SALT LAKE CITY — There was a lot of contention in federal court Thursday over whether Walter Bond rose to the level of a "serial arsonist."
But U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart didn't seem that confused before sentencing the 35-year-old to more than seven years in prison — 12 considering that Stewart ordered the sentence to run consecutive with a five-year sentence handed down for arson in Colorado.
"I will be the first to admit that I am a serial arsonist," the judge said, quoting something Bond wrote in February. "He does take pride (in what he's done). The court is concerned this defendant will never have respect for the law."
Bond pleaded guilty to felony counts of arson and violence involving animal enterprises in July.
A member of the Animal Liberation Front with the nickname "Lone Wolf," Bond is accused of setting fire to the Tandy Leather Factory at 1107 S. State in June 2010 and Tiburon Fine Dining, 8256 S. 700 East, a month later. The fires caused $20,000 and $500,000 in damage, respectively.
Later, Bond claimed responsibility for the fires on the ALF website. He was sentenced for the sheepskin store fire in Colorado in March.
According to court documents, Bond targeted the sheepskin, leather and restaurant businesses because they represent animals that a wolf would hunt, in keeping with his moniker "Lone Wolf."
Bond's attorney, Nathan Crane, argued against a government motion asking for an upward departure from sentencing guidelines, saying his client wouldn't re-offend when released because he has discovered a new outlet in writing.
"He has found this lawful and positive voice," Crane said. "He is reaching more people now than he ever did committing crimes."
But the statements Bond made in court confirmed the judge's fears.
"As far as the arsons at Tiburon and the leather factory go, I have no remorse," he said.
Bond told the judge he wasn't going to lie to him in a last-ditch attempt at a lighter in sentence. Instead, he apologized for the crimes he believes society commits against animals. He apologized for his part in constructing slaughterhouses when he was 19 — the experience that he says prompted him to want to become a vegan and advocate for animals.
As for the arson that in Utah caused a total of thousands of dollars in damage to two businesses and more than $1 million in Colorado?
"I regret none of it," Bond said. "I never will. You can take away my freedom, but you can never have my submission."
He compared the current treatment of animals to slavery and domestic violence as examples of things that were once lawful but since have become illegal.
"I know what I say, and I say what I mean, and I know I'm judged by it," Bond said. "Today, I am the bad guy. Perhaps that is just historical coincidence."
Assistant U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber said he's confident Bond would re-offend if given the chance. The Utah incidents were numbers four and five for Bond. In addition to the Colorado fire, Bond set fires at a church and a suspected drug house in Iowa, Huber said.
"He's clearly proud of the crimes he's committed," he said. "Mr. Bond is one who likes the attention, likes the limelight."
Huber encouraged the judge to send a strong message to those who may be considering similar actions in the future. He also argued that Bond was a domestic terrorist jeopardizing legitimate businesses, their employees and their families.
Sherry Ramirez, manager of the Tandy's Leather Factory, said Bond already has threatened to come back and set the place on fire again.
"I think he's a serial arsonist, and in my book he's a terrorist," Ramirez said. "He's terrorized my life and that of my employees."
After the hearing, she said she was happy with Bond's sentence. And despite the man's defiance, Ramirez said Bond was nothing more than "a dweeb."
"I think he's just kind of a geek," she said. "He was just looking for attention and an excuse to burn things."
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