Disarmament Activists Convicted in Knoxville Federal Court

Michael Walli, Steve Baggarly, Brad Lyttle, Mary Dennis Lentsch, Beth Rosdatter, Carol Gilbert, Jean Gump, Ardeth Platte, Jackie Hudson, Dennis Duvall, Bonnie Urfer, Bill Bichsel, David Corcoran (L to R, top to bottom)

by John LaForge, Nukewatch

May 11, 2011

Twelve disarmament activists were convicted of federal trespass following a three-day jury trial in U.S. District court here during which the activists — under an order issued earlier by the court which effectively stripped the defendants of any substantive affirmative defenses — were prevented from questioning or even mentioning the outlaw status of nuclear weapons. The twelve were charged after a demonstration July 5, 2010 at the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. They face up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. No sentencing date was set, but seven defendants were taken into federal custody after they refused to return to TN for sentencing.

The April 29 order by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton prohibited the defendants from relying on justification defenses, specifically declared “irrelevant” their moral, political or religious beliefs, and declared, “Whether the production of nuclear weapons at the Y-12 National Security Complex violates international law is irrelevant to the present case.”

The Y12 facility processes uranium for new hydrogen bombs being built to replace W76 warheads on Trident submarine ballistic missiles. While Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore and his prosecution witnesses made repeated references to nuclear weapons production at Y-12 — the site fabricated the bomb used to incinerate 140,000 people at Hiroshima, Japan, August 6, 1945 — defendants Steve Baggarly, Bradford Lyttle, Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch and Rev. Bill Bichsel were all interrupted by objections and prevented by the court from asking or testifying about whether the planning and preparation of massacres is legal.

Lyttle, who defended himself, said in opening remarks, “These arsenals are not safe. A mathematical probability analysis shows that they will be used, accidentally or intentionally. That use will mean the end of civilization. What we did was not something that should be condemned, does not deserve a finding of guilt, and does not deserve punishment.” Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch, of the Catholic order of Sisters of the Presentation, was asked by Theodore in cross examination if she recalled testifying at a March 4 hearing that “nuclear weapons are evil?” “Yes,” Lentsch answered, “because they are instruments of mass destruction.”

Theodore presented two government witnesses, Ted Sherry, a Y12 security officer, and Chris Seals, a captain of the private security firm Wackenhut that patrols the complex. They both described the nonviolent action of the defendants. Theodore told the jury the case is “simple” and concerns only the uncontested fact that the activists walked onto Y12 property and refused to leave. The jury deliberated just over one hour before delivering its verdict.

Defendants taken into custody were: Sr. Jackie Hudson, 76, of Poulsbo, Washington; Sr. Carol Gilbert, 63, and Sr. Ardeth Platte, 75, both of Baltimore, Maryland; Jean Gump, 83, of Bloomingdale, Michigan; Steve Baggarly, 46, of Norfolk, Virginia; Bill Bichsel, 82, of Tacoma, Washington; Bonnie Urfer, 59, of Luck, Wisconsin; and Michael Walli, 62, of Duluth, Minnesota.

The other defendents are Beth Rosdatter, 50, of Lexington, Kentucky.; Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch, 74, of Washburn, Tennessee; Bradford Lyttle, 83, of Chicago, Illinois; and Dennis DuVall, 69, of Prescott, Arizona. (Ill health prevented a 13th defendant, David Corcoran of Chicago, from participating and the court scheduled an August 22 trial.).

When available, jail addresses for the activists will be available at http://www.nukeresister.org/inside-out/

The Nuclear Resister
P.O. Box 43383
Tucson, AZ  85733

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