Vegas Drone Trial Makes History

Creech 14 before court (Mariah Klusmire not in photo)

Published on Wednesday, September 15, 2010 by Las Vegas CityLife

by Jason Whited

Fourteen anti-war activists may have made history today in a Las Vegas courtroom when they turned a misdemeanor trespassing trial into a possible referendum on America’s newfound taste for remote-controlled warfare.

The so-called Creech 14, a group of peace activists from across the country, went on trial this morning for allegedly trespassing onto Creech Air Force Base in April 2009.

From the start of today’s trial, prosecutors did their best to keep the focus on whether the activists were guilty of allegations they illegally entered the base and refused to leave as a way to protest the base’s role as the little-known headquarters for U.S. military operations involving unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, over Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

But a funny thing happened on the way to prosecutors’ hope for a quick decision.

Appearing as witnesses for the Creech 14 today were some of the biggest names in the modern anti-war movement: Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson; Ann Wright, a retired U.S. Army colonel and one of three former U.S. State Department officials who resigned on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq; and Bill Quigley, legal director for the New York City-based Center for Constitutional Rights.

By the time those three witnesses finished their testimony as to why they believed the activists had protested at the base, they’d managed to convince Las Vegas Township Justice Court Judge William Jansen to delay his verdict for four months — and had managed clearly to frustrate prosecutors.

For the better part of the day, Clark, Wright and Quigley testified under direct questioning from witnesses and a surly cross-examination from the Clark County district attorney’s office.

Each witness spoke eloquently, and at length, about the need for nonviolent civil disobedience in the face of criminal actions by the U.S. government — which is how most in today’s anti-war movement and many international observers have characterized America’s drone war.

“[People] are allowed to trespass if it’s for the greater good — and there are certainly exceptions [to the law] when there is an emerging, urgent need,” said Quigley, while on the stand.

By all accounts, the Creech 14 trial is the first time in history an American judge has allowed a trial to touch on possible motivations of anti-drone protesters.

No one knows how Jansen will ultimately rule, but most took it as a good sign when, at the end of the day’s proceedings, applause flooded the courtroom and Jansen sent the Creech 14 — all of them part of a robust Catholic anti-war movement — on their way by echoing the words of Jesus Christ with his call of “Go in peace!”

Copyright © 2010 Las Vegas CityLife



For Immediate Release: September 14, 2010

The “Creech 14” went to trial on September 14, 2010 in Clark County
Regional Court in Las Vegas, Nevada. The case originated during a week
of demonstrations and vigils in April 2009, when the activists entered
Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs to highlight the serious
injustice of the U.S. military’s use of drones, or Unmanned Aerial
Vehicles (UAVs) in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Crews at Creech control
the drones used in these expanding wars, including killing civilians
in remote controlled assassination attacks. The protesters were
charged with trespassing. Judge William Jansen scheduled the verdict
for January 27, 2011
Judge Jansen allowed the pro-se defendants to call three expert
witnesses – former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, retired Col. and
former Embassy Official Ann Wright, and Bill Quigley, Legal Director
of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“Targeted assassinations by Predator and Reaper drones,” said
defendant Renee Espeland, “must be catapulted into the court of public
opinion. I am bound by the law of our land that makes it my duty to
stop the killing of civilians and to protect U.S. soldiers being
ordered to perform illegal acts.”

The judge limited the defense to questions strictly pertaining to the
charge of trespass. However, through carefully crafted questions, the
defendants were able to extract several key points from their

– Intentional killing is a war crime, as embodied in U.S. constitutional law.

– Drone strikes by U.S. and coalition forces kill a disproportionate
number of civilians.

– People have the right, even the duty, to stop war crimes.

– According to the Nuremberg principles, individuals are required to
disobey domestic orders that cause crimes against humanity.

Defendant Brian Terrell delivered the group’s closing statement.
Referring to earlier mention of a classic metaphor used in cases
invoking the necessity defense, he depicted a house on fire, with a
baby trapped inside. “The house is on fire; the baby is in the house,”
said Terrell, “We fourteen are ones who see the smoke, and will not
allow a ‘no trespass’ sign to stop us from reaching burning children.”
Terrell was speaking about the civilian deaths caused by U.S. drones
in Afghanistan.

The Creech 14 include Fr. John Dear, SJ; Dennis DuVall; Renee
Espeland; Judy Homanich; Kathy Kelly; Fr. Steve Kelly, SJ; Mariah
Klusmire; Brad Lyttle; Libby Pappalardo; Sr. Megan Rice, SHCJ; Brian
Terrell; Eve Tetaz; Fr. Louie Vitale, OFM; and Fr. Jerry Zawada, OFM.
Espeland, Fr. Kelly, Klusmire, Rice, Terrell, Vitale and Zawada all
live in or volunteer regularly with various Catholic Worker
communities around the country


Drones on trial, and a judge listens, an article by Jerica Arents on

I received an education yesterday.

I wasn’t in a classroom. I wasn’t laboring over a paper, strategizing in a small group, poring over a textbook or hustling across campus. I was sitting as a spectator in the front row of Judge Jansen’s courtroom in Clark County, Nevada.


A peace movement victory in court, an article by John Dear, SJ on

“Fourteen anti-war activists may have made history today in a Las Vegas courtroom when they turned a misdemeanor trespassing trial into a possible referendum on America’s newfound taste for remote-controlled warfare.” That’s how one Las Vegas newspaper summed up our stunning day in court on Tuesday, when fourteen of us stood trial for walking on to Creech Air Force Base last year on April 9, 2009 to protest the U.S. drones.

We went in hoping for the best and prepared for the worst. As soon as we started, the judge announced that he would not allow any testimony on international law, the necessity defense or the drones, only what pertained to the charge of “criminal trespassing.”


For more information visit the Nevada Desert Experience and Voices for Creative Nonviolence websites.