This report covers the sentencing hearings of Mike Walli, Steve Baggarly, Brad Lyttle, Mary Dennis Lentsch, Beth Rosdatter, and Dennis DuVall
DAY FOUR • September 19, Mike Walli
Mike Walli appeared in federal court in Knoxville on Monday, September 19, 2011 to face sentencing for his May 2011 conviction on charges of trespass at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, TN in July 2010. Mike has been in custody, held mostly in Ocilla, GA, since the trial in May.
The procedure began with Judge Bruce Guyton asking Mike if he could hear him. Mike did not answer, but his attorney, Chris Irwin, spoke up to say that Mike had chosen to remain silent before the court, but he (Chris) having just spent an hour in conversation with Mike, was certain Mike could hear and understand.
After formalities—have both sides read the sentencing memorandum?—Chris Irwin began by asking the court for a moment of silence for Jackie Hudson. The judge granted the request, and silence was observed.
Chris then reviewed for the judge a bit of Mike’s history; his service in Vietnam and the effects of that combat experience, his spiritual awakening and conversion to Christianity, and his dedication to a life of service in communities, feeding the hungry, painting windows, mowing grass, assisting with prisoner reintegration, providing hospitality for the homeless, and more. “This,” said Chris, “along with his acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, is Mike’s response to the horrific events he witnessed in war.”
When Chris finished, the judge reviewed Mike’s record; he is in a higher category than any of the defendants to date, and was recommended by the presentencing memorandum for a term of 6-12 months. The judge declared a sentence of 8 months; no supervised release, no fine, and a $25 special fee.
With that, Mike rose in shackles. Blessings were exchanged with the audience, and we watched him leave. Anticipating that Mike will remain in Blount County Jail (who knows?) until the weekend, we have made arrangements to visit on Saturday.
Tomorrow: Steve Baggarly and Brad Lyttle are scheduled for sentencing on Tuesday. OREPA members will gather in solidarity with Brad and Steve’s wife, Kim, at 8:00pm at the Riverside community in South Knoxville this evening. This morning, Steve and Kim were able to visit in Blount County jail in a “special circumstances” arrangement since Kim had traveled from Norfolk, VA.
DAY FIVE, Part 1 • 19 September 2011, Steve Baggarly
The purpose of the hearing was to sentence Steve Baggarly for his July 2010 trespass at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex, but when the Judge turned to ask Steve if he had anything to say, Steve delivered a message that was part indictment of the bomb plant and part map of the path to hope.
He began with the simple fact that Y12 enriched the uranium for the Little Boy bomb and produced the thermonuclear secondary for every nuclear weapon in the US arsenal. He illustrated the true nature of the bomb with a recollection of the story of a Hiroshima survivor, Kozu Itagaki, who reported: “Victims of the blast seemed like ghosts, without a vestige of clothing, their sex unclear, tottering toward the park, their skin hanging down like potato skins. They climbed toward the top of the hill, supposing they would find relief, but the next morning they were found dead at the top of the hill.” Itagaki-san spent the next days collecting corpses, interrupted in that work by a young boy who approached begging for water. “We saw the signs of jaundice, dehydration, his hair falling out. We agreed that if we gave him water, he would die. We told him to sit under the tree, and we would bring him water later. When we looked over, we saw that he had put his head into sewage and drank there and died. Now that I am a parent, I realize how hard he was crying in his heart for his mother and his father, and I regret that I did not give him water to drink.”
The weapons being produced by the United States today have the power of thousands of Hiroshima bombs, Steve said, and he cited the Congress, the White House, the courts and the American people for a conspiracy and daily rehearsal of the end of the world. “If we do not repent of this idolatry,” Steve said, “we will not even have a chance to regret it.” He quoted Jimmy Carter’s assessment that a nuclear exchange would unleash the entire firepower of World War 2 every second. “Survivors,” Carter said, and Steve repeated,”will live in despair, in a world that has committed suicide.”
“To require children to live in a world threatened by nuclear weapons is an unspeakable evil,” Steve told the court, “and the United States has a moral responsibility to make sure it never happens. If we have any hope for a nuclear weapons free future, the United States must lead, acting with the relentlessness of the Manhattan Project, a nuclear disarmament race.
“We must depart from the Gods of metal,” Steve said, “Depart from evil and seek good, and only then will we see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
The Judge read the formalities, noting Steve’s several convictions, most recently in March 2010, making him a Category 4 offender, in the 6-12 month range according to the sentencing guidelines. He then sentenced Steve to 8 months in federal prison—he has served four months already. The judge did not levy a fine, and declined to order probation following his release.
Court adjourned, and we bid Steve blessings of peace as he was led in shackles out of the courtroom. Moments later, we enlisted the help of the US Assistant District Attorney to amend the Judge’s order to recommend Steve’s assignment to the federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia.
Steve will be held in Blount County jail where he is cell mates with Mike Walli. It is not clear how long they will be in Tennessee or where they will be moved to when they are moved, but we have scheduled visitation for Saturday morning.
DAY FIVE, Part 2 • Brad Lyttle
If Brad and the judge were going to have a difference of opinion, it wasn’t going to be over Brad’s lack of courtesy. “Mr. Lyttle, can you hear me?” Judge Bruce Guyton asked, as he does of every defendant at the beginning of proceedings. “I certainly can, your honor,” replied Brad cheerfully. And then he thanked the judge for releasing his passport allowing him to travel to Afghanistan and Canada while he was on supervised release, for being kind and open-minded, for assigning the public defender to assist him in his self-representation. Then turning to the Assistant District Attorney, Melissa Kirby, he offered his congratulations on her marriage.
The government made no recommendation about Brad’s sentence, preferring to defer to the judgement of the court. Brad’s history and points placed him in the range to receive a sentence of 1-7 months.
Brad’s elocution called to mind the recent commemorations of September 11, the moving pictures of the catastrophic destruction wrought in New York—“buildings collapsed, people bereaved, in search of loved ones. Over two thousand people in New York alone. I was deeply moved.”
Then Brad cited the testimony of the Manager of Y12 during the trial; Ted Sherry declined to say how powerful the W76 warhead, currently being refurbished at Y12, was, but Brad filled in the gap—if it were exploded in lower Manhattan, “it would all be wiped out, probably every human, and a large number of people in Brooklyn. Every borough of New York City would be on fire. One thousand times the destructive power of Hiroshima.” Brad went on to note that Mr. Sherry did acknowledge the US possesses more than 5,000 of those bombs. Noting Russia maintains a similar arsenal and “untold others” held by other nations, Brad said, “The machine is in place for total destruction of the entire human race. We’re not talking about cities that can be rebuilt; we’re talking about wiping out the human race. Y12 contributes to this machine through the work of refurbishing nuclear warheads. This is reality.”
Then Brad got to the heart of his argument, noting the judge would not permit a jury to hear it. He gave the judge and the prosecutor a copy of his paper, “The Flaw of Deterrence,” which applies the science of probability assessment to the argument of deterrence. “The probability approaches certainty over time.” The fact that it is impossible to know when is tantamount to playing Russian roulette with a revolver that holds an unknown number of bullets. “To play once is irrational,” Brad noted. “And this is the situation with nuclear weapons.”
Coming to a close, Brad said, “Our action was completely justified and necessary to keep the human species from destroying itself. I hope you will take that into consideration; the jury had no chance to hear it.”
After the morning session, the judge summoned Brad’s assigned counsel, Kim Tollison, to chambers for a chat. Kim subsequently spent twenty minutes locked in the conference room with Brad. The upshot was the judge indicated he would not put Brad in prison if Brad would promise not to do it again. But Brad would make no such promise.
Instead, citing his age and health concerns, Brad allowed as how he has no plans at the current time to engage in similar actions at Y12. We held our breath waiting to see if the judge would push for a promise.
Instead, the judge declared a sentence of one year probation, the first month to be served on home confinement. Drug tests were waived. And with that, court was adjourned. In the gallery, the audience danced little celebratory dances.
Day Six, Part 1 • Mary Dennis Lentsch
Mary Dennis Lentsch appeared this morning before judge Bruce Guyton in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee to be sentenced for her nonviolent civil resistance at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in July of 2010. The courtroom was full of supporters as Mary Dennis was brought in in shackles; she has been in custody since mid-June in Ocilla, Georgia.
The Assistant District Attorney, Melissa Kirby, set the tone, telling the judge that Mary Dennis was “a little different” from the others who have been sentenced over the past ten days. “Her offenses are almost exclusively at this facility, at Y12,” she said; she’s had seven convictions at Y12, including a prior federal arrest in 2002. At that time she was sentenced to two months in a halfway house [served instead in federal prison] and one year of supervised release. It did not appear to serve a deterrent effect as she continues to go to Y12 to commit these offenses.”
Mary Dennis’ attorney, John Eldridge reminded the judge he had heard Mary Dennis testify as to her actins and her motivations. “No one can possibly question her sincerity,” he said. “We ask for a sentence of time served.”
Then Mary Dennis spoke. Despite the federal marshals efforts to constrain her to face only the judge, she turned to the court, “I bow to the sacred in everyone,” she said. “I bow to the sacred in the plants and animals. I bow to the sacred in all creation.”
“In order to protect all the sacred gifts of creation, I feel called to do whatever is necessary to abolish nuclear weapons. My years of nonviolent resistance and acts of conscience have their roots in my Christian baptismal promise to renounce and resist evil, and in the public witness of my religious vows as a Catholic sister.
“My heartfelt conviction for resisting nuclear weapons is reinforced by a passage from the Bible. In the Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 30 verse 19 we read: ‘…I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life that you and future generations may live.’
“It is a known fact that nuclear weapons are instruments of death and massive destruction. The explosion of a nuclear bomb gives off immense quantities of heat and energy, as well as powerful and prolonged radiation that cannot be contained in time and space. This violence of nuclear weapons has the potential to destroy all that is sacred—all living beings, as well as our ecosystems, and our planet.”
Mary Dennis noted that she was unable to present evidence in her trial—that the sign she carried which spoke of international law and the US Constitution was not provided in discovery, though other defendants’ signs were. “It was my hope and expectation that the judge and jury would weigh in the balance of justice the gravity of the United States violating international law and the Constitution of the United States, with my puny action of calling attention to these violations regarding the continued nuclear bomb production at Y-12,” she said.
Invoking the founder of the Presentation Sisters, Nano Nagle, and Jesus, and “many prophetic witnesses before me,” Mary Dennis said she accepted “the consequential suffering of my decision to follow my conscience.”
After thanking the people who had gathered in support of her, she said, “It is my prayerful hope that the nonviolent energy of each person in this room, and all people around the world, could one day soon, insure the sacred gift of life and existence for all in a nuclear-free future. We must abolish nuclear weapons!”
The first glimmer of hope came as the judge began his pre-sentencing litany, reviewing Mary Dennis’s history he said, “The defendant has had several prior arrests,” minimizing her record. Minutes later he handed down the sentence—time served, with no probation or supervised release and no fine.
Y12 Resisters’ Sentencing • Day Six, Part 2: Beth Rosdatter
To fully appreciate Beth Rosdatter’s sentencing hearing, one would have to have been present during the trial in May. Before the trial, Judge Bruce Guyton ruled a few things out of bounds—any discussion of nuclear policy, nuclear weapons, faith, motivation, good intent, and, mostly, anything that might evoke sympathy or understanding on the part of a juror. He was granting a prosecution request at the time, and the problem he ran into early on, with the first witness, was the prosecution asking about nuclear policy.
It wasn’t until later in the trial, when Beth took the stand, that the prosecutor asked her a direct question about her motive. She hesitated, then looked at the judge and said, “I think she just asked me a question you don’t want me to answer.” This precipitated a sidebar conversation with the lawyers, at the end of which the judge admonished all parties to be mindful of his ruling.
Eventually Beth and the others were found guilty of trespass for their July 2010 crossing of the boundary at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and she remained free on recognizance bond until today, when she stood before the judge.
”This defendant,” said prosecutor Melissa Kirby, departing from her customary minimal report to the judge, “show a bit of defiance. In her sentencing memo she says the court’s sentence will have no deterrent effect, and during her testimony at trial she violated the court’s order and the court had to instruct her.” It was a stunning display of audacity, but it only lasted a moment.
Beth’s lawyer rose to explain, pointing out that the sentencing memo did not express particular defiance from Beth, but pointed out that for some protesters with deeply held beliefs, there is no deterrent effect possible. “Tax resisters,” said Wayne Scarborough, “believe it is their duty as citizens to resist paying taxes, and they will continue to resist no matter what the law says or what the IRS does.”
He went on to tell the judge that Beth requested she be shown no leniency not extended to her co-defendants, and no probation or supervised release. Then he pointed out that during the trial, the sidebar and admonishment was occasioned by the questioning of the prosecution, in violation of the order it had requested.
The judge had one question. “Ms. Rosdatter, if you are sentenced to a prison term, do you intend to enter custody today?” Beth answered, “Yes.” She was then called to the lectern for her elocution.
“I’ve been reading portions of the testimony of other defendants,” she said, “and they have spoken eloquently to many of the issues I would talk about—Bonnie talking about the justice system, Steve Baggarly speaking of the morality of nuclear weapons, and Brad explaining how the weapons actually make us all less safe.
“I just want to say the government says we threatened the security of the United States by crossing the line. That is a lie. They know it is a lie. The threat is not us—the threat to our security is the bombs; all we are doing is saying they are there. If we are a threat, we are a threat to the policy of hegemony. These bombs are illegal, and the government covers that up. The system protects the powerful at the expense of the rest of us, and that is unjust.”
The judge recessed the hearing to make arrangements for Beth’s custody and returned a few minutes later to hand down a sentence of one month imprisonment, no supervised release, and no fine. “You are immediately remanded to the custody of the Attorney General,” he said, and it was over.
The marshals allowed her a quick hug with her son, Arlo, 15 years old. “Quickly,” he said. “You are in custody.” And then they put the cuffs on and led her away.
Y12 Resisters’ Sentencing • Day 7, Dennis DuVall
Upon first meeting Dennis DuVall, with his Arizona tan, square jaw, bright eyes, and tall white cowboy hat, you can’t help but think “Marlboro Man.” Then you talk with Dennis and listen to the depth of his commitment, his bright wit, his thoughtful response in almost any circumstance, and you realize there is a lot going on under that hat.
That was never more apparent than this morning, in federal court in Knoxville, when Dennis stood before the judge. The hearing was a little a-kilter, because Dennis’s attorney, Robert Kurtz, had challenged his pre-sentencing report and its assignment of category points. Eventually the judge would recess to consider and then deny the motion, but the effect at the beginning of the hearing was the judge completely skipped the prosecution’s recommendation on Dennis’s sentence.
Instead, he turned to Dennis to ask if he had anything to say. And Dennis brought order back to the court, with a statement of clarity and power.
“I’ve done a lot of thinking over the past four months,” Dennis began, after thanking his supporters, “and I conclude that we get what we deserve. Not the Y12 defendants, but humanity.
“Sadly, over sixty-six years, we have learned to live with the bomb. Most people are apathetic or complacent, or brainwashed, such as the jury that sat in this court. Then there are the lawmakers, the politicians who make sure the corporate oligarchy has a nuclear arsenal to protect its profit-taking and political power. And we have a system of justice that protects the purveyors of weapons intended for mass murder, while punishing those who risk their personal freedom standing up for the abolition of nuclear weapons as all the nations of the world and our own Nobel Peace Prize-winning President has continued to appeal for.
“What kind of democracy is it where we cannot talk about these things?”
Dennis said, “What bothers me the most, and what I care most about, is that the destructive power of our weapons threatens all life on Earth. I have to ask myself, how can I live with the reality that humankind’s march toward annihilation threatens the entire web of life on our planet? It is the ultimate affront to the miracle of life that one species would threaten one million species, all having a unique place in God’s creation.
“This is the destructive arrogance of Y12, threatening the extinction of all Creation in the aftermath of thermonuclear H-bomb explosions.”
Dennis went on to explain how a nuclear exchange would destroy the ozone layer (after asking permission to be allowed to be pedantic for a moment), citing the report of a conference of public health and medical experts in 1980 titled The Last Epidemic: The Medical Consequences of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear War.
Dennis noted the history of thermonuclear weapons tests in space and attempted to explain the scale of the monstrosity of nuclear weapons to the court. “A 100-kiloton W76 H-bomb made at Y12 equals an amount of explosive that would require a train 20 miles long to carry.”
Chiding the prosecution’s characterization of the actions of the defendants as a whole, Dennis said, “My personal act of conscience was not just a well-meaning or well-intentioned protest. Edward Abbey said, ‘Sentiment without action is ruination to the soul.’ My nonviolent action at Y12 was a principled act of resistance in defense of Mother Earth, a peaceful and deliberate act of conscience for all Creation.”
Dennis closed with a request, “For this reason, I would urge everyone to trespass at Y2, and in the spirit of Jackie Hudson—Resist always!”
Dennis’s lawyer indicated Dennis did not desire a lengthy term of probation or supervised release, but was requesting a sentence at the low end of his sentencing range, 1-7 months. The judge took a recess, returning ten minutes later to pronounce sentence: Dennis was remanded to the custody of the Attorney General for a period of one month. No fine was levied, and no probation.
Dennis’s sentencing concludes the process for eleven of the July 2010 Y12 Resisters. Jackie Hudson died August 3, before being sentenced, and David Corcoran’s trial is scheduled for November 14.
Y12 Resisters in jail now remain in Tennessee, though it is not clear how long they are likely to be held here before transport. Information will be posted as we know it and, as always, the nuclear resister maintains a log and contact information for all prisoners of conscience at www.nukeresister.org