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Feb. 5, 2009

Ag Hall arsonist sentenced to 21 years in prison

EAST LANSING, Mich. – An environmental activist charged in the Dec. 31, 1999, firebombing of Michigan State University’s Agriculture Hall was sentenced today to 21 years in prison.

Marie Jeanette Mason, 47, of Cincinnati, also was ordered to pay restitution to MSU totaling more than $1 million and, once released from prison, will have to remain under supervision for the rest of her life.

Mason was one of four people indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit arson, aggravated arson and arson in connection with the New Year’s Eve attack. The charges also were in connection with arson of commercial logging equipment near Mesick, Mich., on Jan. 1, 2000.

Frank Brian Ambrose, 34, of Detroit, pleaded guilty to arson conspiracy last year and was sentenced to nine years in prison. Aren Bernard Burthwick and Stephanie Lynne Fultz, both 28 and of Detroit, are awaiting trial.

After a more than eight-year investigation that took MSU police officers across 10 states, the indictments were announced last year at a March 11 news conference. Joining MSU police in the investigation were officers from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The attack on the northeast corner of Agriculture Hall reduced the office of the Agriculture Biotechnology Support Project to little more than cinders and melted computers. The fire did some $1 million worth of damage. No one was injured.

Shortly after the fire, a loosely organized environmental movement called the Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility.

At the time of the indictments, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said the attack was more than just destruction of valuable property.

“This was an assault on the core value of free and open inquiry at a research university,” she said. “We always must be open to ideas that challenge our own, but what we must never allow are disruptions meant to shut down the open marketplace of ideas.”

For more information, visit the MSU Special Report at


Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.