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.”
Shirley then said, “Now I am trying to understand the case for detention of these defendants.” Prosecutor Melissa Kirby recited her litany of reasons for keeping them in jail: a danger to the community, the nature and circumstances of this offense went far beyond past offenses, a heightened risk to the community, no respect for the law, no respect for the terms of their release.”
The judge noted that those were all arguments she might make at a detention hearing, but the government first had to meet a standard defined in the rules in order for the defendants to qualify for detention. He enumerated: a crime of violence; a drug crime with a penalty of ten years or more; a felony on the list; any other felony involving violence, a minor victim or firearm; a serious risk of flight; obstruction of justice, including the likelihood of witness of jury tampering. “If you satisfy that,” said the judge, “then we get to a hearing.”
Ms. Kirby argued they needed more time to determine if they presented a flight risk, that their past records were scattered among districts around the country, that they weren’t local, and they were trying to gather the information. The judge said, “Well, we do have experience in this district with Mr. Walli at least, and he appeared when required, so that doesn’t seem to be an issue with him.”
The judge asked the defendants if they wanted to be released. Chris Irwin said yes for Mike; Francis Lloyd said he hardly thought Blount County Jail was a good place for an 82 year-old woman. Greg said he would accept release if the judge would declare nuclear weapons a war crime. The judge said he was not likely to do that, and the irony is the government might not hold Greg even if he wished to stay in jail.
He then noted that he had possibly caught people off guard and said we would reconvene tomorrow (Friday, August 3) to take up the matter of detention. If the government met the standard for detention, he said, we would immediately move to a detention hearing. “If you can’t meet that standard,” he said, after the government asked if they could have until Monday, “I don’t see why we would keep them in jail three more days.” He then said under the Bail Reform Act, if they were to be released, he was required to release them under the least restrictive conditions that would assure their appearance and provide for community safety.
Before we left, the judge set the calendar. Though it is not terribly likely we will stick to these days (the government indicated additional charges might be forthcoming), for now it is this:
Trial October 9
Discovery August 9
Motion cut off August 30
Responses September 13
Pretrial conference September 18, 2:30pm
> also plea cut off, reciprocal discovery deadline