Environmentalist Sentenced to 21 Years as a “Terrorist”; Violent Racists Receive Half That

by Will Potter on February 5, 2009

in Terrorism Court Cases

Marie Mason

Marie Mason

I’ve written a lot of articles like this, when prison sentences are handed down to activists who have been labeled “terrorists” for property crimes, and instead of getting easier it just keeps getting harder. It’s getting harder to write about this rationally, calmly. These cases are getting worse, folks. The government is growing increasingly aggressive in its prosecutions, and increasingly transparent in its tactics.

Marie Mason, a longtime environmental activist and mother of two, was sentenced this afternoon to 21 years in prison, as a “terrorist,” for non-violent property crimes in the name of defending the environment. It’s a historic sentence, the longest yet for any of these Green Scare cases.

In the lead up to her sentencing, the FBI took their “eco-terrorist” scare-mongering to a new level. Mason’s friends and family were prepared to attend the sentencing hearing and support her at such a terrible moment in her life. So what did the FBI do? Agents had the audacity to warn the press that “terrorists” might be attending Mason’s sentencing. They said they “expect members of the eco-terrorist groups, the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front to gather and protest.” This, of course, is a bold-faced lie. Any FBI agents worth their salt knows that clandestine organizations like the ALF and ELF do not protest: they are illegal, underground groups. This was a calculated scare-mongering move meant to make normal, everyday people afraid of showing up to a public court proceeding, lest they be labeled as members of the “number one domestic terrorism threat.”

Let me reiterate this: The government made a concerted effort to demonize not just the defendant, but anyone who supports the defendant by attending a public court proceeding. Regardless of how you feel about Marie Mason, or the Green Scare more broadly, moves like this are antithetical to any semblance of a democracy. Intimidating citizens to keep them from attending a politicized court date is a defining characteristic of an out-and-out police state.

If that isn’t enough, let’s look at Mason’s sentence. Twenty-one years for arson that caused about $1 million in damage to genetic-engineering research at Michigan State University and didn’t harm anyone.

By comparison, on Monday the FBI put out a press release patting themselves on the back for the guilty pleas of four men who assaulted three African-Americans on the night of President Barack Obama’s election victory. [I've written previously about how the FBI is more concerned about environmental activists than presidential assassination attempts].

From the FBI’s news release:

Nicoletti drove the group to the Park Hill section of Staten Island, a predominantly African-American neighborhood, where they came upon an African-American teenager and assaulted him. Nicoletti struck the teenager with a metal pipe and Garaventa hit him with a collapsible police baton.

The expected sentences for racist, violent attacks meant to punish people for voting for a black man? Between 10 and 12 years. That’s about half of Marie Mason’s.

The government’s press release said that “this successful prosecution sends a clear message.”

What is the message that you think it sends?

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