June 13, 2014
– Friday the 13th. Feeling superstitious?
– You’ve seen it on the news often. A person is taken into custody and charged with a crime. Neighbors and family are interviewed and many times you’ll hear phrases like, “He seemed like a nice, quiet guy.” “Never had a problem with him. Always pleasant. Kept to himself.”
Marie Mason was a girl I knew in high school. An intelligent, soft spoken girl, I don’t recall how many classes I had with her, but they were usually college-prep type classes, like physics, trigonometry, pre-calculus. I don’t recall any specific conversations with her, but I remember the sense I had about her. She was mature for a teenager. An old soul within a young body. Always nice. Always kind.
On a high school campus that graduates over one thousand people, and in a time before the internet, I lost track of her. It wasn’t until a year or so before my 30th class reunion that I found her. And federal prison was not the place I expected.
On September 8, 2008, Marie entered into a guilty plea of Conspiracy to Commit Arson, and two counts of Arson. According to the Plea Agreement, during the evening of December 31, 1999, Marie, her then-husband Frank Ambrose, and three others, set a fire to Agriculture Hall on the Michigan State University campus. The next day, January 1, 2000, they destroyed, by fire, a John Deere Hydro-Ax Shear and commercial flatbed trailer – equipment used in commercial logging – parked on the side of the road near Mesick, Michigan.
Marie and Ambrose were committed environmentalists and had become affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). ELF was a loosely organized movement of individuals committed to the eradication of commercial, research, and other activities that are harmful to the natural environment. The Agriculture Hall was identified by this small group as a place where records of, and papers relating to, plant genetic research were maintained.
Ambrose filed divorce papers almost ten years later on the day Marie was arrested. For two years, he spied on activist groups for the FBI, taping incriminating conversations with activists including Marie. (See www.supportmariemason.org and “Green Scares & Marie Mason“, fifth estate, Spring, 2011). The Feds recommended a twenty year sentence (240 months) for Marie. In the Defendant’s Sentencing Memorandum Regarding Disparity was a recitation of sentences by defendants committing far more acts of arson and property damage than the four arsons and $4 million of damages Marie plead to. A sample of these are:
Jacob Ferguson – 21 arsons – over $30 million damages- sentenced to probation.
Stanislas Meyerhof – 11 (or more) arsons – over $30 million damages – sentenced to 156 months.
Kevin Tubbs – 11 arsons – $20 million damages – sentenced to 151 months.
Chelsea Gerlach – 7 arsons – $27 million damages – sentenced to 108 months.
On February 20, 2009, Marie was sentenced to 240 months on the conspiracy charge; 262 months on the arson of the Agriculture Hall; and 180 months to the arson of the logging equipment. Restitution was also ordered in the amount of $4,139,536. All sentences to run concurrently.
If that wasn’t already excessive punishment, Marie is currently being held in a maximum security federal prison in Texas, in a special wing with restrictive policies regarding communication.
Needless to say, she didn’t make it to our 30th class reunion.
It is easy to accept that Marie plead guilty to the charges and as punishment should do time. But her case is one of the harshest sentences imposed under the guise of eco-terrorism.
Today, at the Cass Cafe, an exhibit of Marie’s paintings created while incarcerated at the Carswell Federal Prison in Fort Worth, Texas, opens. The exhibit will run through Saturday, June 21st.
– No DCFC soccer this weekend. At least not at Estadia Cass Techia. They do play in Cleveland on Sunday, which would make a nice Father’s Day outing. And if I don’t make that, there’s ten World Cup matches from now through Sunday.
Last week’s match against Erie was awesome. Once again, the crowd reached sellout proportions, setting another record at 3,234 fans in attendance. DCFC partnered with the “You Can Play” project to promote inclusivity in sports. The players wore a special jersey and were given to the highest bidder of a silent auction which took place during the game. The proceeds of the auction were donated to the Ruth Ellis Center, a Highland Park shelter that serves at-risk LGBT youth. Sadly, I didn’t win a jersey in the auction, but a limited number of jerseys were available for sale, which I did purchase one of them. The match itself ended in a 2-2 draw against the hated Erie Admirals. After falling behind 1-0, Detroit City mounted a comeback with a goal by Shaun Lawson in the 66th minute and a penalty kick conversion in the 72nd minute by captain Josh Rogers. Unfortunately Erie scored a late equalizer in the 89th minute.
Quote: (sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle”)
“Come on City score a goal
It’s really very simple.
Put the ball into the net
And we’ll go fucking mental!”
Northern Guard Supporters chant.