Beyond Prosecutorial Misconduct
Updated April, 2011 (see Updates throughout text, or click links here)
1. Exculpatory Alarm evidence was DESTROYED BY THE PROSECUTOR after trial
2. Electrical evidence STILL EXISTS and conclusively rules out the arson origin
3. Exculpatory photographs and negatives were in the US Attorneys Office at the time prosecution witnesses testified they were missing
4. Exculpatory building plans were in the US Attorneys Office when they were suppressed
5. Dr. Munger's FDS and CFD fire modelling analysis EXCLUDES ARSON TO A CONCLUSIVE SCIENTIFIC CERTAINTY
6. Case updates - Alarm motions, Habeas petition
7. Footnote updates - Edison rearrested & released, Testimony of Maximum Security Company president is proven false by NYS Fire Codes
Although government and insurance company fire investigators found no evidence of arson at the fire scene (i.e., no accelerant, no incendiary device), scientific principles were cast aside as authorities went about "proving" Bruce Mason was behind the fire. To overcome the truth at trial, the federal prosecutor presented false testimony and junk science, and systematically and repeatedly withheld the empirical evidence that disproved it.
Post-trial scientific testing of the arson scenario has consistently led to the same conclusion: That it could not have happened and must be ruled out as the cause and origin of the fire. Mr. Mason was convicted of a crime that never happened.
Why hasn't Mason been granted a new trial? The prosecutor has yet to present any evidence that refutes the validity of the scientific findings, nor the allegations that he suborned perjury, suppressed evidence, and fabricated the government's key witness. Yet, the courts refuse to grant Mason a new trial, conduct hearings so the evidence can be examined in a public forum, or order production of the still suppressed evidence that would exonerate him.
April 2011 Update: Recent discoveries establish that the fire and burglary alarm, which was seized from the building by government investigators, then withheld at trial despite defense counsel's specific request for access, was the most critical evidence in Mason's case. The alarm had an electronic memory that would have disproven every premise upon which the arson conviction stood.
Rather than return this seized property to its owner, as required by law, the federal prosecutor, Kevin P. Dooley, admitted in a 2010 sworn affirmation that after the trial, he personally removed the alarm from its protective custody in the US Attorneys Office and threw it away. This destruction violated every federal law and ethical obligation intended to protect both evidence and private property from corrupt government authorities. See detail below. End Update (Return)
Summary of Mason's Prosecution On October 7, 2002, Bruce Mason was convicted of arson and other charges in a federal bench trial in Binghamton, New York before Federal District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy. Mason was sentenced to fifteen years, and has been in prison since 2003.
Illogical Arson Fire Scenario
and Evidence Tampering
Even to a layman, the alleged arson scenario defies logic. The fire occurred in a 10,000 sq ft, single story manufacturing and warehouse facility with a concrete floor. The only combustible found on the floor near the south wall of the building was several stacks of old business papers and an 8" x 14" plastic remnant. Two investigators testified as expert witnesses for the prosecution, Broome County Fire Investigator Jeffrey Winchell and CGU Insurance Company Investigator David Redsicker. These investigators concluded that this was where the fire started. They testified that the plastic was the remains of a large plastic trash barrel, and that the papers were inside of the barrel when they were squirted with lighter fluid and set on fire. According to their arson scenario, the fire then burned from the papers, up through a nine foot high fire-resistant ceiling, to catch the building on fire.
How did this make sense to these fire experts? As anyone who's used a backyard grill can imagine, even the hottest fire inside the grill would allow them to hold their hand six feet above it without getting burned. In this case, the building's ceiling was specially designed to prevent a "fully developed room fire",sometimes called a post-flashover fire, with sustained temperatures of over 1,400 degrees, from burning through from below. To understand how hot that is, according to CNN, that same temperature caused cement to explode when two tractor-trailers collided inside a tunnel in 2007.
If a fully developed room fire couldn't burn through the building's fire-resistant ceiling, how could a fire inside a plastic trash can?
Perhaps most illogical of all, the papers survived the fire largely unburned. According to Redsicker's testimony and photographs, the papers that supposedly burned through a ceiling capable of withstanding 1,400 degree temperatures, were themselves only charred on the outside, and could still be read after the fire.
Both Winchell and Redsicker conducted tests for accelerant and all tests were negative. Despite this, Winchell testified that accelerants were definitely used to start the fire.
Prosecution fire experts then testified that burn patterns on the south wall behind the business papers, corroborated their south floor arson origin. However, this conclusion is directly contradicted by accepted fire-science principles, as these burn patterns actually prove the exact opposite - that the fire did not start there. This is according to the NFPA 921 Fire and Explosions Guide, an NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) and ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standard, which is accepted by virtually every fire organization, and mandated by the ATF and the U.S. Department of Justice.
In his report, Redsicker desribed the inverted "V" burn patterns on the south wall directly behind the papers as support for his south floor arson origin. According to the NFPA 921 Guide, these patterns mean that the ceiling had already fallen from the fire before it reached the south wall and that the fire was short-lived in this area, meaning it started burning there shortly before being extinguished. 
According to their own testimony, Winchell and Redsicker went beyond junk science, and committed perjury and/or evidence tampering in order to conceal the real cause and origin of the fire.
Two weeks after the fire, when these investigators had completed their examinations of the fire site, Mason hired independent fire investigators, including William Patrick, an electrical forensic expert, who analyzed the evidence in accordance with NFPA 921 and determined that the northwest attic area was the true origin of the fire. In addition to the extensive burning in this area and other evidence of origin, they discovered "catastrophic" electrical arcing had occurred above the ceiling here. This was almost a hundred feet from the south floor area where prosecution experts said the fire started.
The evidence of electrical arcing in the north attic, as well as other electrical evidence, was found still buried under massive debris when Mason's experts used heavy equipment to excavate and preserve it - two weeks after Winchell and Resicker had examined the site. 
Mason's attorney, William Pelella, Jr., immediately contacted Broome County Assistant District Attorney Robert Sharpe, Jr. and requested a meeting at the site so that government investigators could examine the evidence and meet with Mason's fire experts to discuss the cause and origin of the fire. Inexplicably, the prosecutor refused to arrange this meeting or to view the evidence that would prove there was no crime.
At the same time, both government and insurance investigators failed to preserve any of the evidence they would claim at trial was proof of arson.  When Winchell was asked why he didn't at least photograph evidence before destroying it, he testified that the Broome County budget was insufficient to pay for the film.
At trial, Winchell and Redsicker testified that they examined the evidence of arcing in the north attic and other electrical evidence found by Mason's experts. Since this evidence was still buried in the debris when it was discovered and removed, Winchell and Redsicker either lied about examining it to conceal their failure to rule out accidental causes, or they deliberately reburied evidence of an accidental origin.
Peter Vasilow, the electrical expert hired by CGU Insurance, worked five minutes from the building, yet ruled out the electrical system without ever visiting the fire scene to examine the electrical system he ruled out. He also failed to attend the meeting with defense fire experts to examine the electrical evidence they had discovered in the debris and preserved.
April 2011 Update: In a 2008 letter to Mr. Mason, William Patrick explained how the electrical evidence that he had preserved from the fre scene, conclusively proves that the fire in the north attic occurred before there was any fire in the south end of the building, ruling out the south floor arson origin.
This empirical evidence is as indisputable as DNA evidence, yet it was not presented at trial due to incompetent counsel. THIS ELECTRICAL EVIDENCE STILL EXISTS. The prosecutor has fought every attempt to allow defense experts to present this evidence at a hearing, and has refused to arrange for government experts to examine it. End Update (Return)
Indicative of the bias which pervaded this prosecution, other evidence which contradicted the arson allegation, was simply ignored. Assistant Fire Chief Tim Dahulich, who was the first firefighter to arrive at the scene, reported that when he opened the door and looked inside the building, all of the fire was coming down from the ceiling where the electrical arcing occurred in the north attic. This was the only observation of the fire inside the building and was made by a trained firefighter, yet because it contradicted the south floor origin, authorities ignored it.
Exculpatory Evidence Disappears
Other evidence which contradicted the arson scenario disappeared.
Critical photographs of the fire's origin, taken by Maureen Dahulich who arrived with her husband, were entrusted to Winchell the day after the fire. The first ten photographs she took upon arriving at the fire, along with others in the series, were never turned over and were said to be missing at trial. When defense counsel questioned her about the negatives, she indicated that these should have been in fire department files, but had also disappeared. Since there were nearly 100 feet between the alleged arson origin and the accidental origin, these missing photographs would have provided irrefutable proof of the fire's true origin, and therefore, its cause. No doubt, the photographs documented her husband's observation that when they arrived, all of the fire was in the north attic of the manufacturing building, refuting the government's south floor arson origin.
April 2011 Update: Mr. Winchell responded to a 2010 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with a sworn affidavit that all photographs and the negatives were turned over to the US Attorneys Office prior to trial, meaning that AUSA Dooley had custody of this evidence at the time his witnesses, including Mr. Winchell, were testifying that it had disappeared. End Update (Return)
Apparently the photographs weren't the only evidence in the way of winning an arson conviction. In the two months between when Edison claimed to have set the fire and the beginning of the trial (see Fabricated Witness and Secret Deal below), Winchell obtained the only copy of the building plans and specifications file, telling town building authorities that the evidence would be used at trial. This evidence documented the building's exceptional fire retardant construction, including two layers of fire-resistant Type X Gypsum fire barriers on the walls and ceiling, making the building invulnerable to the south floor arson fire scenario. Yet, this exculpatory evidence was not turned over or introduced at trial. Instead, it was suppressed while government witnesses falsely testified that "ordinary" construction was used in the building, and that the building had only a hung ceiling which would fail after ten minutes of Edison's trashcan fire. It should be noted that the construction these experts testified to would have failed minimum building code requirements.
April 2011 Update: Mr. Winchell responded to a 2010 FOIA request, stating under oath that the building plans were seized without a subpoena, and that they were turned over to the US Attorneys Office prior to trial. Once again, the prosecutor had secret custody of the empirical evidence that would have proven the testimony of his witnesses was false. End Update (Return)
Fabricated Witness and Secret Deal
Without sufficient evidence to win a conviction, the record shows authorities fabricated a witness. Gary Edison was an ex-con who had been hired by Mason as part of a state-sponsored rehabilitation program a couple of years before the fire. The fire occurred in January, 1999 and Mason's trial began in September, 2002. During the years between the fire and Mason's trial, Edison apparently returned to a life of crime and also became an informant for local police (presumably in return for money or other favors.)
Several months before Mason's trial, Edison had racked up five new felony charges in state court. Evidence obtained after trial shows that AUSA Dooley, who was prosecuting Mason in federal court, made a secret deal with Edison. Edison was promised that all but one of his state charges would be dismissed, in exchange for his agreement to plead guilty to arson in federal court and testify that he set the fire for Mason.
Dooley worked with ADA Sharpe, who was prosecuting Edison's state charges, to ensure Edison would receive a two to four year sentence for the state charge and the federal charge, to be served concurrently in federal prison. Had Edison not made the deal and been prosecuted for all five of the state charges, he could have received a sentence of 35 years-to-life in New York State prison. This exchange of leniency for testimony was never disclosed to Mason's defense. Neither was the truth about the charges which were secretly dismissed.
Shortly after Edison agreed to the deal and signed the arson confession statement, he wrote a letter to the state judge, in which he pleaded for the judge's intervention in an injustice being done to him. See full letter text. In his letter, Edison stated that he is only partly sane, needs mental treatment, has a memory impairment which causes him to make false confessions, has an anxiety disorder which also causes him to make false confessions, and believes he just made one. ADA Sharpe immediately faxed a copy of Edison's letter to AUSA Dooley, as he believed Edison was referring to his federal arson confession and the letter would affect his federal plea.
Two days later at Edison's arson plea hearing in federal court, AUSA Dooley told Judge McAvoy that Edison had written a letter in which he said he had a memory impairment. However, the prosecutor withheld all of Edison's statements about mental incompetence and false confessions, as these would preclude the judge from accepting Edison's arson plea. Instead, AUSA Dooley told the judge that Edison was referring to confusion about his state sentence, and that the letter had nothing to do with his federal arson proceedings. Edison agreed. The judge was told nothing about the real contents of Edison's letter.
When the judge specifically asked if there was any indication of mental incompetence or if Edison had any history of mental illness or treatment, he was falsely told that there was none and the prosecutor urged the judge not to have Edison evaluated. (It would be discovered post trial that in addition to Edison's own claims of mental incompetence in his letter, the government knew Edison had a history of psychiatric treatment going back 20 years.) The judge was also falsely told that Edison received no promises in exchange for his arson plea and his plea was accepted.
The prosecution had successfully procured a witness. Now it would have to prevent Mason's defense from poking holes in Edison's credibility at trial.
AUSA Dooley began by violating his duty of timely disclosure, withholding Edison's false confession letter from the defense for two and a half months. He finally turned it over two weeks after Mason's trial was in full swing, on the very eve of Edison's testimony.
Dooley had received a copy of Edison's rap sheet from Det. Kaminski (Edison's handler as a police informant) over three months prior to trial, and this impeachment evidence was also withheld from the defense until the day before Edison testified, two weeks into the trial.
Other impeachment evidence was never disclosed. A week after Edison's federal plea hearing, he gave contradictory testimony in state court that his false confession letter referred to his federal arson proceedings. This testimony amounted to a sworn admission by Edison that his arson confession and testimony against Mason was false, yet this highly material and contradictory state court testimony was never disclosed to Mason's defense. In fact, at Mason's trial, Edison completely reversed his testimony once again, insisting that the false confession letter referred to his state proceedings and not his federal.
Edison also testified at Mason's trial that he had no drug problem. This was another lie. It was discovered post-trial that he was a heroin addict and that the government knew this, as ADA Sharpe had noted it in Edison's court file. Once again, the federal prosecutor failed to correct this false testimony by his witness or to turn over impeachment evidence that would have proven Edison was lying.
At Mason's trial, Edison testified that only two charges were disposed of in his state plea deal when in fact five charges were. He then testified that he was innocent of the most serious charges and claimed that "an intense investigation" was still on-going by the police into these charges, and that someone else was the suspect. The prosecutor never corrected this blatantly false testimony by his witness or informed the court that all of these charges had been dismissed in state court months earlier as part of Edison's state plea deal.
The prosecutor never turned over the evidence which would have proven this testimony was false, although it was in the government's possession or known to the government. This included state court transcripts; security videotape of Edison committing the crimes which were secretly dismissed; and, perhaps most obvious of all, a signed statement Edison had given police in which he admitted his guilt to the crimes he claimed he was innocent of at Mason's trial.
After concealing the truth about Edison's state charges and plea deal, AUSA Dooley capitalized on Edison's perjuries by repeatedly and falsely insisting to the court during his closing arguments that Edison's testimony against Mason could be believed as he had no motive to testify falsely, and that there was no evidence before the court of Edison's motive for testifying against Mason other than what Edison told the court. The prosecutor failed to tell the judge that the reason there was no evidence before the court, was because he was suppressing it.
After trial, three credible witnesses swore out affidavits stating that Edison told them that he testified against Mason in exchange for his state charges being dropped. One of these affiants, an attorney who was a victim of Edison's recent crime spree, said that ADA Sharpe and Det. Kaminsky also told him that Edison had cut a deal with authorities and that his state charges were being dropped in return for his testimony in the federal case.
Edison told the other affiants, a credit counselor and an elected official, that neither he nor Mason had anything to do with starting the fire and that he falsely confessed to arson and helped convict Mason in exchange for AUSA Dooley's promise to have the state charges dismissed. Edison also said that the federal prosecutor fabricated his confession statement, coerced him into signing it, and wouldn't bring perjury charges against him because the prosecutor would also be implicated in perjury.
Edison further stated that he was under the influence of drugs when he agreed to the deal, signed the confession statement, and when testifying, and that guards had his drugs waiting for him in the van on the way back to jail after testifying, indicating that authorities not only knew about Edison's drug addiction, but may have used it to further control his testimony against Mason.
Post-trial Scientific Analysis of Evidence Disproves Arson
That Edison's arson testimony was in fact fabricated, was confirmed by post-trial fire scene reconstruction testing conducted according to the scientific method by the foremost experts in the industry. Doug Carpenter, who was the lead engineer for Combustion Science and Engineering (CSE), concluded that Edison's arson story defied the laws of physics and must be ruled out as the cause of the fire.
Edison testified that he set the fire by pouring the remains of a five ounce can of lighter fluid on papers and debris that were inside of a plastic trash barrel. The forensic testing of this scenario revealed that 90 to 180 of Edison's alleged barrels would have been required to generate and sustain the temperatures needed to burn through the fire-resistant ceiling from below. Returning to the grill analogy, temperatures from Edison's alleged barrel wouldn't have produced a satisfactorily grilled steak, had one been attached to the underside of the ceiling. In fact, the temperatures would have been insufficient to ignite the paper on the ceiling's fire-resistant Type X gypsum solid ceiling above the fire-resistant hung ceiling, or cause the solid wood rafters to catch fire, even if there was no ceiling at all. Furthermore, had the fire started in the south floor area, science dictates that inverted "V" burn patterns would not be found on the south wall after the fire.
Moreover, any combustible which provided the fuel to burn through the ceiling, would not itself remain barely burned and still readable. Not only is this illogical on its face, but when Insurance Investigator Redsicker lifted the plastic remnant underneath the stack of papers, which he claimed was the remains of Edison's barrel, his photograph shows that there was no protected pattern on the floor beneath it, indicating that the government's alleged fire load wasn't even on the south floor when the fire started, but fell to the floor from the attic when the ceiling collapsed late in the fire. Since prosecution fire experts testified that the papers were the only combustible on the concrete floor in their area of origin, the lack of a protected pattern underneath them completely eliminates the south floor origin and arson fire scenario.
The likelihood that the papers fell from the attic during the fire was obfuscated by more false testimony. A former employee of Mason's testified that all papers were stored in the north attic, as the storage planking did not extend to the south end of the attic. This was false and appears to be more suborned perjury, as this same employee told three defense investigators that he had been threatened with tax evasion charges by AUSA Dooley prior to testifying and that after testifying at the Grand Jury, the federal prosecutor chided him for not being more convincing.
Former ATF Fire Investigator, Ron Decker, and fire science expert, John Lentini, a nationally renowned advocate of using research-based scientific methods to investigate fires, concluded that the evidence could not support a determination of arson and that the testimony and conclusions of prosecution experts was inconsistent with the evidence, contrary to industry acceptable fire-investigation standards, and that their baseless arson conclusion was nothing more than junk science. Moreover, a scientifically sound analysis of the evidence was consistent with a north attic origin and accidental fire cause.
April 2011 Update: In the fall of 2007, Dr. James Munger, Ph.D, MIFireE, a 27-year veteran with what is now the Department of Homeland Security, and a renowned expert and trainer in fire modelling methodologies, performed an investigation pro bono. He used the same technologies employed by all federal agencies, including the Department of Justice and the ATF, to make accurate, scientifically conclusive fire cause and origin determinations.
Dr. Munger traveled to New York to examine the fire site, the preserved electrical evidence, and the previously overlooked yet preserved heater from the north ceiling. Employing FDS, CFD, and other fire modeling and analysis methodologies, and the data derived from the CSE testing, Dr. Munger came to the same conclusions about the fire's origin that Mr. Carpenter, Mr. Lentini, Mr. Decker, and Mr. Patrick did. The south floor arson origin must be ruled out, and the fire's actual origin was the north attic, to a conclusive scientific certainty. He also pinpointed the heater, which had a defective single wall vent stack, as the probable cause of the fire. End Update (Return)
False and Misleading Alarm Testimony
The government supported its arson allegation by presenting evidence that Mason prevented the alarm from sending a fire alert to the monitoring service, by having its only phone line disconnected. However, the government possessed evidence which proved this theory of intent and the testimony supporting it was false.
April 2011 Update: Regardless of whether the alarm trasmitted an alert to the monitoring service, its electronic memory kept a record of the last 100 events, similar to a jet's black box. The alarm was the most important evidence in this case, as it would have proven that 1) Gary Edison never entered the building to set the fire; 2) the fire didn't start on the south floor, and 3) Mr. Mason didn't disconnect the alarm's only phone line.
1) Edison testified that he disarmed the alarm before entering the building to set the fire. If this was true, this "disarm" event would have been stored in the alarm's electronic memory. Had he entered the building without disarming the alarm, a burglary event would have been recorded. The lack of either event proves that Edison never entered the building and his arson story was false.
2) The building's fire detectors were arranged in zones and the alarm would have recorded the zone in which the fire was detected, proving it didn't originate on the south floor.
3) The alarm's wiring and connectors, which were dismantled from the building and seized along with the alarm, would prove that the alarm was connected to Maximum Security by two phone lines, not one as Steve Bernstein, the president of Maximum Security, testified, therefore proving that Mason didn't disable the alarm by discontinuing its only phone line. Furthermore, the evidence establishes that the phone number that was discontinued couldn't have been the alarm's only or primary phone line. The alarm would prove this, as its memory stored the phone numbers it was confgured to use.
The day after the fire, the building's fire and burglary alarm was seized from the building as evidence. The alarm was examined by the government, which then gave it to the insurance company to examine. The alarm was then withheld from the defense, despite counsel's specific pre-trial written request for defense experts to have access.
In a recent post-trial legal proceeding, Mrs. Mason asked the court to order the US Attorneys Office to return her alarm property so that she could have it examined by Dr. Munger. The prosecutor responded that her seized alarm no longer existed, as he removed it from its protective custody after trial and deliberately discarded it, falsely claiming that the reason he did this is because the alarm was damaged by smoke and fire, and that he saw no reason to retain it.
Regardless of the alarm's condition, the prosecutor knew that the alarm belonged to Mrs. Mason, and that he was obligated to return this private property, or to initiate forfeiture proceedings under CAFRA, the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, if he intended to destroy it. These laws required him to provide notice to Mrs. Mason and the court, a hearing upon her objection to its destruction, and a court order authorizing its destruction. He did none of this, as he had no valid reason for keeping this private property from its rightful owner, and apparently destroyed the alarm without any witnesses or record whatsoever, in complete violation of his duties as custodian and the laws intended to protect seized private property.
AUSA Dooley also violated the laws which require him to preserve evidence that might be needed in future litigation, which as an experienced prosecutor, he no doubt knew. According to Dooley's sworn affirmation, he destroyed the alarm prior to going overseas in April 2005. Mr. Mason's direct appeal was not final until April 18, 2005, Mr. Mason had notified the US Attorneys Office in January 2005 that he intended to file a Habeas Corpus petition, and the prosecutor knew that Mrs. Mason had an on-going civil suit against CGU Insurance, which was using her husband's arson conviction to deny her fire loss claim.
All documentation of the alarm's examination since its seizure has also been withheld. End Update (Return)
Mason's Continued Quest for Justice
Mason has consistently proclaimed his innocence. Since trial, the District Court has denied two new trial motions and a Petition for Habeas Corpus Relief. Mason's first New Trial Motion was based on the post-trial forensic testing and expert reports. In his denial of this motion, Judge McAvoy stated that the expert testimony was not the centerpiece of evidence against Mason, but rather, it was the compelling testimony of Gary Edison that he was hired by Mason to set the fire, along with the evidence that Mason disabled the alarm. The Court did not explain its basis for determining that Edison's arson testimony was credible, in light of the forensic testing, which showed his testimony to be scientifically impossible.
Mason, then incarcerated and without representation, proceeded to obtain the court documents and other evidence which exposed Edison's recantations, numerous perjuries, and incentive for testifying falsely against him. When presented with this evidence in Mason's second New Trial Motion, the court again denied Mason relief, refused to conduct a hearing, and refused to order the production of still suppressed evidence. The Court stated it did not find Edison's post-trial recantations credible. This was despite the fact that Edison's recantations were corroborated by court transcripts, court documents, and forensic testing which also proved every other material aspect of his trial testimony to be false. In his second denial, Judge McAvoy downplayed the importance of Edison's testimony to the conviction, stating that the verdict was supported by other testimony and physical evidence, along with the alarm's failure to transmit the fire alert. The Court did not say what other testimony or physical evidence it relied upon, and did not explain why it didn't order the production of the still suppressed physical evidence which would exonerate Mason. Nor did the Court explain why it didn't conduct a hearing to determine the true facts surrounding the alarm failure, since it cited this as key to the guilty verdict in both of its decisions and the government never denied Mason's allegations of suborned perjury and suppressed evidence relative to the alarm's failure to communicate.
Throughout Mason's struggle to discover the truth and bring it to the attention of the court, the prosecutor has not denied any of the above Brady Violations (suppressed evidence) or Edison's perjuries. Yet, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's denial. The Appellate Court completely ignored the secret deal and the prosecutor's knowing use of false testimony in its decision. These abuses should have led to an automatic reversal of Mason's conviction.
Mason brought a Petition for Habeas Corpus Relief, and although the government again failed to refute any of the factual allegations or account for the whereabouts of the missing evidence, the District Court denied any relief, denied a hearing, denied a certificate of appealability, and denied any assistance in discovering the truth. Mason filed a motion asking the court to clarify what evidence it based its decision upon, and this motion for clarification was denied without response. Mason has petitioned the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to review the District Court's denial of his Habeas Corpus Petition.
April 2011 Update: In the fall of 2009, Mrs. Mason filed a 41(g) motion with the district court, asking it to order the US Attorney's Office to return her alarm property, which had been seized as evidence during the government's investigation of the fire. The prosecutor replied that her alarm had been destroyed "years ago" because it was damaged by smoke and fire. The court then denied the 41(g) motion, citing the prosecutor's response. However, the prosecutor's statement as to the reason for destroying this evidence is proven false by photos and testimony of his own witnesses, who testied that the alarm was removed from a part of the building that suffered little or no fire damage. In addition, FOIA responses obtained in 2010 establish that reports were generated from the alarm, further proving that it was in good working order when it was seized. In the fall of 2010, Mrs. Mason filed a Rule 60(b) motion asking the court to vacate its Rule 41(g) decision as this decision was based on fraud by the prosecutor, and urged the court to conduct hearings to determine the alarm's exculpatory value, as proven by fire science and the electrical evidence that still exists. AUSA Dooley replied with a sworn affirmation admitting under oath that his Office had custody of the alarm since before trial, and that he personally removed it from custody and discarded it just prior to going overseas in April 2005. Mr. Dooley is an experienced prosecutor. Not only must he have known he was violating his duties under CAFRA, he knew he had a duty to preserve evidence that might be needed for future litigation. Despite the prosecutor's complete and utter disregard for the law, the court denied the Rule 60(b) motion, which is now under appeal. End Update (Return)
April 2011 Update: In the fall of 2010, Mason's Motion for Reconsideration of his Habeas Corpus Petition was docketed as being filed late and subsequently dismissed, despite the fact that he followed prison legal mail procedures to file it timely. In his struggle to get it reinstated, he discovered that the prison does not log receipt of legal mail from prisoners, as required, and it appears that the second circuit Clerk's Office failed to preserve the envelope, which would also prove its timely filing. He is currently fighting to have his motion reinstated. End Update (Return)
Awards, Appointments, and Financial Gain
In recognition of this prosecution, the United States Attorney's Office honored Broome County Fire Investigator Jeffrey Winchell with an award for his invaluable assistance in obtaining the conviction against Mason. Likewise, the Broome County Fire Department awarded AUSA Kevin Dooley its Man of the Year Award for his prosecution of this case. Upon receiving the award, Dooley extolled the advantages of prosecuting arson in federal court over New York State court, explaining that no actual evidence of arson is necessary so long as you have the testimony of a co-defendant (such as Edison).
After winning this conviction, AUSA Dooley was appointed by the United States Justice Department to the top post in Iraq as Liaison Officer of the Regime Crimes Office, where he was the primary spokesman for the Justice Department.
Edison was released after less than two years in prison and is now a free man. Authorities have sealed his court and police records as well as some convictions. Other agencies have refused Mason's requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act.
April 2011 Update: It appears that Edison is continuing to play his get-out-of-jail-free card. In the fall of 2008, Edison was contacted on behalf of Mason and urged to come forward with the truth. The next day, Edison was arrested. However, after being in jail for a short amount of time, it appears Edison was released, and the charges were once again dropped. He did not return to his apartment and his whereabouts are unknown. End Update (Return)
The insurance company has refused to pay for the fire loss. The court ordered Mason to pay the insurance company $16,000 for its fire investigation and assistance in convicting him.
Mason was sentenced to fifteen years in prison and has been incarcerated since July, 2003 for a crime that never happened.
Footnote 1: NFPA 921 is a peer-reviewed compendium of government, insurance, and private investigators' contributions and results from scientifically validated tests. As such, it's been adopted by the ATF, the DOJ, FEMA, and most local and state government fire investigation agencies, including New York State. Visit the web site of any of these organizations, and you'll see references to NFPA 921 as the standard guide for scientifically sound fire investigations.
NFPA 921 188.8.131.52 Interpretation of Inverted Cone Patterns. "Inverted cone patterns are manifestations of relatively short-lived fires that do not fully evolve into floor-to-ceiling flame plumes or flame plumes that are not vertically restricted by ceilings."
No wonder Redsicker testified that he didn't follow this ANSI standard when interpreting burn patterns. In stark contrast to this test-based interpretation of the evidence, Redsicker testified at the Grand Jury that inverted V burn patterns are caused by "an obscure shaped puddle of flammable liquid" on the floor in front of the wall and that they are evidence of the fire starting on the floor in front of these patterns and climbing up the wall. This interpretation helped garner the indictment against Mason, but by the time of trial, this would have contradicted Edison's story that he started the fire in a barrel of papers. Redsicker simply changed his testimony, claiming that the burn patterns and other evidence corroborated Edison's testimony. Likewise, at Grand Jury, Redsicker said the plastic remnant was the remains of the kind of tub that would be found under a sink and that it was probably used to carry accelerant, but at trial he said that it was the remains of Edison's 50 gallon plastic barrel. Apparently, Redsicker was willing to testify that the evidence meant whatever he needed it to mean so that CGU Insurance Company wouldn't have to pay for the fire loss. Similarly, Winchell testified to the Grand Jury that burn patterns indicated that "gallons and gallons" of accelerant had been poured across the south floor. At trial, he testified that Edison's arson story, that he poured less than five ounces of lighter fluid into a barrel of papers, was consistent with the evidence. Winchell also testified at trial that the plastic from Edison's barrel would have melted and flowed to the south wall to cause the burn patterns on this wall - testimony that is completely unsupported by any evidence of melted flow on the concrete floor, and directly contradicted by the scientifically validated meaning of inverted "v" burn patterns.
Footnote 2: The electrical evidence discovered in the debris and preserved by Mr. Patrick included a three-foot section of steel conduit with multiple blow holes the size of a quarter. This conduit would have been located in the north attic, next to the defective vent stack from the heater that hung from the ceiling. The electrical panel box located "downstream" from this arcing was also preserved. The absense of electrical activity in this panel box proves that the fire that caused arcing in the north attic occurred before the fire reached this panel, and before there was fire downstream from this panel in the south end of the building. This preserved evidence also proves that Winchell's claim of finding arced wires on the south wall, which he failed to preserve or even photograph (claiming Broome County couldn't afford the film), was false.
Footnote 3: Contrary to all standards of care in fire investigation, prosecution experts did not preserve any of the evidence they claimed was evidence of arson, or which would have disproved their arson origin. This included a) the charred papers which they claimed were used to start the fire; b) an 8 x 14 inch plastic remnant found beneath the papers, which they claimed was the remains of a large plastic barrel and which Mason contends was most likely a small manufacturing component from previous inventory, used to store papers in the attic; c) unburned electrical receptacles which hung from the ceiling in the south end of the building, and which would have disproved the south floor origin; and d) electrical wiring from the south wall, which Winchell claimed could rule out the electrical arcing in the north attic as evidence of the fire's origin. If a plaintiff in a civil case threw out the evidence upon which its claim was based, the case would be thrown out of court, yet this basic standard of fairness was not adhered to in this criminal case, in which a man's freedom was at stake.
Footnote 4, Below is the complete text of Edison's letter to Judge Mathews.
I am writing you to request your intervention with the injustice being done to me.
Through out my appearances before you and so-called agreements by Attorney James Mack, and the district attorney and others, there were many times I wanted the following problem addressed and never was. So I'm asking as a Judge to so order this to be addressed now.
I suffer from a documented medical condition 2 to be exact.
1) I am memory impaired! To the point of not remembering if I did or did not do what I'm being charged with or whether I may have said I did thing that I don't remember just because someone told me I should. I am very easily lead! Because of this, I'm don't remember why I'm here, sir, or what got me here! I told everyone from Police - to - DA to Mr. Mack, everyone ignored me. I'm not sure of anything at this point.
2) I also suffer from social anxiety disorder - meaning I always scared of everyone and everyplace.
Also - this disorder will make me say I did things when I really didn't, I think I did just that now! It will make say and agree to things just so I don't have a problem and want to leve and be alons where I'm safe. It gets and is worse add that to a memory impairment I am very unstable and can't understand what happened to me.
I request that I should be placed in the state hospital for evaluation & treatment until they decide I am stable enough to comprehend and understand what if anything I may have or may have not done.
I require treetment not jail. I haven't done anything wrong that I remember, all I'm guilty of is being a mental health patient and not fully sane.
I should be there not here, or you have just locked up a very unsane person - not knowingly.
In describing this letter to Judge McAvoy at Edison's federal arson plea hearing, AUSA Dooley told the judge that the letter referred to confusion about Edison's state sentence. The prosecutor told the judge nothing about Edison's claims in the letter that he was mentally incompetent and had a propensity to make false confessions. The prosecutor then assured the judge that he never had any indication that Edison was mentally incompetent, that Edison had no history of mental illness, and when the judge suggested he could have Edison evaluated, the prosecutor urged him not to.
Footnote 5: The prosecutor's closing remarks included, (1) "in terms of his [Edison's] motivation, I would ask the court to consider ... Not only is there no proof as to any motivation on his part to come forward, other than what he said, but it just doesn't make sense", and (2) "how does it make sense other than what he's telling you?", and (3) "Yeah, is it possible that a spaceship came down from Mars and someone started this fire accidentally? You can always speculate about this but there's no evidence in this case, other than what Gary Edison told you, about his motivation for coming forward. And no other speculative theories, Judge, really make sense because if Mr. Mason had no involvement in this case, Gary Edison would have no motivation to come forward", and (4) So there's really no credible evidence before the court that he has any independent motive."
Footnote 6: At the time of the fire, the building had an alarm system that would call in a fire to an alarm monitoring service over the phone lines, yet, no alert was transmitted. It was discovered after the fire that the phone line allegedly used by the alarm had been disconnected two months earlier. Actually, five of eleven phone lines were disconnected when phone service was switched from Bell Atlantic to CTSI to reduce expenses, and two of these phone lines were disconnected early. One of the two was allegedly the alarm line.
CTSI representatives testified that they knew of no reason that these particular lines were chosen for disconnection and implicated Mason as having them disconnected with the intent of disabling the alarm. However, the prosecution possessed evidence that CTSI had performed a pre-sales analysis of the business's phone service, and that this analysis revealed that the business was being charged for these two phone lines which were unused; that they were not even listed on the customer's phone bill; and that this analysis by CTSI was the reason these lines were disconnected. This analysis apparently disappeared prior to trial. Furthermore, the prosecution possessed evidence that Bell Atlantic agreed with CTSI's assessment, and credited the company's account over four hundred dollars for the unbilled lines on the same date they were disconnected early.
April 2011 Update: The alarm had not been transmitting a signal for two months prior to the fire, yet Maximum Security failed to notify the business, making them at least partially liable for the fire loss. Mr. Bernstein, the president of Maximum Security, assured the court that he and his company had nothing to gain from Mason's conviction. He then testified that the alarm was connected by only one phone line (one of the ones disconnected early), and that his company had no way of knowing that a signal wasn't being received. Mason recently discovered that NYS Fire Codes in place at the time of the fire prove this testimony was false. Maximum Security was required by law to connect the alarm to at least two phone lines, and to receive a signal every 24 hours and to notify the client if none was received. End Update
The stack of papers from which a sample was taken to test for accelerants, which was negative. According to government and insurance company investigators, these charred papers provided the fuel to burn through the 9-foot high fire-resistant ceiling and ignite the building.
The south floor area surrounding the papers which were the alleged arson origin and fuel source. Notice the machinery just 3 feet away from the supposed origin of the fire is completely unburned. Debris from the ceiling has fallen throughout the area. The inverted V burn patterns noted in Redsicker's report as "indicative" of arson are evident on the south wall. According to NFPA 921, these patterns are indicative of a short-lived fire where there is no ceiling to restrict the flame plume, meaning the fire didn't reach this area until after the ceiling had fallen and shortly before being extinquished.