In Statement to Court, Marie Mason Claims Responsibility & Reasons for MSU Arson

Marie Mason Explains Participation in Earth Liberation Front (ELF) Actions

Last week, reported that eco-activist Marie Mason was sentenced to 21 years in prison for her role in an arson at Michigan State University (MSU) in 1999 and other acts attributed to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). That arson–undertaken to protest genetic engineering–was described simply as an act of terrorism by the media and the government, with little exploration given to why Mason undertook such a drastic action. Aside from a communique from 2000 that we reprinted shortly after Mason was arrested, there has been little said about why she participated in the action.

To that end, we are reprinting Marie Mason’s statement to the judge in her case. Regardless of what one thinks about the action itself, it is clear that it was rooted in a belief that something needed to be done to stop the destruction of the Earth.

Mason’s statement:

“Your Honor,

I understand the serious nature of the offenses to which I have plead guilty. I accept responsibility for my actions. At the time, I feared there were dire and immediate threats to both human and non-human lives and that the health and safety of human communities, as well as the ecological integrity of the Earth, were in jeopardy.

I care deeply about my fellow human being and the other living creatures with whom we share this planet. I felt responsible to take extreme action in the hope that it would save lives and halt deadly practices that directly threatened living beings and contributed to the degradation of the environment. I thought that what I was doing would shine a light on these dangerous policies so that an informed public dialogue would ensue and policies would be changed.

In all of my actions, I was present at the moment that property damage was done or a fire was set. I believed that this way I could ensure that no living creature would inadvertently wander into the site and be endangered. At the time, I felt that it was possible to anticipate and avoid any potential threat to life by taking precautions and by being vigilant at each event. This was not possible, despite my efforts.

In particular, the arson at MSU ended up greatly exceeding the scope of my intent, so much so that I almost became the first casualty in these types of offenses.

Even so, other than this one instance of danger to myself, I remained blinded to the risks that others were exposed to during that action. Much later, even years later, I became aware of how other people who came to the scene after I left were frightened and confused. I also found out that students and employees were greatly inconvenienced and lost personal property, that they felt that there might be a continued threat to them. As I understand it now, firefighters entered the building and were also in danger from the fire and the subsequent water damage to the building. I never anticipated or intended that anyone would have been endangered and am truly sorry that anyone’s life was put in danger.

For more than twenty years, I participated in every legal avenue open to me as a private citizen to educate and persuade government officials and corporate representatives to reconsider policies. I have also participated in civil disobedience in the style taught by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatman Gandhi, whose non-violent teachings I embraced. Given my commitment to non-violence, it was only under an extreme set of circumstances that I rationalized my actions and put people in danger. I believed that I was taking risks to prevent a greater harm to living beings. I never intended to cause danger of harm to any living thing, and by that standard I failed.

I want to explain that the more I learned of the consequences of deforestation and genetic engineering, the more desperate I felt. I am not opposed to conducting research in the interests of expanding knowledge and bringing improvements to health and well being when it is conducted in a responsible and humane way. But genetic engineering research is often conducted in open-air situations that release contaminated pollen into the environment with devastating effects, as in the case of the terminator seed plants. Communities should have the right to choose or refuse the risks that come with GMO’s. What I was more and more aware of in my research and in my dealings with indigenous activists’ work around the globe is that the use of GMO’s forced on communities by collusion between banks, companies and governments was causing starvation, debt and environmental damage through contact with these GMO’s. I felt so much grief for this needless suffering, these needless deaths.

The threat posed to all of us by global warming – for which all of the world’s forests act as a buffer against – is direct and dramatic. The increase in catastrophic storms that caused so much death and destruction in New Orleans and in many parts of Asia are attributable to the erratic warming of the planet. Forests sequester carbon and cool the planet. As we lose them, we lose the time we need to find new and more sustainable ways of fulfilling our energy needs before global climate crisis is unavoidable.

But despite my despair, I have never felt entitled to cause physical harm in order to protect life. I have always taken to heart the Buddhist spiritual principle to take no action that would bring physical harm to any living being. Although there were some risks associated with my actions that were unintentional and unanticipated, I had convinced myself they could be eliminated. In retrospect, I see that this was not possible, and I regret it. I acknowledge that greater harm could have happened and that it is very fortunate that no one was physically hurt, and that there was psychological damage done. I acknowledge those risks and knowing what I know now, I would not have taken the same actions.

My actions were individual acts of conscience and I take sole responsibility for them. The property damage was intended to be symbolic and theatrical in nature, not dangerous or threatening to any individual.

I hope to protect my community and the Earth, to respond in defense of the living systems of animals, land and water. I tried to preserve the natural world from destruction because it is all of our home, because its health is necessary for all of use to live well.

I have failed to bring about the changes that I sought and caused harm where I intended none. I am saddened and sorry for that. My hope is that the next generation that inherits this Earth and the responsibility for stewardship will succeed in finding better methods of bringing about the evolution of our society, a transformation that will benefit all those who share this beautiful Earth.

Though I have been wrong and misguided in my actions to defend my community and this Earth from harm, I hope to be able to dedicate what’s left of my life to service in better ways. I hope to volunteer at a burn center in my community, as some of my past actions risked injuries of that nature. I have some first aid training from my work experience, as well as training for home health care that might be helpful.

I also hope to be able to contribute to community garden programs, both working with at-risk youth and providing food to distribution programs. These gardens have also been pressed into service to provide herbs to free herbal palliative health care. I have had experience as a volunteer before with these kinds of groups and would be happy to contribute again.

I want to state that I am genuinely sorry to those who have felt personally frightened by my actions. I was unable to see this as a consequence of my actions before, probably as I was so overwhelmed with my own grief and fear that I couldn’t empathize with other’s perceptions. I meant to inspire thought and compassion, not fear.

I also acknowledge that my actions endangered lives and I am deeply regretful for that. It was never my intention to cause physical harm and certainly not serious injury. I was wrong to believe it could always be avoided. I am and will always be grateful that my actions did not result in death or injury. But I do understand now that the risk was there.

Lastly, I feel that I need to apologize for the expense and suffering that my actions have caused my family, especially my children. I love my family very much and this has been so hard on them. They have been loving and generous in their support for me.

I hope that you will take all of this into consideration as you make your decision, your Honor.”

Eco-Activist Sentenced to 21 Years for MSU Arson

Marie Mason Receives Longest Green Scare Sentence for ELF Arson at MSU

Yesterday, environmental activist Marie Mason was sentence to twenty-one years and ten months in prison for her role in an Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arson at Michigan State University (MSU) in 1999. Mason was also ordered to pay $4.1 million in restitution. The arson was undertaken to protest the school’s involvement in genetically modified research that was in part funded by Monsanto.

Prosecutors in the case hope that Mason’s sentence will send a clear message:

“If in this country someone is strongly committed to a cause, you’ve got all kinds of legal ways to pursue that cause, but if you think because you feel strongly about something, you’re allowed to go commit crimes of violence, you’re wrong.”

Mason’s lawyer said that the sentence shocking:

“Frankly I’m shocked. The sentence I think is grossly out of proportion to any sentence that’s ever been imposed anywhere in the country.”

Longest Green Scare Sentence

Marie Mason’s sentence is the longest received by an environmental activist for arson. Stan Meyerhoff, who was convicted of ELF arsons causing over $30 million in damages, received thirteen years in prison. The MSU arson cost an estimated $1 million in damages.

The Earth Liberation Front Press Office–an aboveground organization that publicizes ELF actions–said:

“The sentence imposed on Marie Mason today by Judge Maloney was for nonviolent crimes against property. Currently, the average federal sentence for murder is 19 years, nearly three years less than given to Marie Mason today for nonviolent property crimes. Two things are clear from this decision. First, the U.S. government cares more about the property of corporations and institutions involved in environmental destruction than they value human life. Second, since the 22 year sentence given to Marie Mason is three years above the average federal sentence for murder, it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Will Potter–who writes about the “Green Scare” at the excellent blog–pointed out that earlier this week, the FBI applauded sentences of 10 to 12 years for men who carried out racist attacks against African-Americans in response to Barack Obama’s elections.

By contrast, Mason received 21 years for a non-violent crime that did not physically harm anyone.

FBI Intimidates Supporters

Before her sentencing, federal prosecutors sought a twenty-year sentence. According to the press, part of the justification for seeking this sentence was the fact that Mason had become a “movement heroine”. Prosecutors said that Mason, “has become a figure of admiration to that community, a portion of whose membership continues to bully, threaten and destroy.” Specifically, they cited the Internet presence of Marie Mason’s support group as a reason for asking for such a lengthy sentence.

In advance the sentencing, the FBI sent out a press release to local media warning that police were on high alert for radical protestors. According to a story on Lansing’s WLNS:

“Lansing authorities are on high alert as radical environmental protestors are expected to show up for the sentencing of a woman who admitted to starting a fire at Michigan State University over 9 years ago. According to the Lansing Police Department, the FBI and US Marshals on hand to handle security at the Lansing federal courthouse.

They expect members of the eco-terrorist groups, the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front to gather and protest.”

Of course, the FBI knows that members of the ELF and ALF would not gather to protest as such activists operate in a clandestine manner. Instead, the release was meant as another way to discourage and criminalize supporters.

Other Sentences in the Case

Two others who were indicted and charged with aiding the MSU arson–Aren Burthwick and Stephanie Fultz–were also sentenced yesterday. They were both charged with assisting in a cover-up related to the case and failing to report the arson to authorities. Burthwick was sentenced to fourteen months in prison, one year supervised release, and a $2,000 fine. Fultz received two years of probation and one-hundred hours of community service.

Last year, Marie Mason’s former husband, Frank Ambrose, was sentenced to nine years for his role in the arson. Ambrose–who actually lit the fire in the MSU arson–received a lesser sentence because he was an essential government informant in this and other cases. In exchange for his cooperation, the government pursued a lesser sentence.

Michigan ELF Informant Sentenced to 9 Years in Prison

A former environmental activist who plead guilty to an Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arson at Michigan State University (MSU) was sentenced to 9 years in prison on Monday. The sentence was less than the twenty year maximum due to his cooperation with the government.

Frank Ambrose–an environmental activist who became a government informant–was sentenced to 9 years in prison on Monday for his role in an Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arson at Michigan State University (MSU). In addition, Ambrose was ordered to pay $3.7 million in restitution to MSU.

Ambrose worked as an FBI informant since August of 2007 and went well beyond what most informants do, traveling to several states and recoding over 100 telephone conversations. Because of this, his attorney asked for a sentence of 5 years while prosecutors sought a 7-year sentence. The 9 years ordered by the judge is far less than the twenty which he was originally facing.

Ambrose was quoted in the press saying “I wish I could take all I did back. I’ve changed significantly from all those years where I did the bad things.”

Man Pleads Guilty to Attempted Arson at Michigan Tech

A man has plead guilty to a seven year old attempted arson at Michigan Tech University, saying that he acted under the name of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) to protest the university’s research on genetically engineered trees.

Ian Wallace–a man who has been cooperating with the federal government in “Green Scare” cases in the Midwest–has plead guilty to an attempted arson at Michigan Tech University in Houghton. The attempted arson happened in November 2001 and focused on the University receiving grants for researching the genetic manipulation of trees for the forest products industry. Two incendiary devices were found near the U.J. Noblet Forestry Building and the U.S. Forest Service Engineering Laboratory.

Wallace received a lesser charge in exchange for his guilty plea and assistance in solving additional cases, including the sabotaging of genetically engineered trees in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. The Rhinelander incident was claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). The ELF is a radical group that advocates economic sabotage as a means to stop the destruction of the Earth.

Prosecutors Seek Lesser Sentence for ELF Informant

Federal prosecutors are seeking a dramatically lower sentence against a former environmental activists who cooperated in an investigation against arsons claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) in Michigan.


Federal prosecutors are seeking a lowered sentence for Frank Ambrose, a former environmental activist who operated as a government informant in several investigations related to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). Ambrose–who admitted involvement several arsons claimed by the ELF in Michigan and beyond–began cooperating with the government in August 2007 following a search of his home in April 2007. In exchange for his cooperation, federal prosecutors are asking for an 8-10 year sentence instead of the 20-year maximum.

In a court filing last Friday, the government described Ambrose’s cooperation:

“Defendant’s cooperation with and assistance to the United States has been nothing short of remarkable, both in terms of the time and effort he put into it and in terms of its value to Federal law enforcement. As a direct result of Defendant’s help, the Government secured convictions against almost all of the persons who were involved in the most significant but, until this prosecution, unsolved, act of domestic terrorism committed in the Western District of Michigan in the past decade – the 1999 New Year’s Eve arson of Agriculture Hall at Michigan State University (MSU), an academic institution of international significance and national importance that has a profound effect on interstate commerce and that receives significant funding from the United States Government. The direct and indirect results of Defendant’s assistance reached well beyond the MSU arson, however, to other unsolved arsons and other significant acts of property destruction and intimidation committed in the Eastern District of Michigan, the Southern District of Indiana, and to investigations in other Federal districts that are still ongoing.”

Not only was Ambrose instrumental in leading to convictions in the MSU arson, but he also willing agreed to investigate additional crimes:

“Ambrose thereafter agreed to actively assist not only in the investigation into the MSU arson, but also in investigations of other unsolved ELF actions and in proactive efforts to discover and disrupt ELF actions in the making…

…All told, Defendant traveled outside of Michigan seven times at the FBI’s direction, often working extremely late hours; he made repeated trips from Detroit to Grand Rapids; he made 178 consensual recordings of telephone conversations and in-person meetings with investigative targets; and he participated in lengthy interviews with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit and otherwise assisted the FBI’s efforts to improve its intelligence-gathering protocols related to, and its understanding of, underground environmental and animal-rights extremist groups and movements.”

Ambrose will be sentenced on October 20.

Sentencing Date Set for Environmental Activist

Environmental activist Marie Mason, who earlier this month plead guilty to involvement in arsons claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), will be sentenced in early 2009.

Environmental activist Marie Mason, who earlier this month plead guilty to involvement in arsons claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), will be sentenced early next year. A statement from her support group contains details:

Marie Mason’s sentencing has been set for February 5, 2009 at the Federal Building 315 W. Allegan St., Lansing, MI. Courtroom #128.

One of the things Marie told us after her initial arrest back in March was how cold and depressing all the faces were at her arrangement as almost no family/supporters were able to attend. Lets make sure that that doesn’t happen again and that Marie is surrounded by supporters, friends and Family throughout this difficult time. We are encouraging people to attend these dates and support Marie.

Be sure to arrive early, dress well for court and please behave during the proceedings.

Its all about the Struggle,

Got Your Back Collective

Pleas in MSU Arson Case

Three defendants who were involved in an arson at Michigan State University (MSU) protesting genetic engineering have accepted plea agreements after one of those involved in the action became a government informant.

Three individuals–Marie Mason, Stephanie Lynne Futz, and Aren Burthwick–accepted plea agreements on charges stemming from a 1999 arson at Michigan State University (MSU) conducted as a protest against genetic engineering.

Marie Mason plead guilty to setting the 1999 fire. She was essentially forced to plea after being betrayed by her former husband–Frank Ambrose–who acted as an informant in the case and provided a wealth of information to prosecutors. Mason’s agreement does not require her to testify against anyone else and she gives no names beyond that of Frank Ambrose, who already admitted to several arsons claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) after becoming a government informant. While Mason admitted involvement in a series of arsons across the Midwest, she will be sentenced only for her role in the MSU arson. She is expected to receive a sentence between 15 and 20 years in prisons.

Mason’s co-defendants–Futz and Burthwick–agree to plead guilty to failing to report the MSU arson to law enforcement.

Environmental Activist to Take Plea Agreement

Marie Mason–the longtime environmental activist who was charged for the 1999 Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arson at Michigan State University (MSU) earlier this year–has accepted a non-cooperating plea agreement.

Marie Mason–the longtime environmental activist who was charged for the 1999 Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arson at Michigan State University (MSU) earlier this year–has accepted a non-cooperating plea agreement. A statement from her support collective reads:

We apologize for the lack of updates lately. Marie’s attorney and the US Attorney have been in negotiations for the majority of the summer. After months of soul searching, reflection, and consideration Marie has entered into a tentative agreement with the US Attorney plead guilty to three of the four charges she was originally charged with. The US Attorney has agreed to drop the remaining count. Her plea agreement calls for a prison sentence between 15 and 20 years.

Since her arrest Marie’s primary concern throughout this entire process is to ensure that her actions, statements and decisions do not empower the state to do harm to any one else. After discussing the situation over with Marie and reviewing the plea agreement in detail those of us involved with Marie’s support crew Got Your Back believe wholeheartedly she has remained true to her principles and original intent and will continue our solidarity and support efforts for our friend as long as they are needed.

This has been an extremely difficult time for Marie and her family. Marie is thankful for all the support and wishes to be as transparent as humanly possible about about her choice and plea agreement. Please understand we will be posting more details and a complete unredacted copy of her plea agreement as soon as it is accepted and filed by the court but we wanted to get word out about this update and upcoming court date out as soon as possible.

We are encouraging people to come out and support Marie at her change of plea hearing which is scheduled for Sept. 11, 2008 at 11am before Magistrate Carmody at the Federal Building located at 666 Federal Bldg 110 Michigan St NW Grand Rapids MI 49503. Be sure to arrive early and dress appropriately for court. We expect sentencing to take place at a later date before Judge Paul L. Maloney in Kalamazoo, MI.

Its all about the Struggle,

Got Your Back Collective

MSU Earth Liberation Front (ELF) Informant Going on Oceanside Vacation

A former radical environmental activist who is now acting as a government informant in an investigation into Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arsons in Michigan is being allowed to go on a family vacation before being sentenced for his role in the arsons.


Frank Ambrose–a former radical environmental activist who has become a government informant in a case against three individuals charged with an arson at Michigan State University (MSU) as a protest against genetic engineering–is being allowed to go on an Oceanside vacation with his family. According to a report in The Herald Times, Ambrose–who’s movement restricted by court order–is being allowed to take a one week vacation in Tybee Island, Georgia to spend time with his family in “a relaxed vacation setting” before being sentenced for his role in the arsons. Despite his decision to act as an informant in this case and other actions linked to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), Ambrose faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison. According to prosecutors, at his upcoming sentencing Ambrose will describe his “substantial and rather extraordinary cooperation” with the government.

Behind the Mask Screening – July 14

The Bloom Collective and are sponsoring a screening of the film BEHIND THE MASK about the radical animal rights movement. It is also a benefit for an environmental activist accused of an arson at Michigan State University (MSU).

On Monday, July 14, The Bloom Collective and are co-sponsoring a screening of BEHIND THE MASK, a film about the radical animal rights movement and the risks that people take to save animals. It’s happening at 8:00pm at The DAAC (115 S Division). The cost is a sliding scale donation of $5 to $10 to benefit Marie Mason’s legal defense fund (more information below the trailer).

The Trailer:

“$5-10 suggested donation as a fundraiser for Marie Mason’s legal defense fund. Marie Mason is a midwestern environmental activist recently indicted for two arsons claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF).

After spending nearly 11 years in prison for breaking into an animal experimentation laboratory to expose animal cruelty, a young man is finally released and risks it all again to save more animals.

Who is he? What kind of a person would risk so much to save the lives of animals?

The Animal Liberation Front, comprised of clandestine animal rights activists, is now labeled the #1 domestic terrorist threat by the FBI.

Who are these “animal liberationists” and why do they believe that breaking the law is the best way to help animals? What inspires them to challenge the status quo, fight against all odds, and endure public reproach?

Director Shannon Keith goes BEHIND THE MASK and captures the hearts and souls of men and women who unveil their individual struggles for Animal Liberation.

This controversial documentary weaves together the lives of people who face jail, devastation, and even death for their ideals.

BEHIND THE MASK exposes never-before-seen footage that reveals the extent to which these individuals will go to save the lives of animals.

People of all ages and backgrounds, from all over the globe, tell their tales of liberation, incarceration, sacrifice and determination, while exclusive underground footage reveals heart-thumping action sure to leave you wondering, who are these people?”