Nobel Peace Prize recipient Mairead Corrigan Maguire has written to Judge Amul Thapar in support of the Transform Now Plowshares resisters as they await sentencing on January 28, 2014. Click on the title of this post and follow the trail to a copy of the letter.
Letters of Support for the Transform Now Plowshares resisters continue to pour in; more than a thousand cards and letters have been sent to the judge or the support team to date. The Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington, DC, submitted a letter; you can see it by clicking on the title of this post and following the trail:
Judge Amul Thapar has reset the sentencing date for Megan, Michael and Greg at the request of the defense attorneys. All three are currently scheduled for sentencing on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee. They remain incarcerated at the Irwin County Detention facility in Ocilla, GA, pending sentencing. There is a renewed opportunity to write Judge Thapar on their behalf. Also, please continue to write Megan, Michael and Greg.
Write a letter, send a postcard, and help others to send postcards to Judge Thapar.
Click here to view the postcard to Judge Thapar on behalf of the Transform Now Plowshares. Download it (PDF file) and take it to your local printer, get a stack of them made and take them to events and get people to sign them or just print off one copy for yourself, sign it, stamp it, and put it in the mail. We are hoping to get thousands signed and sent.
Greg Boertje-Obed, Michael Walli and Megan Rice are currently in the Irwin County Detention Facility in Ocilla, GA, awaiting their sentencing on Tuesday, January 28, 2014. The three were found guilty by a jury in Tennessee in May on two counts; interfering with or obstructing the national defense (sabotage) and depredation of government property. Both counts are considered violent acts and fall under the definition of “federal crimes of terrorism”
The maximum sentence that each of the three can receive is 30 years. Likely not to happen, however their sentencing guidelines which is often what judges use, can vary up to about 10 years.
At this point, the 3 have asked for their supporters and friends to write to the judge asking for justice to be brought back into their case in this sentencing phase. They are asking for downward departures from the high guidelines based on recognition that theirs was an act of nonviolence, hope, and love and NOT terrorism. There has been legal precedence for downward departures in at least 2 other plowshares cases where the defendants were convicted of “sabotage”.
The http://transformnowplowshares.wordpress.com/ blog site has posted 3 basic talking points for people to use in order to write a letter to Judge Thapar. The address for sending letters is also posted (see under “write the prisoners” tab on website). A personal letter to the judge will likely have a high impact on his discernment process.
Under the tab “write the prisoners” are 3 basic talking points for people to use in order to write a letter to Judge Thapar. The address for the where to send the letter is also there. A personal letter to the judge will likely have a high impact on his discernment process.
In order to make things even easier and in hopes of generating many letters to the judge, we have developed a postcard which has the letter and the address already written. All you need to do is sign it and put it in the mail. There is a bit of space for adding a sentence or two if you want.
So, download it and take it to your local printer, get a stack of them made on postcard stock and take them to events and get people to sign them or just print off one copy for yourself, sign it, stamp it, and put it in the mail. We are hoping to get thousands signed and sent.
We NEED to get thousands signed and sent!!!
Michele Naar-Obed, firstname.lastname@example.org
This will make a difference and the TNP needs your help with this. Thank you for your support.
PLEASE NOTE! The PDF document has two pages; one side is the text of the postcard, and the other is the address side.
Greg Boertje-Obed, Michael Walli and Megan Rice are currently in the Irwin County Detention Facility in Ocilla, GA, awaiting their sentencing on January 28, 2014. The three were found guilty by a jury in Tennessee in May on two counts—Judge Amul Thapar revoked their pre-trial release saying they were technically guilty of a crime of violence and must be held.
There are two things you can do to support Michael, Megan and Greg.
One is to send letters to them. Here are the addresses:Gregory Boertje-Obed 22090 Irwin County Detention Center 132 Cotton Drive Ocilla GA 31774
***Michael Walli 4444 Irwin County Detention Center 132 Cotton Drive Ocilla GA 31774
***Megan Rice 22100 Irwin County Detention Center 132 Cotton Drive Ocilla GA 31774
You must make sure to include your entire return address on the outside of the envelope. No staples or paperclips can be included in your mail; no oversized envelopes. Magazines and books must be sent directly from the publisher or bookstore/Amazon. Photocopies of brief articles are likely to be permitted (based on our past experience). If you include inappropriate material or fail to comply with these rules, your mail will not get through—it will be returned to you.
The second thing you can do is send a letter to Judge Thapar. We have suggested guidelines for your letter, and we are asking people to send their letter to Bill Quigley, lawyer for Mike Walli (address below), so they can be collected and delivered to the judge. If you want to send a copy of your letter to us, that would be great—our address is also below.
• Invite Judge Thapar to think about sentencing in light of the fact that this was an act of nonviolent civil disobedience intended to awaken the conscience of the nation, and no evidence was presented that it was an act of terrorism meant to harm anyone. You could write that you share the court’s concern that Congress would write a law that wouldn’t allow a judge to distinguish between peace activists and terrorists, and are disturbed that the government defines the crime they stand convicted of as a violent “crime of terrorism”.
http://blogs.knoxnews.com/munger/2013/05/judge-rules-convicted-y-12-pro.html As testimony of the defendants showed during trial, they carried out their action in a spirit of nonviolence and hope.
• Without making it the focus of the letter, you could mention that the action was carried out with the clear understanding of the illegality and immorality of nuclear weapons, and intent to uphold higher laws. Read some of Ramsey Clark’s testimony at a pre-trial hearing re: the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and international law: http://transformnowplowshares.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/ramsey-clark-on-nuclear-weapons-and-update-on-charges/
• Encourage him to consider downward departures from the high guidelines for the charges, and to use his discretion at sentencing to bring more justice into the situation by recognizing that the defendants are NOT violent terrorists as the government has implied through its interpretation of the crime; and remind him of the intentions of the three nonviolent activists: to follow the words of the prophet Isaiah to beat swords into plowshares, and build a safer and more secure world for all.
Our purpose with these letters is not to reargue the case, nor is it to condemn nuclear weapons production—the judge is not engaging those issues at this time. Our purpose is to address the legal system’s distortion of the nonviolent action of the TNP resisters and to provide support to the judge for a sentencing decision that takes into account the nature of their action and their nonviolent behavior throughout their action.
Letters should be sent to:US District Judge Amul R Thapar c/o Professor Bill Quigley Loyola Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice 7214 St. Charles Avenue Campus Box 902 New Orleans, LA 70118
If you care to send a copy to OREPA that would also be appreciated:
We will post Megan, Greg, and Michael’s new register numbers when we know them. For now, here is the address and phone number of the detention center. When I called to ask our friends’ register numbers, they said to call back during business hours tomorrow.
Name, Register Number
Irwin County Detention Center
132 Cotton Drive
Ocilla, GA 31774
Thanks to these citizens for sharing their thoughts through the Knoxville News Sentinel. The quotes below are only excerpts — click the links to read the full articles.
The recent verdict of guilty in the Transform Now Plowshares case is a miscarriage of justice. All evidence presented at the trial showed incontestably that the three protesters are deeply committed to nonviolence and that all their symbolic actions were nonviolent, intended to bring a message of peace and healing to the bomb plant. … The defendants clearly felt they were following the path of Jesus, who preached peace and abhorred violence. The Prince of Peace was also accused of sabotaging the Roman Empire.
Petition is both a noun and a verb. … If a nun shows up at a government fence with a bottle of wine, some bread and blood to give a message to the government about not bombing innocent children with really bad bombs, she is delivering a petition. … You don’t violate her First Amendment rights because the federal government has ineffective personnel policies.
Ralph got to visit both Michael and Greg, and passes on this news:
both mike and greg are well. mike reported getting a letter from kathy and he is clearly ready for mail. he suggests people use his correctly spelled last name and the jail mispelled name and hyphenate them. walli-walley. he is hoping to correct the jail spelling. whether or not that happens, or whether the double spelling is necessary is unclear. however, kathy’s letter was addressed that way and got through, so…
mike was in fine spirits, was interested to hear about media coverage of the trial, said he is doing fine, and expects to go to ocilla any day. he had a pre-sentencing interview, about 20 minutes he said, and has had a couple visits from chris irwin, his lawyer. he doesn’t get to see greg. i conveyed to him how wonderful his testimony in court was and how proud we all are of him.
greg was also in good spirits, laughed several times.
And that is the news from the Knox County Detention Center! Ralph was not able to visit Sr. Megan, who is at the Knox County Jail (separate facility); Shelley will be visiting her this weekend.
Here are the addresses of the three. Sending them mail is one of the best things we can do at this time — let’s all show them that we are thinking of them, and that we’re grateful for their action and witness!! Please note the jail (mis)spelling of Michael’s name.
Important tips on sending mail: letters and cards are okay as long as they are just paper. Photos are also okay if they are appropriate. Nothing else may be sent in, not stamps or staples or paper clips. Make sure to write a full return address on envelopes. These addresses will change if/when the three are sent to Ocilla. We will post the new addresses when that change occurs.
Also — Greg’s birthday is tomorrow, May 18th. Consider sending him a birthday card!
NOTE: The addresses below are no longer appropriate. See the Green “Write the Prisoners” button, above right, for correct addresses in Ocilla.Michael Walley: IDN: 1226169
In just ten months, the United States managed to transform an 82 year-old Catholic nun and two pacifists from non-violent anti-nuclear peace protestors accused of misdemeanor trespassing into federal felons convicted of violent crimes of terrorism. Now in jail awaiting sentencing for their acts at an Oak Ridge, TN nuclear weapons production facility, their story should chill every person concerned about dissent in the US.
Here is how it happened.
In the early morning hours of Saturday June 28, 2012, long-time peace activists Sr. Megan Rice, 82, Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, and Michael Walli, 63, cut through the chain link fence surrounding the Oak Ridge Y-12 nuclear weapons production facility and trespassed onto the property. Y-12, called the Fort Knox of the nuclear weapons industry, stores hundreds of metric tons of highly enriched uranium and works on every single one of the thousands of nuclear weapons maintained by the U.S.
“The truth will heal us and heal our planet, heal our diseases, which result from the disharmony of our planet caused by the worst weapons in the history of mankind, which should not exist. For this we give our lives — for the truth about the terrible existence of these weapons.”
- Sr. Megan Rice
Describing themselves as the Transform Now Plowshares, the three came as non-violent protestors to symbolically disarm the weapons. They carried bibles, written statements, peace banners, spray paint, flower, candles, small baby bottles of blood, bread, hammers with biblical verses on them and wire cutters. Their intent was to follow the words of Isaiah 2:4: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
Sr. Megan Rice has been a Catholic sister of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus for over sixty years. Greg Boertje-Obed, a married carpenter who has a college age daughter, is an Army veteran and lives at a Catholic Worker house in Duluth Minnesota. Michael Walli, a two-term Vietnam veteran turned peacemaker, lives at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker house in Washington DC.
In the dark, the three activists cut through a boundary fence which had signs stating “No Trespassing.” The signs indicate that unauthorized entry, a misdemeanor, is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
No security arrived to confront them.
So the three climbed up a hill through heavy brush, crossed a road, and kept going until they saw the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF) surrounded by three fences, lit up by blazing lights.
Still no security.
So they cut through the three fences, hung up their peace banners, and spray-painted peace slogans on the HEUMF. Still no security arrived. They began praying and sang songs like “Down by the Riverside” and “Peace is Flowing Like a River.”
When security finally arrived at about 4:30 am, the three surrendered peacefully, were arrested, and jailed.
The next Monday July 30, Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli were arraigned and charged with federal trespassing, a misdemeanor charge which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail. Frank Munger, an award-winning journalist with the Knoxville News Sentinel, was the first to publicly wonder, “If unarmed protesters dressed in dark clothing could reach the plant’s core during the cover of dark, it raised questions about the plant’s security against more menacing intruders.”
On Wednesday August 1, all nuclear operations at Y-12 were ordered to be put on hold in order for the plant to focus on security. The “security stand-down” was ordered by security contractor in charge of Y-12, B&W Y-12 (a joint venture of the Babcock and Wilcox Company and Bechtel National Inc.) and supported by the National Nuclear Security Administration.
On Thursday August 2, Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli appeared in court for a pretrial bail hearing. The government asked that all three be detained. One prosecutor called them a potential “danger to the community” and asked that all three be kept in jail until their trial. The US Magistrate allowed them to be released.
Sr. Megan Rice walked out of the jail and promptly admitted to gathered media that the three had indeed gone onto the property and taken action in protest of nuclear weapons. “But we had to — we were doing it because we had to reveal the truth of the criminality which is there, that’s our obligation,” Rice said. She also challenged the entire nuclear weapons industry: “We have the power, and the love, and the strength and the courage to end it and transform the whole project, for which has been expended more than 7.2 trillion dollars,” she said. “The truth will heal us and heal our planet, heal our diseases, which result from the disharmony of our planet caused by the worst weapons in the history of mankind, which should not exist. For this we give our lives — for the truth about the terrible existence of these weapons.”
Then the government began increasing the charges against the anti-nuclear peace protestors.
The day after the Magistrate ordered the release of Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli, a Department of Energy (DOE) agent swore out a federal criminal complaint against the three for damage to federal property, a felony punishable by zero to five years in prison, under 18 US Code Section 1363.
The DOE agent admitted the three carried a letter which stated, “We come to the Y-12 facility because our very humanity rejects the designs of nuclearism, empire and war. Our faith in love and nonviolence encourages us to believe that our activity here is necessary; that we come to invite transformation, undo the past and present work of Y-12; disarm and end any further efforts to increase the Y-12 capacity for an economy and social structure based on war-making and empire-building.”
Now, Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli were facing one misdemeanor and one felony and up to six years in prison.
But the government did not stop there. The next week, the charges were enlarged yet again.
On Tuesday August 7, the U.S. expanded the charges against the peace activists to three counts. The first was the original charge of damage to Y-12 in violation of 18 US Code 1363, punishable by up to five years in prison. The second was an additional damage to federal property in excess of $1000 in violation of 18 US Code 1361, punishable by up to ten years in prison. The third was a trespassing charge, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison under 42 US Code 2278.
Now they faced up to sixteen years in prison. And the actions of the protestors started to receive national and international attention.
On August 10, 2012, the New York Times ran a picture of Sr. Megan Rice on page one under the headline “The Nun Who Broke into the Nuclear Sanctum.” Citing nuclear experts, the paper of record called their actions “the biggest security breach in the history of the nation’s atomic complex.”
At the end of August 2012, the Inspector General of the Department of Energy issued at comprehensive report on the security breakdown at Y-12. Calling the peace activists trespassers, the report indicated that the three were able to get as far as they did because of “multiple system failures on several levels.” The cited failures included cameras broken for six months, ineptitude in responding to alarms, communication problems, and many other failures of the contractors and the federal monitors. The report concluded that “Ironically, the Y-12 breach may have been an important “wake-up” call regarding the need to correct security issues at the site.”
On October 4, 2012, the defendants announced that they had been advised that, unless they pled guilty to at least one felony and the misdemeanor trespass charge, the U.S. would also charge them with sabotage against the U.S. government, a much more serious charge. Over 3000 people signed a petition to U.S. Attorney General Holder asking him not to charge them with sabotage.
But on December 4, 2012, the U.S. filed a new indictment of the protestors. Count one was the promised new charge of sabotage. Defendants were charged with intending to injure, interfere with, or obstruct the national defense of the United States and willful damage of national security premises in violation of 18 US Code 2155, punishable with up to 20 years in prison. Counts two and three were the previous felony property damage charges, with potential prison terms of up to fifteen more years in prison.
Gone entirely was the original misdemeanor charge of trespass. Now Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli faced up to thirty-five years in prison.
In a mere five months, government charges transformed them from misdemeanor trespassers to multiple felony saboteurs.
The government also successfully moved to strip the three from presenting any defenses or testimony about the harmful effects of nuclear weapons. The U.S. Attorney’s office filed a document they called “Motion to Preclude Defendants from Introducing Evidence in Support of Certain Justification Defenses.” In this motion, the U.S. asked the court to bar the peace protestors from being allowed to put on any evidence regarding the illegality of nuclear weapons, the immorality of nuclear weapons, international law, or religious, moral or political beliefs regarding nuclear weapons, the Nuremberg principles developed after WWII, First Amendment protections, necessity or US policy regarding nuclear weapons.
Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli argued against the motion. But, despite powerful testimony by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, a declaration from an internationally renowned physician and others, the Court ruled against defendants.
Meanwhile, Congress was looking into the security breach, and media attention to the trial grew with a remarkable story in the Washington Post, with CNN coverage and AP and Reuters joining in.
The trial was held in Knoxville in early May 2013. The three peace activists were convicted on all counts. Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli all took the stand, admitted what they had done, and explained why they did it. The federal manager of Y-12 said the protestors had damaged the credibility of the site in the U.S. and globally and even claimed that their acts had an impact on nuclear deterrence.
As soon as the jury was dismissed, the government moved to jail the protestors because they had been convicted of “crimes of violence.” The government argued that cutting the fences and spray-painting slogans was property damage such as to constitute crimes of violence so the law obligated their incarceration pending sentencing.
The defense pointed out that Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli had remained free since their arrest without incident. The government attorneys argued that two of the protestors had violated their bail by going to a congressional hearing about the Y-12 security problems, an act that had been approved by their parole officers.
The three were immediately jailed. In its decision affirming their incarceration pending their sentencing, the court ruled that both the sabotage and the damage to property convictions were defined by Congress as federal crimes of terrorism. Since the charges carry potential sentences of ten years or more, the Court ruled there was a strong presumption in favor of incarceration which was not outweighed by any unique circumstances that warranted their release pending sentencing.
These non-violent peace activists now sit in jail as federal prisoners, awaiting their sentencing on September 23, 2013.
In ten months, an 82 year old nun and two pacifists had been successfully transformed by the U.S. government from non-violent anti-nuclear peace protestors accused of misdemeanor trespassing into felons convicted of violent crimes of terrorism.
Fran Quigley is an Indianapolis attorney working on local and international poverty issues. His column appears in The Indianapolis Star every other Monday.