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.
According to statements released by the defendants and communications from Blount County jail, where they are being held, they entered the Y12 facility in the pre-dawn hours on Saturday by cutting a fence. Before they were taken into custody at 4:30am, they had passed through several fences and entered the maximum security area where they hoisted their banners, spray painted messages, and poured their blood on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, the nation’s only storage facility for weapons grade HEU.
The media buzz is all about the unprecedented security breach, the most severe in the history of Y12. The National Nuclear Security Administration has released few details about the action.
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.”
The judge moved on to ask Megan Rice the same series of questions. When he got to “Have you had a chance to review and do you understand the charges contained in the document?” Megan answered, “It is incomprehensible that our charge against the activities at Y12 is not part of this conversation.” Megan referred to the indictment against Y12 the activists carried with them (and which was released after the action by supporters).
The judge moved on to Greg, asking him if he understood the complaint. Greg, who was representing himself, said, “I thought you were going to ask me if I wanted the complaint read first.” The judge smiled and said, “You’re right, I should do that. You are representing yourself quite well.” Then he went on to ask Greg the question he had already put to Mike and Megan, who had waived the reading. Greg answered that he normally prefers to have the charges read publicly. It was only then the public heard the formal charge— “that you willfully and without authorization entered the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Y12 Complex…” The language of the charge mirrors the authorizing statute—the three were charged with simple trespass, a criminal misdemeanor charge punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and a sentence of up to one year imprisonment and one additional year of post release supervision.
No charges for destruction of property or defacing property were entered at the hearing, though they could come later.
The judge assigned Chris Irwin to represent Mike Walli, a reunion of sorts. Chris represented Mike during the proceedings following the July 5, 2010 action at Y12. Francis Lloyd was appointed to represent Megan Rice—Francis represented Jean Gump during the 2010 proceedings. Greg Boertje-Obed was given permission to represent himself, and the public defender, Bobby Hudson, was assigned to be “elbow counsel.”
When the prosecutor, Melissa Kirby, listed reasons for denying bail to the defendants (they all waived their rights to a hearing), she noted they had “bragged about their action to the media,” and were flight risks, etc. Mike Walli noted for the judge that he had been released in 2010 and appeared “under my own steam as agreed,” for all hearings and the trial. Francis Lloyd noted the defendants had made no statements to the media that were not protected under the first amendment; Greg noted that Plowshares actions are carried out in obedience to Isaiah’s prophecy that swords shall be turned into plowshares, that Ms. Kirby was wrong to characterize Plowshares as “an organization,” and noted that in similar actions in other jurisdictions, judges had permitted testimony about international law and some juries have found defendants not guilty.
In all, the proceedings took about half an hour and concluded with the scheduling of a preliminary hearing on Thursday, August 2, at 1:30pm EDST, in East Tennessee District Court in Knoxville, TN. Until then, it is expected the defendants will be held at Blount County Detention Facility. You can write to them at:
INMATE’S FULL NAME: _____________
BLOUNT COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
920 E. LAMAR ALEXANDER PARKWAY
MARYVILLE, TN 37804-5022
RETURN ADDRES MUST HAVE FULL NAME AND FULL ADDRESS OR INMATE WILL NOT RECEIVE MAIL.
Our history with Blount County is pretty sketchy with regard to mail. The 2010 Y12 protestors were denied mail because “we don’t have the staff to screen the quantity of mail you are getting.” So we encourage mail, but be aware it may come back to a month later, unopened, at the whim of jail authorities.