MSU Arson Suspect Pleads Guilty

On Wednesday, Frank Ambrose, one of the four people indicted for a 1999 arson at Michigan State University claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), plead guilty to conspiracy to commit arson. In addition, Ambrose admitted involvement in additional ELF actions and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators in this and other cases.

On Wednesday, Frank Ambrose, one of four suspects arrested for a 1999 arson at Michigan State University claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), plead guilty to one count of criminal conspiracy to commit arson. Under the plea agreement, Ambrose will face 5 to 20 years in prison with the possibility of his sentence being reduced by recommendation of the US Attorney in the case, in addition to financial restitution estimated at $3.7 million.

In exchange for the plea agreement, Ambrose agreed that he will cooperate fully with the US Attorney and the FBI in their investigation of the MSU arsons or other crimes over which they have jurisdiction. The agreement states:

“The Defendant’s cooperation will consist of all steps needed to uncover and prosecute such crimes, including, but not limited to providing investigators with a full, complete, and truthful statement concerning the Defendant’s knowledge of any and all criminal activity of which he is aware; truthfully answering investigators’ questions; meeting with prosecutors before testifying; truthfully testifying before grand juries and in any court proceedings; and providing all relevant tangible evidence in the Defendant’s possession or under the Defendant’s control, including, but not limited to, objects, documents, and photographs. The Defendant’s obligation to cooperate under this paragraph is an affirmative one and includes the obligation to voluntarily come forward with any and all information which the Defendant should reasonably know will assist in the investigation of other criminal activity. The defendant will neither commit nor assist others in the commission of any criminal offense during the course of his cooperation with the United States. The Defendant will submit to polygraph examinations upon request. The Defendant’s obligation under this paragraph is a continuing one, and shall continue after sentencing until all investigations and prosecutions in which the Defendant’s cooperation is deemed relevant by the U.S. Attorney’s Office have been completed.”

In addition to agreeing to cooperate with federal investigators, Ambrose also accepted the government’s version of what happened. This is reiterated again in the plea agreement, with the only difference being that the government is more clear about the involvement of a “fifth person” in the effort. The government also alleges that three individuals involved in the conspiracy “decided that not enough planning had gone into the attack and that they would remain in Empire [Michigan] because they were too afraid of being caught.” In addition to admitting his involvement in the Michigan State University and Mesick arsons that are the subject of the indictment, Ambrose admitted involvement in three additional Earth Liberation Front actions in Michigan and eight in Indiana.

While much remains unknown about the particulars of the case and why Ambrose agreed to the plea agreement, Ambrose’s agreeing to cooperate will likely be the subject of much debate within the radical environmental movement. In the wake of the “Green Scare” arrests, there has been considerable debate over whether or not it is acceptable to cooperate with investigators. Moreover, the sentences of “cooperating” verses “non-cooperating” defendants have typically not been much lighter. Similarly, some defendants in the Green Scare cases reached plea agreements where they admitted responsibility but are not required to name or implicate anyone but themselves, nor are they required to testify in court against others.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media //