Prosecutors dismiss charges in Indiana tree-spiking case


Mar 11, 2001
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Prosecutors dismiss charges in tree-spiking case

By The Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Prosecutors have dismissed tree-spiking charges against an environmental activist who had been accused of spiking trees in a southern Indiana forest.
Charges were dropped against Frank Ambrose, 27, because investigators now suspect that a widespread conspiracy was behind the spikings, Monroe County Prosecutor Carl Salzmann said.

“Therefore, we believe that it is in the interests of justice to dismiss this case at this time,” Salzmann said in a statement to The Herald-Times of Bloomington.

He said charges could be refiled against Ambrose, who pleaded innocent to the original charges.

Prosecutors had said they suspected that Ambrose, a prominent opponent of efforts to log Indiana’s forests, was a member of the radical environmental group the Earth Liberation Front.

Richard Kammen, Ambrose’s attorney, said that his client has maintained from the beginning that he had nothing to do with the tree-spiking.

“It was very clear that the state’s case was based on wild speculation without any support of the facts. There just wasn’t any evidence,” Kammen said.

“I guess the surprise was not that the case was dismissed but that the prosecutor bit the bullet and dismissed the case, despite having arrested Frank with all the fanfare that they did,” he added.

Ambrose now lives in Detroit. He was charged in January with driving 10-inch nails into trees at a logging site at Morgan-Monroe State Forest in June 2000. The nails can damage logging equipment and pose a risk to logging crews if the tree is cut down.

Tree-spiking is a felony and carries a standard prison sentence of 1³ years. Activists have used the tactic to try to discourage logging.

Some authorities had said that Ambrose’s arrest was the first in connection with the secretive environmental group.

According to a probable-cause affidavit, Department of Natural Resources employees saw a car registered to Ambrose at Morgan-Monroe State Forest around the time the trees were spiked.

State conservation officers said spikes similar to the ones used in the forest were sold at the Bloomington Lowe’s store shortly before the spiked trees were discovered. A store videotape showed a man who looked like Ambrose buying the spikes, they said.

Police seized tools, gloves and other items from Ambrose’s apartment in July 2000 and sent them to an FBI lab for analysis. The case was scheduled to go to trial in April, but was then delayed.

The Morgan-Monroe tree-spiking was one of several local acts last year for which the Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility. Others included an arson fire at a luxury home, tree spiking in Yellowwood State Forest and vandalism of logging and road-building equipment.

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