After a 90 minute trial on January 16, 2015, at the Kansas City, Missouri Municipal Court, Judge Elena Franco found that the City had failed to prove that Henry Stoever had the “mens rea” (guilty intent, criminal mind) for conviction of trespass. Judge Franco also found that the City witness had failed to prove where the property line was located at the new Honeywell nuclear weapons production, procurement and assembly plant in southern Kansas City, Missouri. This plant makes, procures and assembles 85% of the non-nuclear parts of a nuclear weapon. Early in the trial, Henry had played the video for the judge that showed him and two companions crossing the line.
When Judge Franco declared Henry “not guilty,” the 31 members in the audience burst into applause. Henry shook the hands of Judge Franco, the City Prosecutor, and the complaining witness, and then visited with supporters outside the courtroom, wiping back tears of joy.
In this case, Henry had filed with the Court and with the Prosecutor a 12-page Pre-trial Notice of Defenses, Brief and Motion in Limine, where he set forth a number of “claim of right” points for taking his action on August 22, 2014, to cross the supposed line at the weapons plant. In his closing statement, Henry quoted a dissenting opinion from Supreme Court Justices Douglas, Brennan, and Fortas in 1966, in Adderley vs. Florida: “We do violence to the First Amendment when we permit this ‘petition for redress of grievances’ to be turned into a trespass action.”
Henry was surprised at the not guilty finding, for the Judge said you may feel disappointed by my finding (because it was based on a technicality … and earlier, Henry had said he didn’t want to quibble over whether the line was a true property line, and that if the line were 20-30 feet farther onto the property, Henry would have gone there). Also, about two years ago, Henry had invited Franco to find him guilty so he could appeal his case to State Court (but that case was dismissed without going to a jury trial). In truth, the Judge today was not convinced Henry committed a crime—bravo! Bravissimo!
The entire Stoever family is celebrating. Many, many thanks to all who’ve risked arrest, to all who’ve supported our now about 120 individual instances of a person crossing the line, to all who’ve sent well-wishes! This is the first in the 120 instances in which a judge saw fit to say, “not guilty!”