A man awaiting sentencing for his role in one of the biggest animal rights bombing cases in U.S. history has disappeared, apparently after receiving threats from his former compatriots in the Animal Liberation Front.
Douglas Joushua Ellerman, 19, pleaded guilty in February to three of 16 felony counts related to the March 11, 1997, attack on the Fur Breeders Agricultural Cooperative in Sandy.In a plea bargain designed to spare him from a possible life sentence, Ellerman agreed to cooperate with investigators who are working to identify others involved in the bombing and learn more about the shad-owy underground terrorist group behind it.
Prosecutors were prepared to recommend that Ellerman receive less than the minimum five-year sentence - instead of 50 years - for his help.
But word of his cooperation reached members of the Animal Liberation Front, who apparently scared Ellerman into flight. A pretrial services officer informed federal court officials earlier this week that Ellerman has not been seen since April 30. Based on that report, U.S. Magistrate Ronald Boyce on Tuesday issued a warrant for Ellerman's arrest.
At a hearing Wednesday, defense attorney Ronald J. Yengich told U.S. District Senior Judge J. Thomas Greene that Ellerman left his parents' Draper home without a change of clothes, money or a car.
According to Yengich, Ellerman received threats following news reports of his debriefing by prosecutors. Ellerman's sister was the last person to see him on Thursday, Yengich said.
"I am hopeful that if this (disappearance) is in response to the pressure, that he will return because we can work that problem out," Yengich said.
Greene, who in February advised Ellerman that his cooperation could win him a favorable sentence, let it be known on Wednesday that the earlier bargain can still be salvaged.
"I want him to know that this doesn't need to adversely affect the disposition of his case," Greene said. "The court wants him to know he would be better off if he surrenders."
And the judge also warned that federal agencies will deal harshly with anyone making threats or otherwise trying to influence the case.
Ellerman revealed in February that the ALF targeted the coop at 8720 S. 700 West because it was a major player in the national and international fur trade. He also provided a rare glimpse into the workings of the terrorist group.