Activists must give prints and DNA

Couple are suspected in Ice Mountain incident

Detroit Free Press/January 16, 2004
By Hugh McDiarmid, Jr.

Secret grand jury testimony creates a "reasonable . . . suspicion" that a pair of Detroit environmental activists placed a bomb near the controversial Ice Mountain water-bottling plant this summer, a judge has said.

U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell ruled Wednesday that subpoenas requiring fingerprints, palm prints and DNA material from activists Frank Ambrose and Marie Mason are legal.

The pair sought to have the subpoenas, issued by federal prosecutors in October, thrown out as groundless harassment.

The married couple are vocal opponents of the Ice Mountain plant near Big Rapids. They also are activists on other environmental issues they see as injustices.

Mason has been arrested for numerous acts of civil disobedience, and Ambrose was charged in 2001, accused of driving huge spikes into trees to prevent their logging in Indiana. At the time, authorities said Ambrose was a member of the shadowy Earth Liberation Front -- a radical group thought to be responsible for setting fires to car dealerships and other potentially dangerous acts, including several arsons in Michigan.

But those charges were dropped, and Ambrose has consistently maintained that he is not affiliated with the group. Now the couple contends they are targets of harassment and a strong-armed attempt to get their prints and DNA on file even though they had nothing to do with the Ice Mountain incident.

"They want to shut me up. They want to shut Marie up," Ambrose said Thursday. He said the grand jury evidence that convinced the judge to allow the subpoenas was either based on their history of activism or lies: "We're guilty until proven innocent," he said.

Their lawyer, Hugh (Buck) Davis, said he will appeal the ruling. He said he is hamstrung by the secrecy of grand jury proceedings. Unlike the judge and prosecutor, he does not have access to the grand jury evidence on which the subpoenas are based.

"If anybody told the grand jury" the couple "were involved, they were lying," Davis said. "And then you've got a situation where an agent is framing them. They are trying to use their past political activities to get them into a database."

The grand jury probe stems from an undetonated time bomb discovered in an unmanned pumping station of the Ice Mountain plant. The Earth Liberation Front claimed credit for the device, which it said was planted to protest the commercialization of water.

The plant is also the subject of a contentious lawsuit claiming it harms the environment. Last month, a local judge ordered Ice Mountain to stop pumping water from a shallow aquifer, but a higher court has allowed it to continue while the case is appealed.

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