WASHINGTON -- Legislation has been introduced in Congress to make attacks on car dealerships, such as the ones attributed to radical environmentalists in California and Texas, federal crimes.
The bill, which would create the offense of eco-terrorism, was introduced Oct. 16 by freshman Rep. Chris Chocola, R-Ind., and has 42 cosponsors.
Some of the attacks in August were aimed specifically at Hummer SUVs, and a Hummer assembly plant is located in Mishawaka, Ind., which is part of Chocolas district, an aide to the congressman explained.
The FBI is already investigating the attacks and would be able to charge anyone arrested with some existing federal offenses, FBI spokesman Ed Cogswell says.
But Brooks Kochvar, Chocolas chief of staff, says the bill would give prosecutors another tool to use and would provide for increased penalties.
The bill would provide fines and prison terms of up to five years for property damage only, up to 10 years if someone is injured and up to life behind bars if someone dies. It defines eco-terrorism as property damage committed with the intent to influence the public with regard to conduct the offender considers harmful to the environment.
Tim Smith, chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, says dealers should support the measure to send a clear message to these extremists that malicious destruction of property is unacceptable.
The National Automobile Dealers Association hasnt taken an official position yet, says Tom Greene, NADAs COO for legislative affairs.
The radical group Earth Liberation Front is suspected in at least some of the attacks.
The worst of the attacks occurred Aug. 22, when more than 20 vehicles were destroyed and dozens of others were damaged at four dealerships in the Los Angeles suburbs.