The Tribulations and Trials of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7
Seven Catholic plowshares activists entered Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia on April 4th, 2018. They went to make real the prophet Isaiah’s command to “beat swords into plowshares.”
The seven chose to act on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who devoted his life to addressing what he called the “triple evils of militarism, racism and materialism.” Carrying hammers and baby bottles of their own blood, the seven attempted to convert weapons of mass destruction. They hoped to call attention to the ways in which nuclear weapons kill every day, by their mere existence and maintenance.
Kings Bay Naval base opened in 1979 as the Navy’s Atlantic Ocean Trident port. It is the largest nuclear submarine base in the world. There are six ballistic missile subs and two guided missile subs based at Kings Bay.
The activists went to three sites on the base: The SWFLANT administration building, the D5 Missile monument installation and the nuclear weapons storage bunkers. The activists used crime scene tape, hammers and hung banners reading: “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide — Dr. Martin Luther King”, “The ultimate logic of Trident is omnicide,” and “Nuclear weapons: illegal / immoral.” They also brought an indictment charging the US government for crimes against peace.
The activists at the nuclear weapons storage bunkers were Elizabeth McAlister, 78, of Jonah House, Baltimore; Fr. Steve Kelly SJ, 69, of the Bay Area, California; and Carmen Trotta, 55, of the New York Catholic Worker.
At the Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic Administration building were Clare Grady, 59, of the Ithaca Catholic Worker; and Martha Hennessy, 62, of the New York Catholic Worker.
At the Trident D5 monuments were Mark Colville, 55, of the Amistad Catholic Worker, New Haven, Connecticut; and Patrick O’Neill, 61, of the Fr. Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker, Garner, North Carolina.
This is the latest of 100 similar actions around the world beginning in 1980 in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
Support and follow these prophetic activists at: www.kingsbayplowshares7.org
(October 2019) — PLOWSHARES 7 TRIAL: DAY 1
Jury selection began at 9:00am with nearly eighty prospective jurors filling the courtroom; others were seated on metal folding chairs in a small overflow room watching on a 32-inch screen. Despite a few signal interruptions, we were able to follow most of the proceedings. By lunch break at 11:10pm, the judge had finished the opening round of voire dire—it’s French, she said, for “speak truth”— and was ready to move into a private round in a sidebar with individual prospects who had identified potential conflicts and the lawyers for both sides, including the five defendants who are representing themselves (pro se) in the proceedings.
By the time she got to that point, Judge Wood had informed the jurors of the four charges—conspiracy, vandalism, depredation of government property in excess of $1,000, and trespass, introduced them to all the courtroom personnel, reviewed all the lawyers and named all their partners and colleagues and asked, “Are you related to or do you know any of these people?” For those who answered yes, the follow-up was, “Can you still be fair to both sides?”
At times, a prospective juror strained for honesty and said, “I think so,” to which the judge quickly replied, “On your oath as a juror, can you be fair and impartial?” Invariably, they decided they could.
At one point, she asked jurors to identify themselves if they “already have decided they are guilty.” Nine jurors raised their hands. A few minutes later, the Judge asked, “How many of you have read or heard or seen something about this case?” Twenty-three jurors raised their hands, including seven of the nine who are already decided the defendants are guilty.
Which means, if you do the math, two prospective jurors who had never heard anything about the case had already decided the seven were guilty. Just look like the type, I suppose.
Just after 1:00pm, the judge concluded the sidebar. A number of jurors had been dismissed, apparently “for cause,” meaning they had a conflict that the lawyers or judge found untenable. “We’ll come back from lunch and finish,” said the judge. “We’ve done the lion’s share, but we have a little more to do.”
At 2:15 the judge’s assistant began calling out numbers chosen at random from the remaining prospects. Thirty-two names were called. One by one the judge ran through a list of questions—where do you live, where do you work, where does your spouse work, do you have children, where do they work, have you ever served in the military, have you every served on a jury, without telling me what the verdict was, were you able to reach a verdict, and what is your level of education.
We took a break at 3:15, and returned for the lawyers and defendants to pass slips of paper back and forth across the aisle, winnowing down the jury pool by exercising their preemptory challenges; half an hour later the judge called fourteen numbers (twelve jurors and two alternates; ten women and four men) and declared, “We have a jury.” She administered the oath and gave preliminary instructions. And then, at ten minutes to 4:00, she turned to the prosecutor and said, “We are ready for brief opening statements.”
The prosecutor was understated and matter of fact as he reviewed the evidence that would be presented and the people who would be presenting it. He described in detail how the seven cut a lock and entered the military base, how Steve Kelly, Liz McAlister and Carmen Trotta went into the high security Limited Zone, cutting concertina wire, undeterred by announcements threatening the use of deadly force and held up banners until they were detained by base personnel and then the police.
He explained that the other four, carrying grinders, pry bars, paint and blood, arrived at the Engineering Services where a display of strategic weapons was presented. They pried letters off the sign, poured blood, hammered at missiles, and committed “various acts of destruction” until they were detained by authorities.
He noted that the defendants wore GoPro cameras as they went onto the base. “We’ll show you the video,” he promised.
“Conspiracy,” he told the jurors, “is an agreement. It’s not a written contract—that would be a legal document. It’s an illegal act.” He concluded by telling the jury that their duty is to hear the evidence, listen to the judge’s instructions, retired and deliberate. “The facts are no more complicated than what I just described,” he told them. “We’ll ask you to return a verdict of guilty”
Bill Quigley rose to speak for the defense. “If I were in your seat,” he said, “I would have three questions. One—who are these people? Two—what did they do? And three—why did they do it?
“The prosecutor has done a good job of providing you a roadmap of their activities. I want to tell you a little about who these people are,” Quigley said, and he proceeded to review the lives and work of the defendants, beginning with Liz McAlister, his client. Her three children are here, he said, and her six grandchildren. He spoke of her relationship with Phil, the founding of Jonah House, her commitment to the poor and homeless, her determination to do what she could to see that nuclear weapons money was spent not on bombs but to meet the needs of the poor. “You can’t understand why she came to Kings Bay without understanding her catholic faith. She came because of her faith, and because of the ten commandments.
“She engaged in an act of symbolic disarmament,” he told the jury. “She understood she might be arrested. She is not denying she did the actions; she is denying that what she did constitutes a crime. She has already spend 18 months in jail…”
The judge interrupted to admonish Quigley against straying into talking about punishment (which he clearly was not, yet). He resumed: “She prays for peace many times a day. Her faith teaches her “Thou shalt not kill.” She doesn’t want to go to jail; she would rather spend her time with her kids and grandkids. But she wants even more for them to be able to grow up in a world without nuclear weapons.”
Saying he would give a snapshot of the others, Quigley noted they are all devout Christians in the Catholic tradition. Their work is helping the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the hungry. And sometimes they are working for peace.
“They take the Bible very, very seriously,” he said. “That’s why they took small hammers, because the Bible talks about…and he quoted Isaiah 2:4, swords into plowshares, and studying war no more.”
The prosecution rose to object to the Bible quote, and the Judge, without actually ruing on the objection, told Quigley to “remember the focus of the trial. Go on.”
Bill reviewed Steve Kelly’s career briefly, followed by Martha Hennessey, Patrick O’Neill, Clare Grady, Mark Colville, and Carmen Trotta.
“What did they do?” Quigley asked. “You’ll see the videotape. You’ll see what they did, you’ll hear why they did it. They believe nuclear weapons are immoral. They chose Kings Bay because of the presence of nuclear weapons. They came on a day they chose on purpose—the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination. They prayed on the base. No one was hurt or threatened. The spokesman for the base said that the next morning. It was an act of conscience. They read a statement, that the nuclear weapons on the base have the power of 3,600 Hiroshimas. They had small hammers and big banners; they were seen by base personnel before they were arrested. They spilled blood and painted on the missile shrine as a symbolic act of disarmament.
“Why? Thou shalt not kill. Their faith. Their love of their children and grandchildren. They are looking forward to their chance to talk to you about that. They are not perfect, none of the them. But they are motivated by their faith, by charity, and by hope. That you will hear.
“The government will ask you to convict them,” Quigley said in closing. “The defendants will ask you to do justice”
Clare Grady then spoke—the judge said the remaining defendants had reserved their time until after the prosecution makes its case
Clare spoke of her upbringing in a big Catholic family, with a lot of joy, music, dance, and love. She spoke of her family members who feed the hungry, are police offices, work in health care and hospitality, of her many years serving in a community kitchen, of her Catholic Worker background, and they admonition in Matthew’s gospel to feed the hungry, and of caring for her elderly mother. My greatest joy is my kids, she said to the jury, and to feel the earth, being in the natural world
The prosecution objected, and the judge reminded Grady that the purpose of an opening statement is to refer to the evidence. Clare spoke of her community gardening and the work of justice. “Not about hurting, about healing,” she said, referencing Cornel West. The judge interrupted without waiting for an objection, “This is a preview of the evidence,” she said to Grady.
Clare spoke of the responsibility to do justice—only you can render a verdict, she told the jury. The most important virtue you bring to this is being human. “Our actions were not criminal,” she said. “We’re saying we were there and we did this. It was a nonviolent, symbolic act of disarmament. The evidence will show that we acted to uphold the law.”
Then she spoke of her deep love for God and creation. “We brought a banner decrying nuclear weapons as immoral and illegal. We took full responsibility and are here for this trial, not because we are guilty, but because it was necessary. Trident is the most deadly weapon on the planet.
“We came her to defend and protect God’s creation, not to destroy—these weapons can destroy all creation. The highest law is to love one another,” she said, “As it is written in Isaiah…”
The prosecutor objected. The judge sustained. Clare thanked the jury and sat down.
At ten til five, the judge released the jury, admonishing them not to speak about the case to anyone. She then turned to the defendants and said, “I have to deliver a bit of a cautionary note. I have issued rulings,” she said. “If you can’t follow them, we will have to make alternative arrangements for your participation in the trial. The purpose of a criminal trial is not to convert someone to your belief, but for them to hear the evidence so they can decide. I gave a lot of leeway this afternoon,” she said. “Now I am telling you to be careful to follow the orders of the court.”
With that, after a brief discussion of the difficulty of hearing when speakers did not directly address the microphone, court adjourned.
PLOWSHARES 7 TRIAL: DAY 2
“Welcome back,” said federal judge Lisa Godsbey Wood to the jury and the packed courtroom as we sat down. And in the same breath she said, “Mr. Knoche, please call your first witness.”
The prosecutor’s job, technically, was not that challenging. The defendants had already told the jury they had committed the acts of which they were accused. All that was left was to determine what kind of crime, if any, was committed by seven peace activists who performed a nonviolent, symbolic, religious action in pursuit of nuclear disarmament.
As the day wore on, and the testimony of witnesses unfolded, it became clear that much of the day would be about respect. The prosecution was not content with proving its case; it also wanted to cast the defendants in a most disrespectful light.
To that end, the plowshares activists were painted as vandals; the scripture verses they painted on walls, sidewalks and missiles were described as graffiti; the crime scene tape that marked weapons related sites was consistently called “caution tape.”
A parade of law enforcement and security personnel from two branches of the military and one civilian police officer, along with Special Agent Kenney of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, came to the stand to tell, each of them, their part of the story. Their testimony was accompanied by photos and eventually, more than an hour of video shot by the defendants during their action and turned over to the authorities.
US Navy Master-at-Arms Aaron Perry described getting a call and responding to the Limited Area—a high security area where nuclear weapons are believed to be stored. When he arrived, he discovered Steve Kelly, Liz McAlister and Carmen Trotta inside one security fence, on a gravel strip called the Rabbit Run, holding a banner. Although he testified that the first word his partner MA3 Wallace said upon reaching the fence was “Freeze!”, the video showed, and later testimony confirmed, the first words were “Would you please turn off the video?”
Under cross examination, MA3 Perry confirmed Liz, Carmen and Steve had never acted in a threatening manner, that they were compliant, cooperating with all orders, that he had called the Marines who would arrest the three, and that neither he nor his partner used weapon to control the peacemakers. He also confirmed that none of them, at any time, acted in a malicious manner.
When Steve Kelly asked MA3 Perry if there were valuable assets in the highly restricted area, the answer, which we were to hear several times during the day, was “I can neither confirm nor deny.”
Carmen Trotta, after thanking Mr. Perry for his professional behavior, elicited the fact that the two parties stood facing each other, separated by a chain link fence, for 8 minutes before the Marines arrived. The young sailor, whose memory had provided many details of the events of the evening, was unable to recall a single snippet of the conversation that took place between himself and the defendants during those eight minutes.
Perry was replaced on the stand by one of those Marines, Darryl Townsend, wearing his green woolen uniform with a red sergeant’s patch on the sleeve. He testified that he had just fallen asleep on April 5, 2018 when the alert sounded, and he rolled out of bed, got his team together and jumped in their vehicles sure that they were participating in a drill. “Definitely,” he said. “I didn’t think there was anyone out there.”
He explained the caution with which he approached the scene, his encounter with the protesters, and identified photos of equipment they had used to cut their way in. When he was asked to identify the three, they stood offering themselves. He pointed out Steve Kelly and Carmen Trotta and, to Liz McAlister, said, “Thank you,” as she stood.
Under cross-examination, he was asked if the three had been compliant. “I agree wholeheartedly,” he answered, and went on to confirm they were peaceful and compliant. He said he didn’t remember getting information from the Navy personnel, but he did remember, he said, “That it was the anniversary of MLK’s assassination, and that they said they were Roman Catholic.” He denied there was any evidence of malice or malicious behavior.
Carmen Trotta was emotional as he thanked Mr. Townsend for his treatment of them that night. Steve Kelly sought to elicit information about the reason for the high security, and what the Limited Area might contain. “I can’t confirm or deny,” answered Townsend. The prosecution tried to cut off the question with an objection, but the judge noted, “He has already answered.”
Officer Lee Carter of the Kings Bay base police was the next witness. He was the first police officer on the scene at the missile shrine and Engineering Services building where Patrick O’Neill, Mark Colville, Clare Grady and Martha Hennessey had undertaken their part of the action.
After describing the area, the jury was shown photos of the missile shrine, a circle of mock weapons and flags, including a D-5 Trident missile and a mock Tomahawk cruise missile perched on a platform for display. The prosecutor noted the words “Abolish nukes now” painted on the base that held the largest missile on display. “Is that a regular part of the display?” he asked. “No,” came the answer. He pointed to the banner taped to the side of the missile—“Is the banner usual?” “No, sir.” He noted tailfins of the Tomahawk missile were stripped off, lying on the ground. “Were the tailfins defaced?” he asked. Officer Carter replied, “It appears that way.”
He identified the four activists who stood to make his job easier.
Under cross-examination, his clear memory got a little sketchier, especially when it came to recalling the religious nature of their protest. “They were chanting their motto or their mantra or something,” he said. Did they tell you they were Catholic? I believe they told me. I’m a Baptist, he said, as though it explained everything.
When asked about whether he felt threatened, he acknowledged that after he spoke with them, he left them and went to his vehicle to get handcuffs.
Patrick O’Neill asked Carter if he remembered what they said when he arrived. He said he did not, so Patrick reminded him he said, “We’re nonviolent, we come in peace!” He did not recall. “Do you remember what you said to us when you first approached?” No. “You said, ‘I suppose you folks realize you are in a bit of trouble.” The courtroom erupted in laughter. Officer Carter said, “That sounds like something I’d say.” Patrick said, “Our first encounter, there in the dark, you made me laugh.” The judge broke in, “Is there a question in there?”
After a few more questions, Patrick asked, “Has this changed your life in any way?” and the judge sputtered, “Don’t answer that!” At 10:40am, we took the morning break.
The fourth witness was another police officer, Michael Fisher, who described finding the entry point, Gate 18, with a new, non-military lock on the gate and the old lock in the weeds twenty feet away.
The next witness was NCIS Special Agent Kenney who walked the jury through the evidence, holding up hammers and other implements in plastic bags, and then more than an hour of video, shot by the GoPro videos worn by Carmen Trotta and Patrick O’Neill. While the audio was clear, most of the video was lost to darkness. But we heard the conversation between defendants as they made decisions about where to approach and what to do, and we watched chains being cut, banners being strung, messages being painted, the letters and lights of a giant sign reading STRATEGIC WEAPONS FACILITY ATLANTIC being pried and torn from a brick wall, crime scene tape being strung, and more.
During the action, the videographers and others were careful to deliver a clear message—that nuclear weapons are illegal, idolatrous, and threaten the planet. Messages painted and strung on banners included: The Ultimate Logic of Trident is Omnicide; Resist Idolatry; Love Your Enemies; Disarm…”
Screen shots from confiscated phones laid out the conversation, channeled through a third party; photos were sent to the outside world.
Under cross-examination, the defense noted that none of the banners in evidence were shown to the jury; Special Agent Kenney said they were either tainted with blood or too large. Instead, the jury was treated to a photo of the banner taken to the Limited Area that read NUCLEAR WEAPONS ILLEGAL IMMORAL.
Agent Kenney testified that the protesters harmed no one and showed no intent to harm. He was asked why he described clear messages, like May Love Disarm Us All as graffiti; he said it was used to describe something painted where it wasn’t supposed to be, like a train or a bridge or something.
Efforts to approach the religious nature of the demonstration were cut off by the judge who has ruled such evidence out of bounds for the trial.
Clare Grady asked why he insisted on describing crime scene tape as caution tape. “Several of the exhibits clearly say ‘Crime Scene Do Not Cross’ but you repeatedly call it caution tape.” He said it was his training. “But in your training, if you go to a crime scene, do you put up caution tape?” No, said Special Agent Kenney, I made a mistake. I apologize.
By 4:52, when Special Agent Kenney had completed his testimony, the judge declared the day over and court was adjourned until 900am tomorrow. The prosecution indicated it has one more witness to call.
PLOWSHARES 7 TRIAL: DAY 3
Day three of the Kings Bay 7 Plowshares trial in federal court in Brunswick, Georgia, began with an objection raised by Stephanie Amiotte for the defense, which had been presented with a new piece of evidence minutes before the prosecution intended to put its witness on the stand. The judge disallowed the document, but said information could be presented in testimony.
And with that we were off. The final defense witness testified the damages exceeded thirty thousand dollars—fences fixed, new lock purchased, paint and blood pressure washed off and missiles repainted, lighting, letters and custom molded metal emblems to be replaced.
Throughout the trial, language differences have been apparent—the defense might ask if something is located on the base, the prosecution asks, “Is that on board the base?” The large ring of mock missiles that became the focus of the action of Patrick O’Neill and Mark Colville, and later Martha Hennessy and Clare Grady, has been called “the missile shrine” by the Plowshares activists. With his last witness on the stand, Prosecutor Karl Knoche couldn’t abide it any longer. On redirect he asked the Facilities Manager, “Does anyone at the base call that a shrine?” “We call it the missile display,” came the answer.
Judge Wood had the prosecution read into the record every exhibit it had tendered into evidence, along with a description of it, and then she excused the jury for morning break.
Bill Quigley stood to move for a judgment of acquittal, the standard Rule 29 motion, because the government had failed to make its case. There was testimony and evidence of damage at two sites—the Limited Area and the missile shrine—but the connection between them was not proven with evidence sufficient to sustain a conviction. There also, he said, was no evidence of malice, an element of the first two counts. Finally, there was insufficient evidence of depredation under the definition provided in a 1977 jury charge.
The prosecution countered with a rebuttal of Quigley’s first point and then seemed content until Judge Wood prodded Knoche to address the second part of the motion. He then declared that the definition of maliciously was “intentional and deliberate disregard. And he said depredation meant simply to damage.
“I am not going to grant the motion at this time,” said the judge, explaining her reasons briefly. After checking with the defendants, five of whom had reserved the right to make opening statements, and ascertaining that three still intended to make statements, she called a recess.
The defense opened its case at 10:40 with Stephanie Amiotte making the opening argument for Martha Hennessy, beginning with her history, her marriage, her children and grandchildren, her small farm in Vermont. “She is a granddaughter of Dorothy Day,” Ms. Amiotte said, “who is being considered by the Catholic Church for sainthood.” A small spark of electricity shivered through the room.
“She was taught that nuclear weapons are a violation of God’s law, immoral and illegal. These are the beliefs that brought her to Kings Bay. You will hear that there is no suggestion of anything of a malicious nature. Ms. Hennessy is not anti-American, she loves her country. She is anti-nuclear weapons, and this is what she says when she is speaking internationally.
“Nuclear weapons are immoral. When she was a child, she learned what nuclear weapons can do—“
The prosecution objected, the judge called a sidebar, and the sentence disappeared; Ms. Amiotte concluded by reviewing what they evidence would show Martha had done on August 4 and 5 during the action on the base. “We hope you will consider the evidence and deliver justice, a finding of not guilty on all counts.”
Next up: Patrick O’Neill
Good morning, he opened. We haven’t met, though you heard my headless voice on the video for more than an hour yesterday. I am happy to be here, happy that the grace of God has brought us together.
Patrick noted that as a follower of Jesus, he saw the face of God in each member of the jury, each member of the court, and everyone in the courtroom. “You heard the prosecution’s case and saw the video,” said O’Neill. “They told you it is simple. Rules were broken. Your job is to listen to the facts,” he said, “and draw your conclusion from the facts of law and your conscience.
“I came to Kings Bay to deliver a message,” Patrick said. “I want my children and grandchildren and yours to grow up in a world free of the nuclear threat. I came to save creation from being obliterated by nuclear weapons. Some of the evidence you will hear is normal for a trial of this nature. But some other stuff is unusual: the rosary, bottles of blood, a book, our faith-based statement. We will tell you about that.
“And you will hear our testimony. For me, it is about the survival of the planet. We chose to use ‘high drama’ that illustrates nuclear weapons on the base are deadly first-strike weapons.
“I draw a correlation with Jesus cleansing the temple. He did it because there was a grave injustice, like nuclear weapons.
“We cut locks and did symbolic property damage to say, ‘This is an idol.’ That display is a shrine to missiles. It is not something we should honor. It is the same as the golden calf smashed in the Hebrew Bible.
“We came to reveal with goes on there that nobody wants to go into—what weapons are and what they did… The symbol of blood is a little hard to understand. But in the context of faith, —here the prosecution’s objection was overruled—there are two simple components. One, the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. And then there is the blood that is the everlasting covenant. It’s also what happens in war. Kings Bay is nice and clean and you never see the blood. But the plans for war go on there. So we made it more visible.
“We did what we did because of the biblical injunction, God is love. Trident is the opposite of love, and the opposite of God. Kings Bay Plowshares stand with God’s love. What we did was deliberate, and also discerning. We used restraint. There was no effort to disown our action or flee from the consequences. The vast majority of the case you heard was provided by us; we wore cameras and recorded our actions.
“As jurors, you will consider the law, your experiences, your heart and your conscience. You will hear the evidence and search for truth—for deep truth.”
With that, Patrick O’Neill returned to his seat. Steve Kelly, next to open, declined. “I will adopt,” he said. And with that, it was time for witnesses.
The first defense witness was Martha Hennessy. Her history was reviewed, her 40-year marriage, her childhood, influenced by her grandmother and mother. She recounted reading old Catholic Worker publications. Attorney Stephanie Amiotte asked, “Did you read We Go on Record, the article your grandmother wrote in the Catholic Worker after Hiroshima?” Yes. “Did that shape your beliefs?” Yes. “What did you come to believe?” That nuclear weapons are illegal and immoral.
When Ms. Amiotte attempted to offer We Go on Record as an exhibit, the prosecution objected and everyone convened in the corner of the room for a chat with the judge, and the exhibit disappeared into oblivion.
The testimony returned to Martha’s beliefs as formed by the Catholic Worker teachings and her grandmother. Asked what the elements of that faith are, Martha said, “To see Christ in others, compassion for the suffering, the Sermon on the Mount, feed the hungry, visit those in prison. Catholic Social Teaching—take care of creation and work for common good.”
What did you learn from your grandmother? “She handed me a book called Hiroshima by John Hersey and I learned what the Bomb does, its illegality; it is indiscriminate, it destroys whole cities, women and children.”
The judge interrupted. “Now would you turn your attention to this case?”
Ms. Amiotte said, “As an occupational therapist, have you personally witnessed the effects of nuclear weapons on patients?” Even as Martha answered, “Yes,” the prosecution was objecting, and in the same breath, the judge sustained.
When asked bout the indictment she posted on the door of the Engineering Services building, the prosecution objected again calling it “self-serving hearsay.” The judge overruled, noting it was the document she posted. When the document was offered as evidence, the judge accepted it, saying to the jury, “It is not offered for you to accept the truth of its contents, but it is the document left on the door.”
Martha then read a paragraph of the document. As she reached “Whereas the Nuremberg principles…” the prosecution rose to object; the judge overruled. “Whereas the Nuremberg principles prohibit crimes against peace and humanity, they render nuclear weapons illegal under any circumstances.”
They reviewed Martha’s actions on site—posting the indictment, pouring blood (“I put the empty bottle in the trash,” she said.), delivering Daniel Ellsberg’s book The Doomsday Machine, stringing crime scene tape between two poles, and painting “May Love Disarm Us All” with a peace sign on the sidewalk at the Engineering Services Building, and painting “Abolish Nukes Now” and stringing more Crime Scene tape at the Missile Chrine.
Why crime scene tape, she was asked. “Because the true crime, I feel, is what the government does. And I am complicit. I have the need and the right to express myself in what the Base is doing. I pay taxes that are a necessary expense for the arsenal…”
The testimony returned to Catholic Social Teaching. “We are taught to hold on to our faith. Paul says faith without works is dead. We can hold on to our beliefs, but we also must express them. Teresa of Ávila said ‘Our feet are the feet of Christ, and our hands are the hands of Christ.’ It’s not enough to attend mass on Sunday. I have to show through my works what I have learned of the gospel’s teachings.”
What message did you intend to convey? “To alert the public. These weapons are on hair trigger alert,” said Hennessy, “they can decimate cities. They are against God’s will.”
And you chose the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination? “I studied who he was, and I learned about the giant triplets: racism, excessive materialism, militarism. We felt this was appropriate considering what is happening in so many places in our country and in the world. And we wanted to convey that nuclear weapons are the keystone of systems of violence and dominance. Not just ours, but other nations’ too—
The prosecution objected and was sustained.
“And your beliefs about nuclear weapons?”
Objection—irrelevant! said the prosecutor.
Sustained, said the judge.
The cross examination of Martha began. The prosecutor asked her about planning with her colleagues for the action. “My entire life has been preparation,” said Martha.
“You didn’t just wake up and decide to go to Kings Bay?” asked the prosecutor. I pause to note that on several occasions, always and only when dealing with women, the prosecutor has tempered his professional demeanor with a dollop of sarcasm. Martha didn’t bite. “It was a difficult discernment,” she said. “For about two years.”
Martha told the jury there have been more than 100 Plowshares actions, efforts to protest nuclear weapons and to enflesh Isaiah’s words, to make swords into plowshares, since the first action in 1980.
Moments later, Knoche turned once again to sarcasm. Displaying a photo of the Gate 19, where the activists entered the base, he pointed out the chain, the lock, the concrete barriers. “Are any of those a welcome mat?” he asked. “You didn’t have ‘permission’” he said, putting the word in verbal air quotes.” No. “You came ‘under cover of darkness,’” he said. And then, “You never sought ‘permission.’” No.
When he suggested protests happen legally outside the base gates, she said, “A sacramental action has to take place where the sin exists.”
On redirect, Martha was asked why they call the missile display a “shrine.” She said, “We, our country, many countries, replace God with these weapons. We don’t put our trust in God. We need to study Christian teachings; it is idolatry to trust these weapons.”
Carmen Trotta was next to take the stand. Reviewing the basic facts of his bio, he noted that he lived for 30 years at the New York Catholic Worker, the Dorothy Day house. Moments later, his standby counsel who was doing the questioning, started his question: “Now at the Doris Day House…” Dorothy, Carmen corrected as the audience chuckled.
Asked why he went onto Kings Bay on April 4, 2018, Carmen took a moment to educate the jury. “One fourth of the US nuclear arsenal is deployed out of Kings Bay,” he said, “the single most sophisticated weapon on our planet. If used, they will destroy all life on the planet. They can’t be legal.”
He described the ease with which they entered the base and carried out their action—on the base undiscovered for nearly two hours. “This is also a kind of metaphor for the instability of our nuclear arsenal,” he said.
Describing the choice to go to the Limited Area, Carmen noted he had no dependents, so he was willing to take a risk with possibly higher consequences. “I’m not brave,” he said. “Not so much about being shot, but being maimed.”
Carmen said the action was an attempt to deliver a message. Invoking Dwight Eisenhower’s admonition that democracy requires an informed and diligent citizenry. “Part of that is to expose the base for what it is.” He agreed with Martha that a goal was to deliver a sacrament, to initiate Isaiah’s prophecy. “We have to listen to Eisenhower, Kennedy and King,” he said, growing animated. “These things are not aspirational. We have to live them into being now.”
The judge broke in. Please lower your voice.
Carmen said, “I shouldn’t preach.”
Right, said the judge.
The particulars of the action were reviewed, how the guards arrived and approached without raising weapons. Trotta testified that they had prepared a greeting to display an unthreatening manner:
“We come in peace, we mean you no harm;
We’re American citizens, and we are not armed.”
Carmen also noted the moment he stood and looked at hundreds of bunkers. “Each one of them the equivalent of a mass grave,” he said, “and that’s an understatement.”
One function of our action, he said, was to open the base to the moral scrutiny of the American people. Another was to demonstrate the outrage of Christ at these weapons.
Under cross-examination, the prosecution got absolutely nowhere. Carmen agreed to almost everything he said. When finally he refused to agree, the prosecutor kept pushing for the answer he wanted until finally the defense objected to the attempt to start a debate. The judge sustained.
Carmen’s testimony concluded at 12:10, and the judge declared a lunch break
Clare Grady took the stand after lunch. After reviewing her basic biographical materials, Clare talked about the influence of her parents’ Catholic faith. “It was not just going to church on Sunday,” she said, “the cornerstone is faith in action—it’s not enough just to talk about Jesus; are whole lives are about learning to understand that God is love.”
In reviewing the activities of the Kings Bay plowshares action, she described the banner they hung. “We used the word ‘omnicide,’ she said. A word that didn’t exist before the nuclear age—the death of all living things. We put up crime scene tape, she said, because Trident is the biggest crime we now.”
Describing the purpose of her action, Clare said, “There were several. We wanted to sound the alarm. We did not come here to force anyone else to do something, but to take responsibility for my part. I am withdrawing my consent. I needed to do something to say, ‘I do not consent.’”
Describing the things she took on to the base with her, Clare noted she had a bell given to her by a hibakusha (survivor of the atomic bombing of Japan), reminding her of his insistence that we must say “No more nuclear weapons.”
Clare insisted that she was obeying a higher law when she entered the base. “Did you do anything wrong?” she was asked. “I wouldn’t have done it, wouldn’t have accepted responsibility, would not be here today if I thought it was wrong.”
Under cross examination, prosecutor Knoche resumed his semi-sarcastic stance. “I do not consent to red lights,” he said (which was probably not true at all). “Can I withdraw my consent?” I was following laws passed by Congress, said Clare. Big laws.
“So Clare Grady can just overrule that,” he said. “Is that a question?” Clare asked.
“So you have the power to overrule 320,000,000 who have elected Congress to make laws…” Clare interrupted him. “Karl, no! I read the book by Daniel Ellsberg. He was given a high security clearance by the President, the elected president, to study nuclear weapons, and what he found, after six months, was that the US President had no idea.”
“You said you don’t like bullies,” said the prosecutor. He noted that she had painted a message on the sidewalk of the Administration building—he put a picture of it on the screen—the message was “May Love Disarm Us All” with a peace sign and a heart. “Do you think that people who came to work and saw that message might feel bullied?” he asked. “I put a heart,” she said. “If someone did that, put a heart, and stayed to take responsibility for their actions, I would be grateful to them.”
“If they defaced your workplace,” he pushed on. “But weapons are bullying,” she responded. “We didn’t accost a single person. The encounters we did have were all positive encounters.”
“So, if Clare Grady says ‘This isn’t bullying…’” he continued. “You’re asking me,” she said, “I say let others decide. I wasn’t threatening.”
Then he began a litany, in full bully mode, attacking Clare. When he reached, “So you have a superior conscience,” the defense table erupted in objections and he was shamed down.
After a few more questions, the prosecutor turned Clare back for redirect. “In your understanding, is a red light the same as a nuclear weapon?” he asked.
“Can you tell me what you mean by Supreme Law?” he asked. “The banner said nuclear weapons are immoral and illegal. The law of God and the law of the land resonate. Human laws should not go against God’s law.”
When the prosecutor objected, it was noted that a door had been opened by the cross examination. The judge called a sidebar conference and the line of questioning went away.
The redirect concluded: Has any bully ever given you a valentine or a heart? No, said Clare. Has any bully ever said love to you? No, Clare said. Do you believe you action was lawful? I do, said Clare, and I’ve studied quite a bit.
Mark Colville took the stand. He reviewed the details of his personal life and his theological education and segued into his motivation. “My religion says faith is a myth or a lie without action,” he said. “St. Francis taught us to peace at all times, and if necessary, use words.
Under direct examination he answered one of the questions posed by a juror: Why did the replace the lock with a new one?
“We wanted to do as little harm as possible and tread as lightly as possible. We wanted to close it when we came in—and we had no intention to flee or escape by any means.”
He described the shrine as “a display of replicas of missiles and weaponry arranged to give honor and invite reverence. Including religious symbols. It’s—to my mind, that place is a religious site.
Asked why he chose to put up a banner of Martin Luther King, Jr. with the quote: “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide,” Colville said, “Reluctantly—to face reality—my faith requires that I get a grasp on what’s going on around me. And my baptismal commitment, prophecy, is to understand what it means and tell it.”
Asked about the second banner, omnicide, which he hung on the D-5 Trident missile, he said, “It’s important to address that weapon. That reflects what we hear King saying to our present reality.”
“We learned with the first swing of the hammer that the missile is solid concrete. But it was a symbolic and a sacramental action. Sacrament is a requirement of my faith—calling into reality what is not yet real.”
About the use of idolatry and blasphemy, he said, “It does to what I believe about nuclear weapons. A core understanding. Idolatry is greatest obstacle—placing something other than God at the center, whether it is security or ultimate security. If you see that, the Bible doesn’t say to make a speech or to vote, but remove it. That drove me from the table at Amistad (Catholic Worker House) to Kings Bay. I would use words from the Pope—
After a few more questions, the lawyer asked, “Are you allowed to run red lights?” Mark said, “When my wife was in labor, I ran every red light from the Bronx to Mt. Sinai.”
The cross examination of Mark was straightforward and understated. Eventually, the prosecutor tried to push a little.
“Is it you who decides what needs to be transformed?” No, said Colville, Christianity is not practiced individually. We are called as individuals into community. We are saved together.”
But you decided which idols to transform. “Through our communal discernment.”
“You were having a good time, laughing…” No, not a good time. No. I was frightened. Watching the video yesterday, I was exhausted.
You found it hard to watch because—
I can tell you why I found it hard to watch. Others can tell you what they thought.
With the conclusion of Colville’s testimony, the court recessed for afternoon break.
After the break, Patrick O’Neill took the stand. He reviewed his personal history and present circumstances, including the experiences that sharpened his faith and pointed him to activism.
“I see our action as part of a long tradition of nonviolent resistance,” he said. “Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, abolitionists, people who have changed the world. We are thinking a lot about where all this is going to go. Nine nations have nuclear weapons…”
Does your faith have anything to do with your being at Kings Bay? It’s the reason.
Did you have a choice? asked the counsel. Patrick said, “We all have free will I had a choice. Maybe you mean to ask if I felt compelled?”
Did you feel compelled? asked the counsel. “I did. I worry about the fate of the earth and my grandkids. Two of them are one year old. They will be alive, I hope, at the turn of the next century. I want to say to God, ‘I saw injustice and tried to do something.’ I’m not saying I am sure we are right. I’m not so arrogant. But I believe we are following God in all we did.”
Could Kings Bay be considered a work of mercy? asked the counsel. “It was a prophetic, sacramental action. You go where sin is taking place and address it. The seven of us, I suppose we are unusual. This may be new to you. We are living in the nuclear age and people aren’t thinking about it. Our action was to say ‘Can we have some discussion about what’s happening behind the fence?’ Maybe you’ll think we are crazy—the prophets were called crazy.”
O’Neill described his actions, including the encounter with the concrete missile. “When I hit the missile with the hammer, the head came off.”
Patrick answered the same questions as the others about intention and threat, and reviewed sections of the GoPro video that were not shown to the jury by the prosecution, including the reading of Bible verses and a portion of the statement. “We pray for our church,” he read. “We can’t pray for peace and prepare for war at the same time. Pope Francis says the threat of use, as well as possession… concluding with: This is our statement of love and hope.”
Patrick’s cross examination was comparatively brief. He was asked what he meant by his reference to “we rehearsed” what they would do when confronted. “Play-acting,” he said. “Someone played the soldier and came up to confront us and we discussed and tried out, what would be a good thing to say? We tried things. We tried “We come in peace,” and it worked.
The court proceedings overall provided several opportunities for monetizing plowshares action with product placement ads: for U-Line bolt cutters, and ACE locks, for instance. But shown the Ryobi angle grinder, O’Neill pronounced it junk, though some conjectured that it did as well as it could on concrete when it had a metal blade.
When pressed to say why he chose Kings Bay, O’Neill said it was a group decision, that he had been protesting here since the 1980’s, and that they knew there had not been a plowshares action here. “Our action was designed to wake people up,” he said, “or to encourage a conversation.”
At the conclusion of Patrick’s testimony, the judge called for Steve Kelly. He declined to testify.
Bill Quigley stepped up to examine Liz McAlister. Quigley ran through a list of questions eliciting her biographical information. She spoke of teaching at Marymount College, a girls school, when many of her students had boyfriends or fiancés who were deployed to Vietnam. “We suffered with them. You couldn’t teach without being aware of their grief and concern. I knew at least thirty students whose boyfriends or fiancés came back from Vietnam in body bags. The grief was unspeakable. It led me—I had to learn how to more deeply say no to war and to weapons of war.
She spoke of a life of devotion and action. Prayer three times a day, “But I had to do more. That meant marches, vigils, fasts for peace.” She explained that discernment meant looking clearly and critically at things they were called to do, asking what is drawing us? Is it a good spirit? Is it ego? Why would I take part in this particular thing?”
She described the meetings of the group in their long process. We did meet, a couple days at a time. Asking, “How are you doing? What are you feeling? Where are you being drawn? Every meeting began, was pock-marked, and ended with prayer.”
Eventually, Bill called for Exhibit 26; the NCIS Special Agent went to the front of the room and retrieved an cardboard box sealed in a plastic bag. “You may open it,” said the judge—but Bill already knew that. “Is there a special way to open this?” he asked about the evidence bag. The prosecutor provided scissors. Bill opened the bag, then the box, then withdrew the long-hidden banner and held it in his outstretched arms, taut, for all to read. NUCLEAR WEAPONS IMMORAL ILLEGAL it read.
Kings Bay has nuclear weapons, Liz said. They are poison and illegal. If you understand the kill power—if they aren’t illegal, they ought to be.
Asked how she balanced her priorities—the risk of jail against her family, the soon-to-be eighty year old grandmother said, “I need to witness against these weapons for the sake of these children and grandchildren.”
On cross-examination, the prosecutor asked Liz McAlister three questions and sat down.
Before resting, the defense called the Kings Bay public affairs director to recall his announcement the day after the action, to the Washington Post, that no personnel or military assets were ever at risk. He declined to own the words initially, but when Stephanie Amiotte presented him with a card with talking points prepared by his office and asked him to read the first point, he read:
“At no time was any personnel or military assets threatened.”
Is that still your testimony? she asked. “Yes,” he said.
Shortly thereafter, at 4:55pm, the defense rested. The jury was sent out and the judge outlined the procedure for Thursday, when court will resume at 9:30am.
PLOWSHARES 7 TRIAL: DAY 4
Judge Lisa Godby Wood came into the courtroom at 9:37 to review the charge sheets and jury instructions with the lawyers. Bill Quigley entered a few objections into the record, and by 10:10 the jury was brought into court.
Prosecutor Knoche presented the closing argument for the government. He put the google earth view of the Navy Base up on the screen and mapped out the path of the Kings Bay 7 as they entered the base, trekked through swamp and woodland and divided into three groups.
One group headed to the high security Limited Area to bear witness to the bunkers storing thermonuclear weapons; the others moved to the administration building and the missile shrine where they hung banners, poured blood, posted an indictment, strung crime scene tape, painted messages of love and prophetic witness on sidewalks and “missiles,” and removed lettering and lights from the large sign that declared STRATEGIC WEAPONS FACILITY ATLANTIC before they were arrested by officials—Marines at the Limited Area and base police at the missile shrine.
The rest of the evidence was reviewed in the context of the charges. “Their intent was clear,” NCIS Special Agent Kenney had testified. “They came on the base without authority to damage, depredate—that’s a jeopardy word, starts with D— on the base in order to proclaim their views on nuclear weapons.
He resurrected his red light analogy and warned the jury that “this won’t be the land we love if people are free to pick and choose which laws they will obey.” He cited the damage charges in excess of $30,500 and recounted the bill his insurance company got when he had a fender bender.
They said they “came in peace,” he said, but they couldn’t spread their message without wrecking stuff. He noted the base has an area off-site designated for protests, but forcing employees to come to work where the sidewalk has been painted with messages of love and peace— “that’s not a pleasant sight to come upon.”
He prefigured the judge’s instructions to set the table for a guilty verdict. “For each defendant, that box should be checked,” he said in conclusions. “Follow the law as instructed. There is not a lot of whodunit. The dots can be connected. It’s as clear as can be.”
Bill Quigley rose for the defense. He asked for an exhibit to be projected on the jury screens and the large screen at the edge of the room and the words of the banner materialized:
After thanking everyone for their time and attention, he said, “The question before you is whether these seven people came to commit a crime or to prevent a crime.”
He then outlined three keys for the jury to take into their deliberations. First, their solemn responsibility as a juror to treat the defendants as they would want to be treated. Ultimately, it is up to you to be yourself. Second, remember the presumption of innocence—as of right now and until and unless you decide. Third, beyond all reasonable doubt.
“The defendants agreed on a lot,” he said. “They all said they did this. But beyond a reasonable doubt is for each count for each of seven people. You have 29 decisions to make, plus the elements and parts for each. Each time, the burden of proof is on the government beyond a reasonable doubt for each element in each of the charges.
“These terms are important to us. Count 1—willfully and maliciously; Count 2—willfully and maliciously; and Count 3, willfully depredating, which is different than damage.”
Quigley noted there were parts of the video that the government chose to edit out; things they didn’t want the jury to hear, some of which the defense showed.
“The government’s sequence of events has no prayer, no spiritual dimension, no message dimension. But if you look at the defense’s evidence, the reality of their beliefs shines through. They are loving people, they follow Jesus, they honor Dr. King.
“They prayed for two years,” he continued. “As they entered, they prayed. They compared their action to Jesus cleansing the temple. They literally gave their own blood. They held up banners; they said, ‘We come in peace,’ they stayed in the light. Does this sound like people acting willfully and maliciously?”
Quigley told the jurors that even if they blocked out everything the defendants said about their behavior, he had counted 33 times in the testimony of the prosecution witnesses when the defendants were identified as non-threatening, non-combative, cooperative, not malicious, praying the “Hail Mary.” “On the base, they talk about the incursion into the Limited Area as ‘The Night the Protesters Entered the Rabbit Run.’ It sounds like a Dr. Seuss title.”
In closing Quigley asked the jury to “stand up for what you believe. Your definition of beyond a reasonable doubt may not be the same as someone else’s. In the end, it’s up to you to decide: did they come to commit a crime or to prevent a crime?”
At 11:00am, we took a break.
Clare Grady was next. “The opening of this case was about justice,” she said to the jury. “You took an oath that you would do justice. We rely on you to do that. I know you will keep your promise. You alone are the deciders of a just verdict. I ask you to follow your conscience and your heart. The prosecutor will tell you this is a simple case and you have no choice. That’s not true. The judge will say use your common sense and the instructions she gives you in the law. No computer can render justice. It won’t be the judge or the lawyers. It will be you. “
She told the jury that facts don’t exist outside of a context that gives them meaning. She noted that the prosecutor asked her about obeying red lights, which she said she does obey. But Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “Where a fire is raging the truck goes through red lights, and normal traffic better get out of the way. Like an ambulance, sometimes it is necessary to ignore the red lights of the system.”
“Nuclear weapons can destroy life on earth,” she told the jury. “We hope you are allowed to bring that truth into the context of the facts as you decide. The omnipresent threat of nuclear weapons is like a cocked gun held to the head of the planet. Even if you never fire, you are using the gun. Even if these weapons are never launched, they are still a weapon.”
Grady asked the jury to judge their actions in the context of their religious belief. “We are taught to love one another as I have loved you. That is a hard invitation, but one that gives life.”
Grady withstood several objections as she made her argument to the jury.
She asked the jury to deliberate with their heads and hearts. If you feel forced to render a verdict that violates your conscience, where is the justice? The prosecutor rose to object and the judge called a sidebar. When they returned, Clare said, “Follow the law, follow the facts, follow your conscience.”
At 11:45, Mark Colville rose to make his closing argument. He placed a large picture of the missile shrine on the easel for the jury. “Good morning,” he said. “I think the evidence has shown that the seven of us were between a rock and a hard place. The rock is Jesus, who told us to lay down our life for others. The hard place is the Kings Bay Naval Base, where the US government has the most poisonous and most dangerous weapons in the world. And we are required to live under their protection. We are forced to live a lie.”
The evidence, Colville said, showed the defendants were motivated not by malice, but by a sincere belief that the weapons are sinful. “Our action was to unmask them, to take our names off them, to remove them from our lives.” He noted that the government and the court had tried to ignore the nature of their action and the reason for it. “But we need not be ignored by you,” he said to the jury. “In the jury room, as you deliberate, you may reach an uncomfortable conclusion,” he said. “You may find that the government willfully placed nuclear weapons beyond the rule of law.
“The government tried to show us as not obeying the law, even using the ridiculous example of the red light. But maybe it’s not such a bad analogy. When the law is obeyed without conscience without respect for life, it becomes an idol. It enslaves us.”When he reached the point of suggesting to the jury that they have the power to withdraw consent from nuclear weapons the prosecution objected and the judge sustained, telling the jury, “I will instruct you. Any suggestion that you should use someone else’s view is just not right.”
“I am trying to address the characterization that I don’t respect the law,” Colville said. “I do respect the law. Sometimes, over time, I see how it gets changed, how it gets to justice. And I ask how can I act—50 years ago what was allowed? 100 years ago, what was even allowed in this courtroom. 150 years ago, what was legal in this state.
“I have been on a jury before, and if I am on a jury again, I will ask myself “What is my decision going to look like in fifty years, if I have that much time left…”
At 11:50, Carmen Trotta came to the lecturn. Carmen started out by thanking the jury. He then remarked that words are potent and can pierce one’s heart. He spoke of the popular definition of malicious, then turned to depredation. “Depredation comes from the word for predator…” The prosecution objected that there is a specific legal definition for the word. “I know,” Carmen said, “I am coming to that. The root of the word refers to a means of survival. Predators seek prey to feed themselves. We were not malicious. We harmed no one. We had nothing to gain.”
“You will be instructed that those words have specific legal meanings. Take them in light of the evidence.
“Sacrament is another word. A visible symbol of an invisible reality. We left symbols behind us. The missile shrine, the hollywood lights. You saw in the video Clare saying ‘This looks like vandalism,’ and she recoils. The prosecution wants you to think it’s like a child’s temper trantrum.
“But it looks like the outrage of God. The invisible reality is that it is thee weapon tht may destroy, depredate, harm God’s creation.
“And we sought a blessing. We sought the mitigation of God’s anger, we sought to be forgiven. The Kings Bay seven are peacemakers. That’s Bible code for children of God, which I have on good authority all creation waits for. You heard that we did not intend to break the law. The government, at the beginning of this case, asked you to seek the truth. I pray you do indeed seek the truth.”
Patrick O’Neill followed suit in his comments. He noted that Assistant US Attorney Greg Gilooly had, at one point, said “For about an hour, you were all engaged in transformation.” Patrick said, “He got it exactly right.”
O’Neill noted the strangeness of the case—how the defendants made no attempt to escape or avoid the consequences for their action. He was interrupted numerous times by objections which were duly sustained by the judge.
In the end, after invoking Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., Patrick said, “We were prayerful, not malicious; we were loving, not malicious; we were life-affirming, not malicious.”
The judge turned to Steve Kelley. “I adopt the statements of my co-defendants,” he said. At 12:28, the judge called a 10 minute break. Twenty-seven minutes later, court reconvened; judge and jury having an opportunity for a snack break, but defendants and spectators left waiting in the courtroom.
Stephanie Amiotte delivered the closing argument for Martha Hennessy, pointing out to the jury that Martha had caused very little damage—painting that required pressure washing, and nothing more. Because of the nature of the “one for all and all for one” prosecution. the jury’s failure to convict Martha of damage in excess of $1,000 could result in acquittals for all the defendants.
She noted that the weapons at Kings Bay have the equivalent power of 100 Hiroshimas and repeated their message “May love disarm us all.”
The prosecution was given time to summarize and Assistant Attorney Gilooly drew the task. He was animated as he spoke to the jury, and grew even more so, raising his voice each time he spoke of the defendants “coming TO OUR JURISDICTION, TO KINGS BAY IN THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA to do what they did,” and later when he referred to “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!” almost incredulous that such a thing could happen here.
He noted the defendants testified “We carried each other,” and pointed to the conspiracy charge. He dismissed their religious faith, motives and intent, and their concern about nuclear weapons “100% not important.” He derided their invocation of Jesus and Martin Luther King, Jr. “Did Jesus ever bring a power saw?” He pointed to their defacing of property in a litany, responding “that’s not a peaceful protest,” each time, as if he almost expected the jury to begin to join him in the response.
He rested, and the Judge announced began jury instructions just after 2:00pm.
* * * *
At 4:00pm the jury returned to the courtroom.
As soon as the court clerk began reading the first verdict, it was all clear. The seven would be found guilty on all counts, and, one by one, they were. The jury was polled and confirmed their verdict.
You might imagine, in the staid marble hallways of the federal courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, that such verdicts would quench any spirit of hope—but as soon as the judge declared court recessed, the defendants allowed to continue release on the same conditions to await sentencing at a date to be determined, the overflow room erupted in song. “Rejoice, rejoice, again I say rejoice—“ It was one voice and then two, and by the end of the first stanza, half a dozen. As we filed into the hall we were met by people coming from the main courtroom who took up the song. We lined the hallways and the sound grew in volume and tempo. “Rejoice, rejoice, again I say rejoice!”
The defendants emerged to hugs and began to sing along, arms draped around family and supporters. And then, Carmen Trotta came down the hall and signaled our departure, down the stairs, the stairwell echoing the sound, and out past the security guards, nods and farewells to the marshals whose courtesy, with few exceptions, was unstinting and generous as they did their job.
Outside the courthouse, on the front steps, six of the defendants gathered with Bill Quigley and other members of the legal team for a press conference. (Steve Kelly remains in jail, refusing to be released under conditions set by the court.)
Just before the judge released the defendants, Patrick O’Neill, noting the judge was unlikely to know the answer, asked if she imagined the sentencing hearing would be before Christmas. “I do not know,” she said. “Would you like it to be before? Or after?” “After,” said Patrick. “After New Year’s, actually.”
The sentencing hearing will not be scheduled until the Probation officer completes the presentencing report for all seven defendants and they have a chance to review it. Depending on the resources dedicated to it, it could take weeks or it could be months.