Indictment Outlines Government’s Charges in MSU Arsons

The indictment filed by the government against four environmentalists arrested for two arsons claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) outlines both a timeline of what the government alleges happened as well as the government’s claims that the arsons were crimes against society.

An indictment filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan outlines the government’s charges against four suspects–Marie Mason, Frank Ambrose, Aren Burthwick, and Stephanie Fultz–who the government claims were responsible for two arsons attributed to the radical environmental group known as the Earth Liberation Front (ELF).

The indictment argues that the crimes–arsons in which no lives were endangered–were crimes against society. In defining the actions of the ELF and how it operates, the indictment says:

“The ELF was, and remains, a loosely organized movement of individuals who are committed to the eradication of commercial, research, and other activities that its adherents consider harmful to the natural environment. ELF espouses a philosophy of what its adherents refer as “direct action,” a term that denotes specific acts of politically-motivated violence designed to force segments of society, including the general civilian population, private business, and government, to change their attitudes about environmental issues and/or to cease activities considered by the movement to have a negative impact on the natural environment.”

It further says that:

“ELF direct actions include actions that violate the criminal laws of the United States or of individual States that are dangerous to human life. ELF adherents carry out such direct actions in order to intimidate or coerce civilian populations and/or to influence the policy of the government through such means.”

After outlining its view of the ELF’s activities, the government outlines the alleged timeline for the two arsons. Based on information that seems to have been obtained at least in part from an unnamed “person known to the Grand Jury”–possibly some type of informant given the use of informants in recent ELF trials–the government details what it alleges happened. According to the indictment, the four individuals met on December 30, 1999 in Empire, Michigan to discuss destroying records of plant genetic research at Michigan State University (MSU). Apparently, the group decided to go forward with the arson, and the government alleges that Mason and Ambrose traveled to East Lansing to carry out the action.

According to the indictment, the arson at MSU did not go particularly well. After breaking into the building, the government alleges that Ambrose left Mason there while he traveled to Meijer to purchase several one-gallon jugs of juice that he filled with gasoline at a nearby gas station. Once he returned, the government says that the two returned to the office space where the records were stored and poured gasoline on files and computer hard drives. The government claims that Mason spray painted the message “No GMO” while Ambrose setup a fuse consisting of rolled up paper. When he allegedly lit the fuse, the government says that the gas fumes exploded and burned Mason’s hair. The two allegedly fled the scene at that point.

The government says that following the arson at Michigan State University, Ambrose and Mason returned to Empire to meet up with the others. They said that the arson “succeeded” but that Mason’s hair had to be cut because it was burned. The next day, the group allegedly saw logging equipment near Mesick, Michigan and decided to burn it. They allegedly bought gasoline, charcoal, firewood, and matches at a nearby gas station that were then used in the arson. At the site, they spray painted “ELF” and “Go Log in Hell.”

The indictment says that a few days later, Mason and Ambrose completed a “communique” explaining the actions near Traverse City. The communique was sent to an ELF spokesperson. A month later, the government alleges that Mason sent a second report via email to the ELF. Later, a report praising the Michigan State University arson, the Mesick arson, and a third arson appeared on the ELF website.

The indictment charges all four with “Conspiracy to Commit Arson” based on the scenario detailed in the preceding paragraphs. All four are also charged with “Arson” in for the logging fire in Mesick. Ambrose and Mason are charged with two counts of “Arson” for the fire at Michigan State University.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media //