Seattle, WA – A rioter who torched five Seattle Police Department (SPD) patrol vehicles during a violent uprising last year has pleaded guilty to a federal arson charge.
Margaret Aislinn Channon, 26, “used aerosol cans as a blowtorch” to set the five patrol vehicles ablaze as they were parked in the area of Pine and Sixth on May 20, 2020, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Western District of Washington Office.
Video footage captured the arsons, as well as images of Channon looting clothing and other items from various stores, according to court documents.
Investigators with the Seattle Police Department (SPD), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) used the footage and various social media accounts to identify Channon, who was “wearing distinctive clothing and showing tattoos on her hands and arms,” according to the press release.
She was arrested at her Tacoma home on June 11, 2020.
“This defendant was captured by multiple cameras using an accelerant, lit like a blowtorch, to start fires in five vehicles — putting the public at risk and creating the very real possibility of a structure fire amidst the throng of people protesting downtown,” U.S. Attorney Brian Moran said in a press release the day of her arrest.
“I commend the painstaking work of law enforcement using a variety of images to identify the defendant and locate her so she can be held accountable,” Moran noted.
During a search of Channon’s home, investigators also located accessories and clothing that appeared in some of the videos of the arsons, according to the press release.
“The number one mission of the FBI is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States,” FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Seattle Field Office Raymond Duda said. “The First Amendment guarantees Americans the right to express their opinions and peacefully protest. What it does not provide is the right to invoke violence under the guise of free speech.”
ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Blais noted in the press release that “arson is a crime of violence.”
“While we stand by every American’s Constitutional right to protest, when someone turns to violence, we will work tirelessly to investigate their crimes,” SAC Blais said. “We are working shoulder-to-shoulder with our local, state and federal partners to bring those responsible for actions such as this to justice.”
Although Channon, who pleaded guilty on Sept. 28, faces between five and 20 years in federal prison for the arsons, prosecutors will recommend the mandatory five-year minimum per the terms of the plea agreement.
Channon must also pay restitution for the damages she caused.
Her sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 18, 2022.