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Y-12 Trial: Trio found guilty, judge schedules new hearing

11:10 AM, May 9, 2013   |    comments
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A jury has found the trio accused of breaking into the Y-12 complex last summer guilty on all counts.

Last July Michael Walli, 64, Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, and Sister Megan Rice, an 82-year-old nun, admitted to cutting through fences at Y-12 and vandalizing the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility.

All three defendants were found guilty of sabotage and damaging property in excess of $1,000. They face a maximum of up to 30 years in prison.

"Obviously, we would have liked to see them take more time [the jury] and talk out and think out the issues that our people attempted to raise," said Paul Magno, a supporter of the defendants.

The judge asked the prosecution if it wanted to allow them to bond out Wednesday. The prosecution requested that the trio be "remanded" into custody instead. Lead prosecutor Jeffrey Theodore argued the defendants had committed a violent offense worthy of such action.

The defense immediately disagreed and said the prosecution had conceded the act was not violent in their closing arguments.

The judge said he was unsure whether the prosecution should be granted following the guilty verdict. So, he told the courtroom he planned to "research" the law overnight. He then proceeded to set a hearing for Thursday morning at 9am where both sides could make their case as to whether a bond is needed.

"Everybody will be digging around in the legal books tonight and we hope of course that the decision will be that they can be free until sentencing," said Ellen Barfield, another supporter of the defendants.

No sentencing date has been scheduled in the case.

In the meantime, the defense is hopeful it will be able to get the sabotage charged dropped against its clients. Volunteer defense attorney William Quigley said after the prosecution rested its case Tuesday, the defense argued the United States did not put forward enough proof to convict the defendants on the sabotage charge.

Quigley said the defense invoked a federal procedure called a "Rule 29 dismissal".

"Once the transcript is in, they will consider whether to let that conviction stand or not," he said.

But, Quigley said a decision on that matter could take weeks to occur.

The sabotage charge dictated most of the defense and prosecution's closing arguments Wednesday.

The prosecution argued that when the group entered Y-12 it was their intent to disrupt the activities there. They say the group expected to breach the outer fences, which is why they brought along bolt cutters, blood, and messages to leave behind.

The prosecution maintained the activity clearly disrupted activity at Y-12. It pointed out in the wake of the breach, there was a shake up of security management. The prosecution also said nuclear operations at Y-12 shut down for two weeks while they improved security.

While Y-12 is a Department of Energy outfit, the prosecution said it directly supports national security operations by upgrading and production nuclear bombs and nuclear bomb material. Therefore, if the protestors intended to disrupt activity at Y-12 with their actions, they also intended to disrupt national security.

Experts testified during the trial that countries all over the world send their highly enriched uranium to Oak Ridge for storage. Theodore compared the situation to a home burglary.

He reasoned if a burglar breaks into a person's home and that person does not have sufficient security, is it the homeowner's fault?

Attorney William Quigley represents one of the defendants and he likened the trio to a "thermometer" during closing arguments.

"Does a thermometer give you a fever?" he asked the jury.

Similarly, he said the group did not cause the security threat, but just exposed it.

During closing arguments, the defense also argued the group could not have intended to interfere with nuclear security because they never imagined they would make it into the inner sanctum of Y-12.

All three of the protestors said they felt God must have guided their mission to allow them to get as far as they did.

The defense also argued the bread and candles they carried with them was evidence of a mission of peace, not destruction. Most importantly, the defense maintains this was a symbolic act meant to draw worldwide attention to the Transform Now Plowshare's goal of worldwide nuclear disarmament. The defense went on to argue the desire to rid the world of nuclear bombs is not the same as wanting to harm US national security.

All three defendants testified, Ret. Army Col. Ann Wright, took the stand Wednesday afternoon.

Wright testified as a security expert on behalf of the defense. The retired colonel spent 29 years in the army and said she directly oversaw security operations at four foreign US Embassies, most recently the embassy in Afghanistan.

She testified that she resigned from government service on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq, as a matter of conscience. Wright said she has now become a peace protestor.

She offered her opinion that the group never posed a real security risk. Wright said simply breaching the complex did not mean security was threatened because the group never had malicious intent. Furthermore, she argued Oak Ridge is more secure today than it was before the breach thanks to the July 28 incident.

The morning began with Sister Rice wrapping up her testimony on the stand. She testified the inspiration for the act came after the trio heard of other protestors making a similar breach at a submarine complex on the west coast.

Rice also testified that she does not believe all operations at Oak Ridge are evil, but feels that the employees of Y-12 must be "deeply physically damaged" because of the lies and silence the nuclear industry generates.

She said she hoped their act would bring them "peace and healing."

On cross examination, Rice testified that they selected Y-12 because of its involvement in nuclear projects. She said she believes every moment nuclear bombs exist in the world, there is an imminent threat and her conscious compelled her to expose that truth.

Rice also said she didn't regret what she had done, only that she had not done it sooner.

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