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Marie Mason (born January 26, 1962) is an environmental activist from Cincinnati, Ohio, who in 2009 was sentenced to 22 years in prison after admitting 13 counts of arson and property damage amounting to US$4 million. Mason, a member of the Earth Liberation Front, was prosecuted for a 1999 attack on a building at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, that caused more than US$1 million in damages, undertaken as a protest against research into genetically modified crops. A further US$3 million in damages included attacks on homes under construction, and on boats owned by a mink farmer.
Supporters claim that this case represents a form of political persecution, as part of the Green Scare phenomenon, when an overly long sentence is given to an individual who committed crimes against property.
Mason has worked as a gardener, musician, writer, Earth First! organizer and a volunteer for a free herbal-healthcare collective. She is 51 years old and a mother of two children. Mason and her husband at the time, Frank Ambrose, ignited an office that held records related to research on genetically modified, moth-resistant potatoes, funded by USAID and biotech giant Monsanto. The next day, Mason and Ambrose set fire to commercial logging equipment in Mesick, Michigan. Both arsons were claimed by the Earth Liberation Front as actions against genetic engineering, deforestation, and other environmentally destructive acts. Subsequently, Ambrose was caught and agreed to become a government informant, giving information that led to the arrest of Marie Mason. She was arrested on March 10, 2008 by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagen Frank, about the prosecution seeking a 20-year sentence, this would be "the most onerous sentence imposed in a case of this sort".
At the trial, the prosecution argued that "A good cause does not justify the worst means. That's not how society works."
During the three-hour hearing, Mason said, "I am genuinely sorry to those who were personally frightened by my actions. ... I meant to inspire thought and compassion, not fear." After the sentence, defense lawyer John Minock stated that he would appeal, commenting, "I'm shocked. It's grossly out of proportion to other cases."
During the sentencing, the FBI sent out a press release to the local media warning about the possibility of protests being carried out by members of the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front. This warning was denounced by supporters as an attempt to scare people into showing at the event to express support, as these forms of protest are not used by these sort of groups.
After sentencing, Mason was sent to segregation at the Federal Corrections Unit in Waseca, Minnesota. A month later, she was reclassified and transferred to the female Communication Management Unit in Carswell, Texas, where she was denied mail and visitors, except immediate family, for several months.