the
FBI assigned the Joint Terrorist Task Force, which handled the bombings of
the U.S. embassies in Africa and the World Trade Center, to investigate.
"Are they terrorists? Yes they are," said Harvey W. Kushner, an expert
witness for federal prosecutors in the New York City trial of four men
people charged in the embassy bombings. He calls ELF "the new face of
Modeled after ALF, ELF is organized in small, decentralized groups of
members, or cells, that communicate anonymously through e-mails and their
Web site. When a cell decides to take a "direct action" such as burning
newly built homes, members announce their actions through ELF spokesman
Craig Rosebraugh. Rosebraugh, who runs a vegan bakery in Portland, Ore.,
says that he is not an ELF member but that he supports their acts.
All four youths, who face prison terms of up to 20 years, 40 for the
alleged ringleader if he is convicted, declined to be interviewed for this
McIntyre grew up in the Long Island suburb of Coram in a neat ranch house
with a wooden swing set and above-ground swimming pool in the back yard.
Classmates at nearby Longwood High School describe him as a popular,
honors-level student who uses a quick wit to defuse tension at the school's
"He's concerned about the world he lives in," said Bradley Bing, Longwood
High School's newspaper adviser. "He's just into social issues much like
At Longwood High, which McIntyre and Mashkow attend, encroaching
development is a hot topic among students who point to the half-constructed
homes on the edges of school property. They talk about the expansion
projects the school has done to make space for the ninth-grade class. But
McIntyre, they say, took these changes more seriously.
When McIntyre met Rammelkamp at an environmental rally last fall, he found
a peer who was just as serious about the environment. In addition to his
demanding course work, Rammelkamp plays electric guitar, skateboards and
reads extensively about the environment, said his mother, Debra Rammelkamp.
For a boy whose life experiences include driving a car only four
times, his mother said, Rammelkamp argues with his parents authoritatively
about the environment and nags them to eat more vegetables and to avoid soda.
"He only sees the one side environmentally," she said.
By the December arson, Mashkow, known as Kci, had joined their plans,
according to prosecutors. This effusive son of a retired corrections
officer did not share an interest in the environment as much as a need to
fit in, friends and neighbors say.
One neighbor says he trusts Mashkow so much that he has given him keys to
his home to watch his dogs when he vacations.
"He is not an activist or terrorist," said Mashkow's attorney, Charlie
Russo. "He simply was a 17-year-old who was misguided."
The entire effort, prosecutors say, was led by Cash, a former altar boy and
high school dropout whose stormy adolescence, neighbors said, was marked by
hard drinking. His close friend, Kevin Van Meter, said Cash had tackled his
alcohol problem and had turned into one of Long Island's rising young
activists. While working jobs at a greenhouse and helping migrant farm
workers organize, he said, Cash helped to expand the number of Food Not
Bombs programs on Long Island, raised money for a youth center, protested
at local demonstrations on sweatshop workers and offered his friends advice
on handling their addictions to alcohol.
"Conor will, in my belief, be one of the best youth activists and the best
youth organizers in time," Van Meter said.
A common thread running through Cash's adolescence was his sense of
righteousness, said Kathy Sweeney. She works as the assistant director of
religion education at St. Louis de Montfort church, where the Cashes
worship and Cash's mother teaches religion.
"He had ambitions of helping," she said. "I always used to tell him, 'You
should have been born in the '60s,' because that's what he looked like and
that's what he talked like."
According to court documents filed by prosecutors, the four youths started
the burnings in the name of ELF in December.
Household items such as sponges and birthday candles became their weapons,
and ALF and ELF Web sites became their guides, prosecutors said.
McIntyre and Mashkow admitted in their guilty pleas that they set fire to a
partially constructed house; McIntyre and Rammelkamp admitted to torching
four other partially built homes.
Prosecutors say Cash bought the gas to burn down four of the homes but sent
the younger men to do it because, as juveniles, they would face less
punishment. The four youths also had plans to burn down a McDonald's and to
free ducks from a farm by setting it on fire, prosecutors allege.
"The individuals responsible for these crimes are not idealistic crusaders,
but rather ecoterrorists who not only destroy property when they commit
these violent acts . . . but also risk causing serious injury and death,"
said Barry Mawn, head of the FBI's New York field office.
For McIntyre, the Brookhaven National Laboratory has ended his $6-an-hour
internship and the FBI has taken copies of his newspaper articles. His
attorney, Richard Kaufman, maintains that his client is a youthful
activist, not a terrorist worthy of investigation by a federal task force.
"It appears that the government has come out of this investigation with a
different view than what they expected when they came in," he said.
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