Anti-Drone Protestors Celebrate Court Victory

February 8th, 2024 - by Michael Kerr with Toby Blomé / World BEYOND War

“Holloman Five” defendants after appearing before the judge.

Victory in Court:
Holloman 5 Anti-Drone Heroes Set Free
Michael Kerr, with Toby Blomé / World BEYOND War

ALAMOGORDO, MN (February 7, 2024) — Holloman Five Defendants ELLIOTT ADAMS, RICHARD BISHOP, TOBY BLOMÉ, MICHAEL KERR, KENNETH E. MAYERS, were present for a google meet Plea and Disposition Hearing before the Honorable A. Richard Greene. In the on-line audience were about 20 supporters!

By late December, four Defendants had signed DA Taylor Weary’s offer of a “no contest plea along with a $25 fine and no jailtime,” and Ms. Blomé signed a community service only “no contest plea.” The defendants were all charged with “Obstructing Roads” on April 19, 2023!  The maximum penalties were a $50 fine and/or 30 days in jail.

Anti-drone protesters arrested at Holloman’s main gate.

Defendants were arrested while blocking the “Drone War Machine” at the entrance to Holloman AFB near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Holloman AFB has become the largest training site for the United States drone surveillance and assassination program. (700+ graduates annually!)

By October, the defendant’s case had involved 6 months of legal proceedings that involved 3 different prosecutors, 3 different judges, 3 different scheduled on-line trials along with numerous pre-trial hearings and motions.

The Defendants had made every effort to have an actual trial. Finally, a google meet virtual bench trial was scheduled on October 12, 2023. The defendants, having secured excellent witnesses, filed a witness and evidence disclosure certificate. Defendants were then surprised when the DA filed a motion to force an “in-person” trial. Four of the Defendants lived out of state in CA, Montana and NY! Defendants filed a motion opposing the DA motion. At the pre-trial hearing on October 10th, the Honorable Greene ruled against Defendants and set a December 15th “in person” bench trial.

As New Mexico requires a trial to start within 182 days of arraignment (October 18). The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case based on Rule 6-506. At the December 5th pre-trial hearing the Honorable Greene ruled against the Defendants. After polling the Defendants, the Honorable Greene ordered yet a 5th scheduled trial for January 11, 2024, honoring the defendants’ request to postpone to January. This trial would be a jury “in person” trial.

Three of the defendants were finding it difficult to justify the time, travel and costs of a trial in mid-winter in New Mexico. By this time all the Defendants were becoming deeply involved in opposing the U.S.-Israel genocide of Palestinians. When the DA offered progressively more palatable plea deals over time, the Defendants realized this would probably be in the best interests of everyone.

Reaper and Predator “killer drones” at Holloman AFB.

At today’s Plea and Disposition Hearing, The Honorable Greene broke down every aspect of the plea deal we had previously signed, repeatedly asking each Defendants separately whether they understood and agreed with that part of the plea agreement. Judge Greene wanted us to clearly understand that he was not required to follow the plea deal we had signed with the DA. The judge then announced that there would be a $61 fee to cover court costs for each defendant that is mandatory and not excusable by the court. We were now faced with perhaps about a hundred dollars in fines and fees. We had to agree to these costs before the Honorable Greene would announce our sentences. We were somewhat stunned by these new developments.

Ms. Blomé said, out of principal, she could not pay any court fees, but was willing to do community service. When Ken Mayers finished his testimony speaking to his lifelong commitment post military service of resisting the US War Machine, one of the defendants held a sign that said: Happy Birthday Ken! It was his 87 birthday! The judge wished him a happy birthday too!

The Honorable Judge Greene then asked if each of us wished to make a closing statement before sentencing. Our closing statements addressed the reasons we had chosen to risk arrest in bringing attention to the illegal immoral use of drones to kill people around the world. We further drew attention to the U.S. involvement in Israel’s genocide of Palestinians, and the US drones flying over Gaza to assist. Richard Bishop gave a moving testimony to the deep moral injury of drone warfare on US drone crew.

Ms. Blome’s testimony included a tribute to the Ahmadi family of 10 civilians, including 7 children that were brutally murdered at their Kabul home, by a U.S. drone strike, exemplifying the indiscriminate killing inherent in the US Drone Program.

Finally, the Honorable Greene was ready to announce our sentences!
He pronounced the following:

“I am sentencing each of you to 30 days in jail.

I am suspending (?) 29 of those days in jail.

I am giving each of you one day of time served. (We had sat in the Sherriff’s office being tortured with kindness, and never met a jail cell.)

One day in jail is worth $288, so that will cover your $61 fee and any fine.”

We were stunned! We had just been given a 30-day jail sentence and yet we would not ever spend a day in jail or have any costs to pay the court.

“Case dismissed!”

We were all stunned!

Most memorable, our case ended with a sense that our hearts and efforts had moved both the DA and the Honorable Greene. The Honorable Greene spent the last minutes of the hearing commenting on his experience handling our case. He described it as a “fascinating process that I’ve been through with you.” He made reference to his Political Science focus in his college studies, before becoming a judge. He stated that he felt a “sense of envy” that the DA had had the opportunity to engage each of us in a conversation that the legal system had denied him, as a judge! The Honorable Greene even praised us for expressing our First Amendment Rights!

Yes, we were all stunned!

As Phyllis Cunningham, one of the allies who attended our virtual hearing said:
“My mind was blown away by that judge!”