17 Drone War Crimes Resisters Jailed for Nonviolent Protest
February 11, 2014
David Swanson / War Is a Crime
On Friday, February 7, Town of DeWitt Court Judge David Gideon found twelve of the Hancock Drone War Crimes Resisters guilty of disorderly conduct, but acquitted them of trespassing. They had gone to Hancock Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, NY, on Oct. 25, 2012, to bring a Citizens War Crimes Indictment to the base and symbolically block the gates. Their nonviolent action had called for an end to drone warfare.
Ed Kinane's Opening Statement for the Defense (January 3, 2014)
(Statements by all defendants may be seen at: http://blog.upstatedroneaction.org/
Hancock 17 Drone War Crimes Resisters' Verdict Is In:
All found guilty of disorderly conduct
All acquitted of trespassing
Order of Protection extended 2 years;
Judge decides to send a message
SYRACUSE, NY (February 7, 2014) -- On Friday, February 7, Town of DeWitt Court Judge David Gideon found twelve of the Hancock Drone War Crimes Resisters guilty of disorderly conduct, but acquitted them of trespassing. They had gone to Hancock Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, NY, on Oct. 25, 2012, to bring a Citizens War Crimes Indictment to the base and symbolically block the gates. Their nonviolent action had called for an end to drone warfare.
Saying, "At some point this has to stop," the judge gave the defendants the maximum sentence -- 15 days in jail (starting immediately) and a $250 fine with a $125 court surcharge. He also imposed a two-year Order of Protection, prohibiting the defendants from going to the home, school, business or place of employment of Col. Earl A. Evans, Commander of Hancock's mission support group. Considering that the defendants had never met or knew of him before their arrest, it is clear the intent is to keep people away from the base.
Defendant Rae Kramer stated, "No person on the base was intimidated by us, that is clear. But the end result is to deprive me of my 1st Amendment Rights."
In their sentencing statements, the defendants spoke from their hearts and minds. Some reaffirmed their legal duties as citizens to stop war crimes. Clare Grady said, "We went there to stop the war crimes. That was our intent." James Ricks hoped the judge would "sentence us to community service to investigate the war crimes they are committing at the base."
Judy Bello said, "The people suffering are so significant. It requires a persistent response," and argued that the international law argument is indeed valid. Mark Scibilia-Carver quoted the Pope saying "violence is a lie," and "Faith and violence are incompatible." Mark Colville challenged the Court, stating, "This court has been found guilty of stopping its ears to the laws that are in place to protect life. This court has been found guilty of stopping its ears to the voices of the victims of the drones."
The defendants were prepared for whatever sentence the judge imposed. In the words of Ed Kinane: "Any penalty this court can impose on me is trivial compared to the death sentences imposed on the drone victims."
Of the five defendants not sentenced, one, Elliott Adams, is to be sentenced later. Two others had their cases dismissed on technical grounds, and the remaining two had plead guilty earlier.
The defendants are part of the Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, which seeks to educate the public and Hancock Air Base personnel about the war crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan with the MQ-9 Reaper Drone piloted from Hancock Air National Guard Base.
For more information, see upstatedroneaction.org and www.peacecouncil.net.
Defendants Who Were Sentenced:
• Judy Bello Rochester, NY
• Daniel Burgevin Trumansburg, NY
• Mark Colville New Haven, CT
• Clare Grady Ithaca, NY
• Mary Anne Grady Flores Ithaca, NY
• Martha Hennessy New York, NY
• Brian Hynes Bronx, NY
• Ed Kinane Syracuse, NY
• Rae Kramer Syracuse, NY
• James Ricks Ithaca, NY
• Mark Scibilia-Carver Trumansburg, NY
• Patricia Weiland Northampton, MA
History of the Hancock 17 Arrests and Trial
Drone War Crimes Resisters Complete Closing Statements
The Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones & End the Wars
On Friday, January 31, the trial of the Hancock 17 Drone War Crimes Resisters trial concluded with Closing Arguments. Town of Dewitt (NY) Judge David Gideon presided, inviting each pro se defendant to close, and listening carefully to their arguments. Chief Master Sergeant Ramsey, head of Hancock Base Security, and a lawyer with a military background also attended the proceedings, listening intently.
Eight defendants gave Closing Arguments. They made legal and moral arguments that they should be acquitted of disorderly conduct and trespassing, charges they received after having symbolically blocked the three gates of Hancock Air National Guard Base, near Syracuse, NY, on October 25, 2012. The nonviolent action had called for an end to drone warfare.
Legal arguments addressed both international law as well as faults with the charges themselves. Since weaponized drone attacks embody terrorism, the defendants were not defying the law, but rather obeying international law and the US Constitution, which holds that treaties made are the supreme law of the land. While due process is fundamental to the US legal system, it is a luxury not afforded drone attack victims, so they had come to Hancock as first responders to the scene of a crime.
They said that US arguments for legal use of weaponized drones can be summarized with one word -- "impunity" -- and argued that judges even at the local level are bound by the rules of international law as wars of aggression and drone assassinations are crimes against peace and humanity. They challenged the judge to acknowledge his obligation to acquit them.
Three of the defendants had just returned from meeting with drone attack survivors in Pakistan only weeks before the action. Others had been to Afghanistan. Another had had experienced the US "Shock and Awe" attack on Baghdad.
They lamented how difficult it was to make the horror of drone attacks real for the judge and prosecutor and wondered how we would feel if another country had grievances with individual Americans and attacked them with weaponized drones in this country.
One acted out of his sense of spirituality, stating that when you see actions that are evil, you must not look away, but instead cooperate with the work of the spirit and do good. Another brought the conversation back home, saying that war has a cost and a face right here in this country in the number of people in jails, and that the amount of money going into warfare is obscene and could be much more productively spent at home.
The defendants argued that the judge also had to acquit them since the elements of the charges could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. They did not actually interfere with traffic since the Gates were already closed and they chose not to open them.
Both the prosecution witnesses and the defendants had testified that the action was orderly and nonviolent -- and the Nonviolent Pledge the defendants had all taken was read aloud. Since there were no base boundaries marked and no two prosecution witnesses could agree on the exact location of the boundaries, it was impossible to tell if the defendants had been on public or private land.
Assistant District Attorney Jordan McNamara closed in a notably hostile tone, arguing that the defendants were well aware of the Base boundaries and that their intent was to block traffic and disrupt business-as-usual on the base.
The defendants are a part of Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, which seeks to educate the public and Hancock Air Base personnel about the war crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan with the MQ9 Reaper Drone piloted from Hancock Air National Guard Base. See Upstate Drone Action Blog for Testimony and Closing statements.
Hancock 17 Trial Began Jan 3, 6; Continues, Jan 23, 24
On October 25th, 2012, 17 people were arrested for symbolically blocking the gates at Hancock National Air Guard Base, which is a site where MQ9 Reaper drones are piloted over Afghanistan, and the domestic center for training MQ9 Reaper pilots and technicians. They stood in front of the gates with banners and signs calling for an end to drone warfare, and read an Indictment for Crimes Against Peace and attacks on civilians that are illegal under international war.
After more than two hours outside the gates, the protesters were arrested and arraigned on charges of Trespass and Disorderly Conduct, both violations. The protesters were also issued Orders of Protection for Colonel Earl Evans, which require them to stay away from the base. Violating these OOPs, as they call them, carries potential misdemeanor or even felony charges.
On January 3rd of this year (2014) the Hancock 17 went to trial in DeWitt, NY. Fifteen defendants are going before the court Pro Se, i.e. they are representing themselves before the court. They have prepared a defense based on the fact that they were not at the base to break the law, but rather to uphold the law.
The way the drones are used in Afghanistan violates Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law. There is little coverage of Afghan casualties in the mainstream news but according to a report by Press TV, there were 500 drone attacks in Afghanistan in the last year.
On January 3rd, Defendants Ed Kinane and Clare Grady gave impassioned Opening Statements. After 12 hours in the courtroom on January 3rd and 6th, the prosecution case is nearly complete.
The defendants had an opportunity to cross-examine Colonel Evans, a civil engineer responsible for material operations at the base, and Hancock Base Security Chief at some length. There were a number of questions about the handling of events occurring outside the Military Installation of the Base and in the Easement, which includes a public thoroughfare.
It is expected that the defense case will begin on January 23rd and continue on the 24th. The defendants’ case is supported by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Mary Ellen O’Connell of Notre Dame who is an expert on Drones and International Law, and by witness from an Afghan youth whose brother-in-law was killed in a drone strike in Maidan Shahr Wardak, Afghanistan. Though these people were unable to travel to testify, all have provided written support and direction for the Defendants’ case.