NEW INDICTMENT FOR PEACE ACTIVISTS THREATENS
LIFE SENTENCE FOR NUN AND COLLEAGUES.
(December 6, 2013, Knoxville, TN) – Prosecutors made good on a threat on Tuesday when a grand jury in Knoxville, Tennessee handed down a superseding indictment charging three nonviolent peace activists under US sabotage laws. The three count indictment drops a previous trespass charge and includes two previous charges—together the three charges carry a total of 35 years in prison.
The new charges was first threatened weeks ago when the prosecution approached the defendants, Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli with a plea offer—plead guilty, we’ll drop the trespass charge, and we won’t add more charges, offered the government. The defendants, who entered the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee last July in the Transform Now Plowshares action, declined the offer and said at that time their action was designed to call attention to the ongoing criminality of nuclear weapons production at Y12 and to oppose plans for a new, $8 billion bomb plant, the Uranium Processing Facility, proposed for Y12.
If convicted and given the maximum sentence, the new charges amount to a death sentence for Sr. Megan Rice, 82 years-old, and as good as a life sentence for her partners in peace, Michael Walli, 63, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57.
In response to the new charges, the Transform Now Plowshares activists released a statement on Wednesday, December 5:
“Our consciences compelled us to act at Y-12 Oak Ridge nuclear facility because we knew that the nuclear weapons of mass destruction illegally produced there threaten the well-being of our entire planet. The government and Babcock and Wilcox know these weapons can only be used to inflict massive death and injury on people and on our planet.
The Government threatened to charge us with the more serious crime of sabotage if we did not plead guilty. We chose to exercise our constitutional right to a jury trial and refused to bow down to their threats. So the government has added serious new charges which expose us to an additional twenty years in prison for our peacemaking actions.
We remain convinced that making and refurbishing nuclear weapons at Y-12 is both illegal under US and international law and it is also immoral. Ultimately we are required to follow the law of love and our consciences.
Our present activities include daily community prayer, study of the Nuremberg trials, and public education about the existence of illegal nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
We look forward to presenting evidence to the jury of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what goes on at Y-12.”
The trial of the Transform Now Plowshares activists was scheduled for February 26, 2013; that date will now likely be pushed back. In November, Magistrate Judge G. Clifford Shirley heard arguments on a motion to limit the testimony of the defendants; those motions and that hearing now appear to be moot as the new charge will requite starting over from square one with an arraignment; no date has yet been announced for the arraignment.
The new indictment charges that Michael, Megan and Greg “aiding and abetting each other, with the intent to injure, interfere with, and obstruct the national defense of the United States, did willfully injure, destroy, and contaminate, and attempt to injure, destroy and contaminate national-defense premises, specifically, buildings and grounds of the Y-12 National Security Complex, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2155(a), 2151 and 2.”
The action of the Transform Now Plowshares trio last July 28 was a monumental embarrassment to the government; in the early morning hours they penetrated the inner maximum security “deadly-force-authorized” zone at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex and were unimpeded for a lengthy period; they poured blood on walls and the ground in a ritual of cleansing; they offered prayers, painted messages on the side of the Highly Enriched Uranium Material Facility which is the nation’s warehouse of weapons grade HEU, hammered a chunk out of the side of the building, wrapped crime scene tape around the concrete crash barriers, and were finally apprehended. They not only had access while they were inside the intrusion detection area to the HEU storage building, but they had also crossed the last barrier and, if they had chosen, had unimpeded access to Building 9212, where workers produce thermonuclear secondaries for US nuclear warheads.
The new charge raises significant questions about the government’s desire to punish the nonviolent activists and its desire to cover over the incompetence of Y12 management—the National Nuclear Security Administration and its prime contractor, B&W Y12.
“Those of us who have been watching the management fiasco they call the ‘UPF design team’ are used to unbelievable waste on the part of the government,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, a public interest watchdog group in Tennessee. “Now we see the Department of Justice is just as good at wasting money as the Department of Energy. After spending an untold amount of money establishing their case, filing motions and holding hearings, we are starting over. It’s all too familiar—when the taxpayer writes the check, the government is happy to spend money.”
In October of this year the National Nuclear Security Administration announced that, after spending five years and half a billion dollars designing the proposed Uranium Processing Facility—a new bomb manufacturing facility—they had discovered a “space/fit issue,” and would have to redesign the facility. It was too small for all the equipment it would need to operate.