A 28-year-old Bellingham, Washington woman was convicted today in U.S. District Court in Seattle of violence against a railroad carrier, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman.  Ellen Brennan Reiche, was one of two people arrested on the BNSF Railway tracks near Bellingham, near midnight on November 28, 2020.  Reiche was convicted of placing a ‘shunt’ – a device that interferes with train signals – on the tracks.  The jury deliberated about three hours following the two-day trial.  Reiche faces up to 20 years in prison when sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez on December 17, 2021. 

According to records in the case and testimony at trial, on the night of November 28, 2020, Reiche and co-defendant Samantha Frances Brooks, 24, were observed on video surveillance walking on the tracks near a crossing in Bellingham.  Whatcom County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene.  The defendants were detained for trespassing, and a shunt was found on the tracks near where the deputies had first encountered them.  Reiche was carrying a paper bag containing wire, a drill with a brush head, a magnetic adhesive and gloves.  The wire was similar to the wire used in the shunting incidents.  The shunt that was placed on the tracks could have interfered with the railroad crossing guard at Cliffside Drive in Bellingham.  A train carrying crude oil, among other cargo, was scheduled to come through that area soon after this incident.

Read more: Department of Justice