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Man charged in 1999 arson sentenced to 9 years in prison

October 21, 2008

A Detroit man was sentenced Monday to nine years in prison and more than $3.7 million in restitution for his involvement in a 1999 arson at MSU’s Agriculture Hall. He has worked as an FBI informant in similar cases since August 2007.

Frank Brian Ambrose was the first person sentenced in connection with the New Year’s Eve fire that destroyed research on genetically modified crops. Ambrose and his ex-wife, Marie Jeanette Mason, set fire to the offices of the Agriculture Biotechnology Support Project.

Ambrose’s sentencing came 10 days after the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagen Frank, requested the sentence be reduced to eight to 10 years from the maximum 20 years. Ambrose traveled across state lines to record conversations with other targets, Frank said.

Defense attorney Michael Brady requested the minimum sentence of five years in prison, based on Ambrose’s assistance in the other investigations.

“I asked for five years because that’s the least (the judge) could have given; the prosecutor asked for seven, and the judge posted more than that,” Brady said. “I prefer the prosecutor’s numbers to the judge’s.”

Frank said the sentence was legally appropriate.

“It takes account of the seriousness of what Ambrose did, and it takes account of the good he did to make things better,” Frank said.

Aren Bernard Burthwick and Stephanie Lynne Fultz, of Detroit, also were charged for their involvement in the arson.

All four people were arrested in March, following an eight-year investigation. Each was charged with four counts of conspiracy to commit arson, aggravated arson and arson connected with the incident at Agriculture Hall.

“We’re ecstatic about the fact the case was resolved the way it was,” MSU police Chief Jim Dunlap said. “Our job is to get them to the dance floor, the judge’s job is to do the sentencing.”

Mason was turned in by Ambrose for her involvement in the arson.

She was convicted Sept. 26 of conspiracy to commit arson and two counts of substantiated arson. Her sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 5 at the U.S. District Court in Lansing.

“If I were Marie Mason, I wouldn’t take today as good news,” Frank said.

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