A 26-year-old Tacoma woman was sentenced to five years in federal prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to arson stemming from the torching of five police cars during the racial justice protests that rocked downtown Seattle after the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis in May 2020.
Margaret Aislinn Channon was arrested June 11, 2020, after an investigation by federal agents and Seattle police, who identified her from video showing an individual in distinctive clothing with tattoos on her hands setting fire to the vehicles.
During the sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour told Channon that her conduct had done “tremendous damage to Black Lives Matter in Seattle.”
Channon was also shown breaking into downtown businesses and stealing clothing and other items. According to court documents, she admitted smashing the window at a Verizon store and entering a sandwich shop and destroying the electronic cash register.
“The right to protest, gather, and call out injustices is one of the dearest and most important rights we enjoy in the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “Indeed, our democracy depends on both exercising and protecting these rights. But Ms. Channon’s conduct was itself an attack on democracy.”
Brown said Channon “used the cover of lawful protests to carry out dangerous and destructive acts, risking the safety of everyone around her and undermining the important messages voiced by others.”
Federal prosecutors, in sentencing documents, said Channon endangered the lives of hundreds of protests when she used a lighter and an aerosol can to create a blowtorch to set a vehicle ablaze.
“Hundreds of people were standing in the vicinity of the police cars that Channon burned, some only a few feet away,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg. “All of them were in harm’s way if one of the vehicles had exploded.”
Donald Voiret, the special agent in charge of the Seattle office of the FBI, said the prosecution highlights the bureau’s commitment to investigating and prosecuting cases of domestic terrorism, “no matter what their motivations may be.”
As part of a plea agreement, Channon has agreed to pay restitution for the burned vehicles.