The September 15, 2015 resentencing of Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed on their remaining depredation conviction for their July 2012 Transform Now Plowshares action at the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, TN, will be held by teleconference according to Judge Amul Thapar.
Bill Quigley sent an email to supporters today noting the prosecution has indicated it will NOT ask for more prison time. The three have already served more time than sentencing guidelines recommend for this offense. Quigley reported the prosecution does intend to ask for an extended period of probation, from one to three years.
Attorneys representing Greg, Megan and Michael, including Quigley, will ask the judge to forgo probation and to drop the restitution required in the original sentencing as well.
The Transform Now Plowshares activists were originally convicted of two charges—depredation of government property and sabotage; the latter carried a heavier sentence. Because of the sabotage conviction, the three were immediately remanded to federal custody and were not eligible for parole or bond while their appeal was pending.
The sixth circuit court of appeals heard oral arguments earlier this year and, in May, overturned the sabotage conviction and vacated the sentences for both charges, noting the prison time served already exceeded the recommended sentence for the depredation charge, hence the re-sentencing. The three were released on recognizance within a week of the appeals court’s ruling.
by John LaForge, Nukewatch
Three pacifists that snuck into the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex last summer are preparing for their Feb. trial, and face the prospect that any mention of nuclear weapons will be forbidden.
Y-12 is the 811-acre site in Oak Ridge, Tenn. that’s been building H-bombs and contaminating workers and the environment since 1945. On July 28, Sister Megan Rice, 82, of New York City, Michael Walli, 63, of Washington, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, of Duluth, snipped through fences and walked up to the new Highly Enriched Uranium Materials building. They unfurled banners, painted “Woe to and Empire of Blood” etc., poured blood on the place, prayed and broke bread.
Now they face felony charges that carry a maximum of $500,000 in fines and 15 years in prison. Additionally, in an apparent attempt to scare them into pleading guilty now, federal prosecutors have mentioned bringing two heavier charges, including sabotage “during wartime,” which together carry up to 50 years.
Yet as with previous cases of symbolic damage to nuclear war systems, a Kangaroo Court is being arranged in advance. If the government gets it way, the trial judge will keep facts about nuclear weapons away from jurors and make sure that questions about the Bomb’s outlaw status are left out of jury instructions. Instructions are the jurors’ marching orders, the last thing they hear before starting deliberations.
On Nov. 2, federal prosecutors led by U.S. Attorney William Killian offered a motion “in limine,” urging U.S. Magistrate Judge C. Clifford Shirley to “preclude defendants from introducing evidence in support of certain justification defenses.” The motion asks the court to forbid all evidence — even expert testimony — about “necessity, international law, Nuremberg Principles, First Amendment protections, the alleged immorality of nuclear weapons, good motive, religious moral or political beliefs regarding nuclear weapons, and the U.S. government’s policy regarding nuclear weapons.” The “basis” for excluding evidence regarding the threatened use of our H-bombs is that it is “not relevant.”
Volunteer defense attorneys have submitted a detailed memo to the contrary, arguing that interference with and even defacing and damaging nuclear war plans is a legitimately excusable “lesser harm” that prevents an indisputably greater one. The lawyers, Bill Quigley, Chris Irwin, Francis Lloyd and Kary Love, argue that forbidding a defense of necessity violates protesters’ rights. Citing case law from 2005, 1994, 1980 and 1976, they note that “In a criminal case it is reversible error for a trial judge to refuse to present adequately a defendant’s theory of defense,” and, “where a defendant claims an affirmative defense [necessity, crime prevention, etc.], and that ‘defense finds some support in the evidence and in the law,’ the defendant is entitled to have the claimed defense discussed in the jury instructions.”
It’s easy to show that necessity defenses are relevant, the memo notes, since the “burden is not a heavy one” and is met “even when the supporting evidence is weak or of doubtful credibility.” Nevertheless, as the prosecutor’s motion points out, “Courts have precluded defendants from presenting any evidence in support of such defenses at trial, including expert testimony.” Indeed, gag orders in similar cases have been upheld by the 9th, 8th, 7th and 11th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal. Judges and prosecutors have in fact placed nuclear weapons and war planning beyond the reach of the law — unlike assault rifles, poison gas or other contraband — as if H-bombs were sacrosanct, unquestionable, and too precious to be addressed by mere mortals.
In this case, Magistrate Shirley is expected to grant the stifling motion. He and Mr. Killian know that if jurors learn about the effects of nuclear attacks, about the law against planning massacres, and about U.S. plans for nuclear warfare, they would likely acquit the defendants. The U.S. Attorney’s motion even confesses, “[w]e do not suggest that the deployment of nuclear armament systems does not violate international law, but merely that Congress has power to protect government property….”
If a gag order from Magistrate Shirley follows suit with earlier nuclear weapons protest cases, the accused will again be denied the right to reasonably defend themselves. With the world clamoring for nuclear abolition, it won’t be the defense that’s irrelevant then, but the court system.
— John LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisc., and edits its Quarterly.
The Transform Now Plowshares want to tell the jury the truth, the WHOLE truth and nothing but the truth.
Video interview with Greg, click to view.
Greg Boertje-Obed was released from Blount County Detention Center at 8:30pm on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 to await trial, currently scheduled fro February 26, 2013. Greg, along with Sr. Megan Rice and Mike Walli, formed the Transform Now Plowshares action which entered the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex on July 28, 2012, penetrated the high security “exclusion zone” with a pair of low tech bolt cutters, and hammered, prayed, painted “Swords into Plowshares” and poured blood on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility in Oak Ridge, TN.They were protesting ongoing nuclear weapons production at Y12 and plans for a new $7.5 billion bomb plant, the UPF, slated to begin construction this fall. Greg has been in Blount County Jail since July 28. His co-defendants, Megan and Mike, accepted release in July following their arraignment. Additional reports from court can be found on OREPA’s web site: http://www.orepa.org.
Greg’s release came as a result of his request for a detention hearing following the reset of the trial date from October to February. He had originally declined to seek release, but told the judge he was now prompted by the difficulty of trying to consult with co-defendants in preparing for trial and by family concerns.
At the detention hearing, Assistant District Attorney Melissa Kirby rehearsed her well-worn reasons why Greg should be locked up, adding that he had warned the court earlier he would not accept or comply with conditions of release. Then the judge asked her if Greg, with his lengthy record, had in any instance not shown up for court. She admitted she had no evidence of that. “He was convicted numerous times in the past, so I assume he was in court,” she said. “However, in this case he said he would not appear.” “I don’t believe he said that,” the judge said.
Greg told the judge he had a 100% record of appearance in prior cases for “anything I have been arrested for, all of which, in my opinion, were ‘good deeds.’”
The judge subjected Greg to a lengthy interrogation—an apparent payback for Greg’s earlier refusal to accept release unless the judge declared nuclear weapons to be a war crime. In the end, after Greg attempted to explain his living situation at the Catholic Worker in Duluth (“Is it a part of the Catholic Church?” “No.” Is it affiliated with any church?” “No, but many churches contribute to our work.” “How did it get the name, then?” “In 1933, the name Catholic Worker was chosen by the founders.” “Huh.”) The judge then asked Greg what he did in Duluth and Greg said he found work painting houses, landscaping, and volunteering hospitality to homeless and others in need.
Finally indicating that he might accede to Greg’s request, the judge asked about what he would do if he were released. “Do you have a place to stay locally until you can get a bus to Duluth?” Erik Johnson rose from the audience. “My wife Libby and I would be honored to provide hospitality to Greg.”
The judge took a recess. When he returned, he walked the court through all the guidance provided to judges in making detention determinations. “His record of appearance is good,” said the judge, “by his own word, one hundred percent.” Responding to the prosecution’s assertion that Greg posed a danger to the community, the judge said, “He poses little danger. In fact, it may be that some people in Duluth will benefit if he returns to his normal activities.” Finally, the judge said, “Taking in the totality of factors, Mr. Obed appears to be an appropriate case to release.”
Then the judge offered an aside, “In my experience in these kinds of cases, and I’ve had several (actually two), in the cases of these Y12 protesters, and I think we may have some in the audience, I see Sister Lentsch there…in my experience these protesters actually want to attend trial. Candidly, I don’t think I could keep them from it. Part of the express purpose of their action is to publicize the production of nuclear weapons, and they view their arrest and trial as part of the publicity. So right or wrong, he’s likely to appear.”
Turning to Greg, the judge said, “Mr. Obed, I think you’re a man of your word. Before, you told me you would not agree to conditions or agree not to break any laws if you were released, and I think you meant it. Now you say you will, and I think you mean it. If you do, you will remain out and will be able to do good while you are out.”
With that, the judge declared that Greg would be released that evening, and five hours later he walked out of Blount County Jail. He will leave for Duluth on the Megabus at 11:30am, Wednesday, September 12. His departure coincides with the opening of Congressional hearings in Washington, DC, on the Transform Now Plowshares security breach at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex.
I’ve been preparing for more than a year, discussing with other people and then specifically Megan and Michael.
Many months ago, Megan learned about the Disarm Now Plowshares, and she went to the trial on the west coast, and that moved her to want to explore doing a similar type action. Because of the experience, all the expert witnesses they had, all the reasons why nuclear weapons are illegal.
And Michael has always felt that the rule of law is a key motivating factor for him. He believes strongly that nuclear weapons are illegal, and that we have a duty and an obligation, especially according to Nuremberg Principles, to take steps to intervene in war crimes of building nuclear weapons.
Was there any physical fitness preparation, did you expect this to be a rigorous…?
I did ask Megan to practice walking. Months in advance, you know, because she does lose breath when she walks a long distance. And she had been practicing.
But not cardboard boxes.
That’s a recent problem.
We take responsibility for what we did. We say, we are the people who did it, and we want to explain why we believe it was legal and the right thing to do.
In the early morning, 2:00, 2:30, whatever it may be, on July 28th, that morning — can you say, I think we talked somewhat about this, but I’m not sure — did someone actually drop you off at a certain point?
That’s another thing that we say: the Spirit led us there. And we don’t want to implicate other people who might have not wanted to be known.
It boils down to, nuclear weapons are designed to be of mass destruction. They are going to kill civilians. The intent of killing civilians is a war crime also. And preparing, just by building you are preparing for a war that will kill civilians.
Video by Michael Patrick, News Sentinel
Court Update from Ralph Hutchison:
Judge Shirley arrived in court a few minutes late for the Transform Now Plowshares hearing on Friday, September 7, but it gave us time to visit a bit with Greg Boertje-Obed when he arrived, in stripes and shackles, from Blount County Detention Center. Greg looked and sounded healthy, inquired about his co-defendants, and then settled into a conversation with his “elbow counsel.”
When the judge arrived, he declared that he would hear motions for a continuance in the case, originally scheduled for trial on October 9.
By the time it was over, he had made several rulings and established a new calendar. The trial is now scheduled for February 26, 2013, though it is not entirely clear that date will hold.
The motions were dispensed with in a straightforward hearing. The government did not object to the granting of a continuance, though they did dispute the request from the defendants that the case be designated “complex.” In the end, the judge said he would not designate the case “complex,” but he would also not agree it was not—the defense could come back and argue another day if necessary.
The prosecution told the court it had provided initial discovery and would be releasing the second (and likely final) batch of discovery materials today or Monday. The defendants suggested it was quite possible they would seek additional materials in discovery which might lead to hearings and even litigation. The judge urged them to see what was forthcoming and attempt to resolve any outstanding issues informally with the government and the defendants agreed.
As the 50 minute hearing drew to a close, the judge set new dates:
Note: Many may have already heard that Sister Megan Rice fell and suffered two broken wrists late last week. She is recovering; new casts have been placed on her wrists that enable her to use her fingers. Megan is seeking permission to relocate to Rosemont, PA where her community can better provide for her rehabilitation. The judge this morning indicated the decision rests with the probation office. If and when Megan moves, we will try to post updated contact info on this site and on the OREPA web site: www.orepa.org.
(published in issue #167 of the Nuclear Resister newsletter)
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.
– Psalm 118.22-23
When Megan, Michael and I were preparing for the witness that became the Transform Now Plowshares, we discussed this passage and were struck by how it might apply to the action we were considering. We learned of government and corporate plans to build a new factory for making “modernized” nuclear weapons, called the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF). Peace activists called for a campaign to halt the plans for this $7.5 billion death factory whose projected costs kept increasing. We knew that many of our international treaties committed us to stop building nuclear weapons and to reduce to zero our weapons of mass destruction.
When studying the above scripture, we read that Jesus quoted it in a parable in which he was the stone rejected by the religious and political leaders of his day. He was to become the cornerstone for followers of the Holy One. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the early disciples quoted this verse, applying it to the rejection of Jesus and his rising from the dead.
A thought that came to us was that the builders of nuclear weapons have rejected the teachings and example of Jesus. Our leading was to seek to act in the tradition of plowshares actions, to bring hammers and blood, and to attempt to hammer on a cornerstone of a building used for making nuclear horror weapons. We knew that a recent structure was built that was intended to be a counterpart to the proposed UPF.
Our intention was to reject nuclear weapons as a cornerstone of our national policy by symbolically and actually hammering on a cornerstone of the new building. We also intended to explain that our action was a rejection of the U.S. role in the world. We knew that our nation functions as an empire that viciously oppresses weaker peoples around the world. Nuclear disarmament and rejection of imperial oppression are both necessary for justice and life.
We believe God clearly guided us through the fences to the uranium building where we put up banners, poured blood, spray painted, put up crime scene tape, and began to hammer on a lower corner of the wall beneath an imposing guard tower. After a few blows, the wall began to crumble. After a few more strikes, the hole widened. A short while later, Megan came with her tiny hammer and swung a few times. The wall continued to crumble.
We give thanks for the miraculous leading of the Spirit, which is how we understand the action occurred. If God can raise people from the dead, then God can lead people past forces of death to continue the process of transforming structures of death to become structures for life-enhancing purposes.
We continue to pray for more transforming and are encouraged by the Spirit that sings:
This is the day that the Lord has made,
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
– Psalm 118:24
from: Ralph Hutchison
* * *
As the afternoon wore on in Judge Clifford Shirley’s courtroom it seemed we might never get to the question of the day—would Mike Walli, Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed continue to be held in Blount County Jail, or would Judge Shirley release them? Stay tuned…
As Judge Shirley began the proceedings, Francis Lloyd, counsel for Megan Rice, reported that hypothermia, possibly brought on by the failure to provide Megan with her medicine, might compromise her ability to participate in the hearing. Francis had already draped his raincoat over Megan. Court took a recess while officials scrambled to locate a blanket. In the end, Judge Shirley reappeared with a space heater to direct on Megan and a staff person found a sweater and blanket.
We began with the announcement that the government had submitted a new criminal complaint, charging a felony—that the defendants had, at a place within the special maritime or territory of the United States, namely the Y12 National Security Complex, did willfully and maliciously destroy or injure or attempt to destroy or injure a structure, conveyance, personal or real property. The new penalty is a $250,000 fine and not more than 5 years in prison; not more than 3 years supervised release; and a special assessment of $100. Continue reading
From: Ralph Hutchison
A Day in Court • Transform Now Plowshares Trial Set
* * *
Greg, Megan and Mike all appeared to be in good health and spirits as they came into Magistrate Judge G. Clifford Shirley’s courtroom in Knoxville, Tennessee, for what was supposed to be a preliminary hearing. Before the judge arrived, they spoke with their counsel, and we held up a copy of the newspaper’s bold headline: Y12 halts nuke operations. Greg saw it and smiled broadly; the lawyers for the others indicated they had made sure their clients knew.
When Judge Shirley came in, he informed the court that the government had chosen a different route than the preliminary hearing and was presenting a bill of information with the same charge as before—misdemeanor trespass. That meant we were starting over, sort of, and the judge went through the formalities of re-appointing attorneys, and we had a second initial appearance. It does appear Judge Shirley will be on the bench for the remainder of the proceedings.
After reviewing the information, the judge asked the defendants to enter pleas. Mike Walli spoke clearly, “Not guilty.” Megan Rice did the same, emphasizing the not. When asked for his plea, Greg said, “I plead justified because the building of nuclear weapons is a war crime.” The judge asked him to plead guilty or not guilty, and Greg responded, “I plead for the downtrodden around the world who suffer the consequences of our nuclear weapons.” The judge asked a third time for a formal plea and Greg said, “I plead for the children who need someone to intervene for them.” The judge said, “Fine, I will enter a plea of not guilty.” Continue reading
Michael Walli, Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed made their initial appearance before federal magistrate Bruce Guyton in Knoxville, Tennessee at 11:15am today—Monday, July 30, 2012. The proceedings were nearly over before Greg required the judge to read the charges against them—the trio were charged with criminal trespass, a misdemeanor, for their Transform Now Plowshares action on Saturday, July 28 at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
In court, the defendants were calm and composed. They spoke clearly, answering the judge’s questions directly. It was a pro forma hearing until the judge asked them each if they had a chance to review the complaint against them.
“Yes,” answered Mike Walli, the first to be questioned. Do you have any questions, the judge asked. “I note the charge listed relates only to what I have done,” Mike said, “and does not include the illegal nuclear weapons production taking place at Y12.” Continue reading