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Washington woman convicted for shunt attack disrupting BNSF operations

By | September 9, 2021

28-year-old faces up to 20 years in prison; co-defendant had previously pleaded guilty

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SEATTLE — A 28-year-old Bellingham, Wash., woman faces up to 20 years in prison after being convicted today of violence against a railroad carrier for a November 2020 incident on a BNSF Railway line in Bellingham.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington says in a press release that Ellen Brennan Reiche was convicted of placing a shunt on the tracks, interfering with signals, by a jury that deliberated for about three hours after a two-day trial. She will be sentenced Dec. 17.

Reiche and Samantha Francis Brooks, 24, were arrested on Nov. 28, 2020, when they were found walking on the rail tracks carrying wire, tools and gloves [see “Digest: Women charged with terrorist attack on railroad …,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 1, 2020]. Their arrests came as the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force worked with BNSF police to investigate 41 incidents involving shunts placed on BNSF tracks during 2020.

Brooks had previously pleaded guilty to interference with a railroad signaling system; she also faces up to 20 years in prison, but the government has agreed to recommend a sentence at the low end of the sentencing range as part of a plea bargain [see “Washington woman pleads guilty in rail terrorism case,” News Wire, Aug. 3, 2021]. She will be sentenced Oct. 8.

10 thoughts on “Washington woman convicted for shunt attack disrupting BNSF operations

    1. If she had a political motive then that’s terrorism. Send her to Gitmo.

      Normally I’m not big on sending people to prison. One exception is political violence.

      1. Some people that commit violent crimes murder, armed robberies, rapes, and crimes deserve to go to prison, you sound like you support people that do crimes without fear of prison.

  1. Tampering with a railroad, especially a Class I, is considered an act of terrorism because she could have put thousands of lives at risk. Railroads are considered part of the national transportation infrastructure and are subject to federal laws. Like airlines, people who get caught messing with that stuff are in for serious trouble. One consequence of disabling a signal could have been a crash or derailment, spilling contents that the train was carrying and killing or injuring the crew and others. Such a spill could have caused a chemical leak that possibly may have led to an explosion, toxic vapor cloud, fouling of drinking water, and poisoning of food crops and lands. It’s more than just about stopping a train. She deserves some prison time. Maybe not the full 20 years, but enough to be an example to deter other acts of domestic terrorism.

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