Three more Kings Bay Plowshares activists receive prison sentences for 2018 nuclear disarmament action at nuclear sub base

Carmen Trotta is sentenced to 14 months in prison; Clare Grady is sentenced to 12 months plus a day; Martha Hennessy is sentenced to ten months

from the Kings Bay Plowshares

On November 12, two more of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 were sentenced by video conferencing with Judge Lisa Godbey Wood in federal court in Brunswick, Georgia. They both received less time than was expected according to the sentencing guidelines prepared by the probation department.

Carmen Trotta was sentenced to 14 months in prison in the morning session. This was a downward departure based on the judge granting his objection that the seriousness of his criminal history was overstated by the probation report. He only has four misdemeanor convictions for demonstration related arrests. However, the judge overruled numerous other objections from the defense, particularly to the increases for risk of death and lack of acceptance of responsibility. Carmen vigorously disputed these issues to no avail.

Three character witnesses testified to Carmen’s devotion to peace and the works of mercy. Bud Courtney, who lives and works with Carmen at the St. Joseph Catholic Worker House, spoke about how Carmen’s example of selfless service to the poor prompted him to join in the work and move into the house. He said that, “We look to (Carmen) for guidance and leadership. He is the elder. He is an inspiration.”

Kathy Kelly, an international activist with Voices for Creative Nonviolence who has known Carmen for 25 years, spoke about many of the projects they have worked on together over the years, particularly with the Afghan Youth and a weekly vigil for peace in Yemen. She also recounted a trial in Ireland for the Pitstop Plowshares action at Shannon Airport. The defendants were not permitted to speak about their religious beliefs in court but one of their attorneys, Brendan Nix, known for his oratorical skill, managed to recite the “Sermon on the Mount”, the Beatitudes, which he called the greatest political speech of all time.

Carmen’s brother, Louis, a corporate lawyer, testified that while they didn’t agree about many things there was no doubt that Carmen helped a lot of people through his life at the Worker and he was always trying to make the world a better place. He urged the judge to give Carmen consideration for a lighter sentence because of his work.

Carmen delivered a sentencing statement where he explained his journey of conscience began with an examination of the Vietnam War and reading of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech. He was deeply troubled by what he found were U.S. war crimes. His first arrest was to protest the Iowa National Guard going to Honduras to “build roads” to expedite the invasion of Nicaragua by the contras. He also felt that he must dissent to what his country did to Iraq when it destroyed the advanced water facilities and then sanctioned chlorine imports to purify any remaining water. Now that country is destroyed. He noted that Yemen is being destroyed today, with 45% of the children being malnourished and stunted for life.

Clare Grady was sentenced in the afternoon in a three hour session. She was sentenced by Judge Wood to one year and one day in prison, which is well below the guidelines. After more than an hour of legal argument by her attorney, Joe Cosgrove, the judge overruled all the defense objections to the sentencing recommendations. These were basically similar to what Carmen had argued earlier in the day.

Two character witnesses spoke on Clare’s behalf, profoundly framing her spirituality and its impact in relation to her family, her community, and with creation. Pastor Bill Wylie- Kellerman, retired Methodist minister from Detroit, has known Clare since the early 1980’s, having met at a spiritual retreat after the Greensboro Massacre in North Carolina, and counts her as his spiritual friend. He praised Clare, saying, “She leads a life of conscience.” He described her as a plumb-line for her faith communities and her family.

Clare’s eldest daughter Leah described growing up as an unschooler, ultimately graduating from Bryn Mawr College. She was raised in the Ithaca’s Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen serving both those monetarily poor and those in need of comradeship. Leah had worked there for 7 years from the age of 18, following her mother’s 17 years of service. Generosity, joy, honesty, truth, and justice, and the principle of “do no harm” are principles she sees her mother trying to live by. Leah described her mom’s action as based on her faith, believing in the arc of the universe bending towards justice. When Judge Wood asked how she would feel if her mother were to go to jail, Leah responded, “I’d be worried for her physical health as I am for each of the 2.5 million incarcerated in U.S. prisons.”

Clare then gave a sentencing statement with a litany of twelve points that illustrated what compelled her to symbolically disarm the Trident nuclear sub base. The first seven were her love and gratitude that flows from being a mother, to working for justice, breaking bread, and living the mission statement of Ithaca’s Loaves and Fishes from Matthew 25. “I especially hold the part that says, ‘whatsoever we do to the least, that we do to Jesus.’ The bible passage tells us a little about the least, that they are those without food, drink, clothes, those without health care, without welcome, and the imprisoned. I add to this list of the ‘least’, those who are being killed, ESPECIALLY THOSE BEING KILLED IN OUR NAME. Because when we kill others, and harm others, we do that to Jesus. I believe it is a Christian calling to withdraw consent, interrupt our consent, from killing in our name. To do so is an act of Love, an act of justice, a sacred act that brings us into right relationship with God and neighbor. This is what brings me before this court today for sentencing – it is the consequence of my choice to join friends to undertake an action of sacramental, nonviolent, symbolic disarmament because the Trident (nuclear submarine) at Kings Bay, is killing and harming IN MY NAME. To be clear, these weapons are not private property, they belong to the people of the United States, they belong to me, to you, to us. These weapons kill and cause harm in our name, and with our money. This omnicidal weapon doesn’t just kill IF it is launched, it kills every day. Indigenous people are, and continue to be, some of the first victims of nuclear weapons – the mining, refining, testing, and dumping of radioactive material for nuclear weapons all happens on Native Land. The trillions of dollars spent on nuclear weapons are resource STOLEN from the planet and her people.”

Clare’s attorney, Joe Cosgrove, spoke of Clare being a two-time cancer survivor who is suffering from lyme disease and stated that Clare faces “the trifecta” with her facing a COVID-ridden prison sentence. Judge Wood was apparently moved by these health concerns and arguments for mitigation. With credit for time already served pre-trial, Clare might only have to serve half a year in prison.

Both defendants were also sentenced to three years supervised probation and ordered to “jointly and singly” pay restitution of $33,501. Carmen informed Judge Wood that he did not intend to pay restitution to the Navy because the base is “a genocidal criminal conspiracy.” She told him that would be taken up after he didn’t pay. Carmen requested that he be able to self report to prison in 30 days and Judge Wood agreed to recommend that. Clare requested 90 days.

Martha Hennessy is sentenced to 10 months in prison

On November 13, Martha Hennessy, the sixth of the Kings Bay Plowshares defendants to be sentenced, was ordered to serve 10 months incarceration as well as three years supervised probation and restitution. This was a downward departure from the guidelines of 18 to 24 months recommended by the probation department. Conducting the sentencing virtually from her Brunswick, Georgia courtroom, Judge Lisa Godbey Wood granted defense arguments that Hennessy’s criminal history was overstated. She reduced Hennessy from a category 2 to a category 1, similar to what she had done for Carmen Trotta the day before. Then she further reduced the sentence for mitigating factors such as the good work that Martha does with the Catholic Worker, her age and the minor amount of damage she had personally caused on the submarine base.  

Four friends of Martha testified as to her good character and good works. Her long-time friend and co-worker Elizabeth Blum spoke about her deep respect and love for Martha. They met while both studying to be occupational therapists in 1982, have been employed together and even shared patients, are neighbors and friends in Vermont, have birthdays one day apart, attended each other’s weddings and share meals from home-grown produce. Elizabeth has watched and appreciated Martha’s growth in her Catholic faith and service to the most disadvantaged. Even though Elizabeth does not share Martha’s faith, she shares a deep concern “for peace and the planet and our families.” Elizabeth poignantly described growing up in the 1950’s during atmospheric nuclear testing – fearing milk contaminated with Strontium 90 fallout, and the absurdity of imagining duck and cover drills in schools could save anyone. She expressed indebtedness to Martha for “exposing how vulnerable we all are to nuclear weapons” through the Kings Bay Plowshares action.

George Horton said he got to know Martha over his past two decades of involvement with the canonization process around her grandmother, Dorothy Day, and through Martha’s work at the Catholic Worker. His work at Catholic Charities in New York City over four decades involves teaching parishes about Catholic social teaching and the social action of the church. A Vietnam-era Army veteran with a law degree, he described first seeing Martha at Maryhouse as she was bent over, meticulously cleaning a large pot that fed many people. “She’s a worker,” he said, “She’s always working… for people who needed help and were welcomed into the community of the Catholic Worker.” He said that Catholic Charities of New York has a budget of $80 million. “We can become separate from the people…. We are not able to advocate for justice and peace because we have a government contract.” In contrast, Martha’s life involves charity as well as advocacy for justice and peace like her grandmother. “Martha challenges you. But I want you to know that I have never been challenged by Martha where I have never felt the love that she has…. Martha is a critical part of the Catholic Worker community…. She cooks, cleans…” He described how Martha has important relationships with homeless people that keep them from feeling isolated and alone. She engages them in conversation. “That’s what the Catholic Worker community is about…. There’s something special going on here…. Martha’s heart breaks when she sees someone hurting. To take her out of the Catholic Worker right now would be terrible.” He told the story of standing with Martha and others in St. Patrick’s cathedral noticing a Blue Lives Matter flag hanging the day after a police officer’s funeral. One of the group objected to the pastor. “I thought the complaint should have been made in private. I remember she said, ‘George, sometimes people have to be made uncomfortable.’… My faith has grown through this experience of attending the trial and going to the base. It’s had an enormous impact on my faith.”

Mary Yelenick is a retired attorney and friend of Martha’s. She serves as the NGO Representative at the United Nations for Pax Christi International, a global Catholic movement for peace and nonviolence. As an attorney, Mary addressed Judge Wood on how “the adherence to law provides predictability and stability to society.” She spoke of the global community challenging the legality of “diabolical weapons of mass destruction that glide ominously through the waters of Kings Bay,” as was done to end what was once deemed “legal,” such as slavery. On January 22, the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will enter into force, making all nuclear weapons illegal under international law.

Mary spoke of the principles from which Martha’s life and actions flow. “Her biological and spiritual heritage” comes directly from her Christian faith, handed down by her grandmother, Dorothy Day. Following her faith, “in a deeply symbolic, sacramental action,” Martha poured her blood at the Kings Bay nuclear weapons base hoping “that blood would be a wake-up call…”

Mary said, “The final questions that dying children everywhere – not only here in Brunswick, but all across the planet – will be asking their parents – as they and their parents scream in agony, consumed by raging fire; or withering away from radiation; or inexorably reduced to skeletal remains from global starvation, with nuclear dust clouds blocking the sun’s rays – is ‘why didn’t somebody stop this, while we still had a chance to stop it? ‘ And the response – the final agonized whispers of parents dying horrific deaths in Brunswick, Georgia, and all across the globe – the last human sounds before the extinction of all life on this small, fragile, beloved planet – will be: “Some people DID try to stop this. But we prosecuted them. And we locked them away.”

Martha’s spiritual director Sister Marylin Gramas had accompanied Martha in her discernment process, saying, “I helped Martha be free to sense God’s promptings.” She noted Martha’s shyness and low key nature and that a Plowshares action was not easy. She praised Martha’s helping to offer food, shelter and especially welcome to the poorest at Maryhouse, and described Martha’s deep appreciation of her grandmother, Dorothy Day, giving her life’s convictions which led her to the action. She asked the judge for leniency so Martha could continue her good work.

The prosecutor, Greg Gilully, then said that despite the good that Martha does, she broke the law and committed a serious crime. While she might not deserve the maximum of 20 years, a term of imprisonment was justified and needed as a deterrence.

Martha began her sentencing statement with, “I stand here as a result of my conviction that calls me to point out that nuclear weapons are illegal.” Then she quoted the U.S. Constitution that all treaties are to be the supreme law of the land. “I am attempting to help transform the fundamental values of public life. I am willing to suffer for the common good and for our sin of not loving our brothers and sisters, a condition that leads to war. ” She added, “I have no criminal intent; I want to help prevent another nuclear holocaust. The spirit of the law contained in international treaties for disarmament is very clear, to prevent mass murder on an incomprehensible scale. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientist’s Doomsday clock is set at 100 seconds to midnight. I see my grandchildren’s faces in that clock.” 

Martha asked to self-report to prison in 30 days.

Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J., the only member of the Kings Bay Plowshares who has been in jail since the April 2018 action, is still at the Glynn County Detention Center awaiting transfer to Tacoma, Washington, to appear in court for a probation violation for an earlier action. He let supporters know he was able to call in from jail to hear the sentencing of his codefendants. 

The final defendant to be sentenced, Mark Colville, has been granted a delay of sentencing as he does not want to waive his right to appear before the judge in open court. Mark explained in motions filed with the court that Connecticut’s rules pertaining to COVID-19 are that upon returning from travel out of state, one has to quarantine. Mark is the sole driver for his nephew undergoing dialysis 3 times a week. The doctors have stated that there must be one designated driver to reduce the possibility of COVID infection. The judge granted a sentencing delay until December 18. If it is done virtually or during continued COVID travel restrictions, the court will provide the same call-in numbers to the public.  

All available sentencing statements and character witness statements will be posted under the legal tab, in sentencing statements at the website. Statements and press coverage will also be added below.






Clare Grady’s Sentencing Statement to the Court, November 12, 2020

Good afternoon, Judge Wood, Mr. Knoche, and Mr. Gillully, and greetings to all the women and men who work in the courtroom there in Georgia. Also, greetings to all those who are listening in to these sentencing hearings on your phones. Your presence as attendees and witnesses to this procedure, as we work together to seek Justice, is essential. Without your participation we might lose sight of the nature of a government of the People, for the People, and by the People. I come before the court today ready for sentencing. May my words and spirit today be rooted in truth with love, the two elements of nonviolence. I have come up with about 12 things that I would like to share today at my sentencing hearing.

  1. I am a mother, I can’t think of anything that has shaped me more than being a mother. The awe of bearing my children, birthing, nursing and attending them as they grew and continue to grow, was and continues to be the biggest blessing in my life. 
  2. I have a big family, with siblings, in-laws, nieces, nephews, and, great nieces and nephews, each of them, all of them precious and dear to me. 
  3. I love the Bible and all efforts to come together to live the call to LOVE ONE ANOTHER. 
  4. I love people, …it’s a family thing… many of us are in hospitality in one form or another, or service, of cars, health care, elder care, farming or teaching: music and dance, advocacy,… it’s all about people… it’s all about well-being… it’s all about joy…and, it’s about justice. 
  5. I love gardening, growing food and flowers, being outside, working in the soil, working in the community garden alongside other gardeners, many of them from other lands, where they never lost the wisdom of gardening with grandmas and grandpas, andchildren and grandchildren. It is music to my ears to hear my neighbors working and laughing and tending to each other, as they tend to the garden, while speaking in their native tongues. 
  6. I love Loaves and Fishes, the community kitchen here in Ithaca where I live. I began cooking and eating at Loaves in the late ’80s, and eventually became a kitchen coordinator for many years during my children’s childhood. The delicious meals made from the shared abundance in our community and the spirit with which it is shared has been life-changing for me. The ministry is not just to care for those without food, but to provide a place where those of us with food can break bread together, share lives, share resources, and build community. Recognizing our common need for a common table. It is a place that offers blessing to all of us who enter the doors, and, offers each of us the possibility to be part of the beloved community. 
  7. I love the mission statement of Loaves and Fishes from Matthew 25. I especially hold the part that says, “whatsoever we do to the least, that we do to Jesus.” The Bible passage tells us a little about the least, that they are those without food, drink, clothes, those without health care, without welcome, and the imprisoned. I add to this list of the “least”, those who are being killed, ESPECIALLY THOSE BEING KILLED IN OUR NAME. Because, when we kill others and harm others, we do that to Jesus. I believe it is a Christian calling to withdraw consent, interrupt our consent, from killing in our name. To do so is an act of Love, an act of justice, a sacred act that brings us into right relationship with God and neighbor. 

This is what brings me before this court today for sentencing. It is the consequence of my choice to join friends to undertake an action of sacramental, nonviolent, symbolic disarmament because the Trident at Kings Bay is killing and harming IN MY NAME. To be clear, these weapons are not private property. They belong to the people of the United States. They belong to me, to you, to us. These weapons kill and cause harm in our name, and with our money. 

This omnicidal weapon doesn’t just kill IF it is launched, it kills every day. Indigenous people are, and continue to be, some of the first victims of nuclear weapons. The mining, refining, testing and dumping of radioactive material for nuclear weapons ALL happens on Native Land. The trillions of dollars spent on nuclear weapons is resource STOLEN from the planet and her people. It would be valuable to calculate or even contemplate that harm. The late Sister Rosalie Bertell devoted her work as a scientist and epidemiologist to raising public awareness about the destruction of the biosphere and human gene pool, especially by low-level radiation. As a result of her decades of study of the data, Rosalie estimated that millions of people worldwide have died from low-level radiation, since the dawn of the Nuclear Age and the release of ionizing radiation. And, as Daniel Ellsberg says in his book that we brought to Kings Bay, “Nuclear weapons are used the same way a cocked gun is used, even if it is never fired. If you hold it to someone’s head, YOU ARE USING THAT GUN!” Every judge in the land knows that. 

It is because we know all this, that we are moved by conscience and by our religion, to take responsibility to withdraw our consent, to disarm, to shine the light of truth upon this violence. 

8) I hold great value in due process. I put great value in hearing the truth, the whole truth, and hearing more than one side. I especially want to know what is being left out. I must say, that my experience in our case, is that the Supreme Laws of the land have been left out. Article VI, section 2 of our U.S. Constitution states that every treaty, pact, and protocol that is signed and ratified, becomes the Supreme Laws of the Land. The bible says that Law is here to serve humanity, not the other way around. And as we know, if we are honest, Law has to catch up in recognizing the humanity of all people. Only after great struggle by the people who have been left out, has Law evolved to include them. Law is not monolithic. Law evolves as human consciousness evolves. 

As for these Supreme Laws of our land, the treaties that guide us in matters of war and peace, this is what I know. After two world wars in the last century that saw the killing of millions and millions of people, we joined in deciding that it is illegal to kill civilians. It is illegal to use weapons that do not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. It is illegal to use weapons that poison the air, water, and land. It is illegal to strike first. It is illegal to wage a war of aggression. Nuclear weapons are weapons of mass destruction. They violate each and every one of these treaties. Going one step further, it was decided after WWII that citizens are responsible for the crimes of their government. 

This legal development resonates with spiritual truths with the same mandate that I have already mentioned. 

  1. I want you to know that I believe in the Golden Rule. Yes! If someone came to my place of work to take responsibility for the crimes within there that were being committed in their name and they brought with them no weapons, no threats, no hostility. If someone came to my place of work and did exactly what I did, and sat peacefully taking responsibility for their action, I would be very moved. Moved to wonder. Moved to question. Moved to listen and maybe even learn what such an act was all about. 
  2. I do not like jail. I do not like being treated as less than human. I do not like being yelled at all day long. I do not like being cold, being hungry, being tired, and overworked. I do not like being separated from my family, from the natural world, to not feel the earth beneath my feet, the sun over my head, the wind on my face. I do not like the violence of being warehoused with fellow women, who need healing and not further harm. I am really scared of being in prison during COVID. I can say with certainty that I have never seen a jail or a prison where you could practice the social distancing that we are told could save our lives during this pandemic. It only adds alarm that I’m 62, I have had melanoma twice in the past 3 years and have been living with the lingering effects of being infected with a tick-borne illness. My immune system is not what it used to be. 
  3. It turns out though, I learn quite a bit by being on the receiving end of harm, especially harm being done in my name, such as prisons for example. 

I have had some profound awakenings in prison, one that seems important to tell often is this; that to the extent that those of us privileged by this system, take responsibility for the big crimes of killing millions and stealing trillions, we will stop scapegoating those on the receiving end of those crimes, those living the legacy of enslavement, of poverty, of genocide. 

It’s a bitter thing to be on the receiving end of such things or to even have the teeniest taste of them. But I notice, and I do believe that we will have greater possibilities for justice when we include the voices and experience of those on the receiving end of our big crimes. 

As for the crimes of nuclear weapons…. I would like to lift up the voices and experiences of the Hibakusha, the survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Listen to Setsuko Thurlow, a well-known survivor, a leading voice and organizer in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Setsuko gave an acceptance speech for ICAN as it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, three and a half months after the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted in July 2017. Listen to the voices of the women from the Global South who have been working to promote this treaty, in particular to Elayne Whyte Gómez, the Costa Rican Ambassador to the U.N. who presided over the negotiating conference for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. 

Listen to the voices of the indigenous women organizing for the healing of their land and people from the contamination from the Nuclear industry. Leona Morgan, from the Navajo Nation, who has been fighting nuclear colonialism since 2007 and co-founded Diné No Nukes, and Nuclear Issues Study Group. Leona is also part of the international campaign Don’t Nuke the Climate. You can find her work online. It’s very accessible. Listen to the voices of the people of the Marshall Islands, who endured 12 years of testing of nearly 70 nuclear and atomic bombs exploded on, in, and above the Islands, vaporizing whole islands, carving craters into its shallow lagoons and exiling hundreds of people from their homes. 

Listen also, to the voices of the Seneca Women, Agnes Williams and Maria Maybe, organizing to clean the contamination of their water and land from the nuclear waste site where they live on Seneca Land at the western door of Haudenosaunee territory, land labeled a sacrifice zone. There are many more voices…that is just a beginning. Before I move on to #12 on my list, I see that it is important too, to Listen to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists who tell us that we are 100 SECONDS to nuclear midnight. Listen to the Pentagon itself! In its own words from the published document “Vision for 2020,” it tells of a vision for the planet where the division between the haves and the have-nots will become ever wider, and in the face of that, the United States needs to come out on TOP. To ensure that end, the Pentagon sees its role in maintaining global dominance, by dominating Earth and Space militarily. 

THIS is key for me, as I understand the Giant Triplets, identified by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4, 1967. Exactly a year before he was killed, Dr. King delivered his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, wherein he identifies the Giant Triplets of Racism, Militarism, and Extreme Materialism. Each of those is deadly in itself, and TOGETHER those triplets are even more deadly. Today we hear the cries across the land to be free from White Supremacy, to be free from economies of greed while so many go without, and to demilitarize our police & our world. Trust and believe. Militarism is the enforcement mechanism for both white supremacy and global capitalism. It is up to us first-world people of privilege to disarm these weapons that perpetuate these triplets. I choose sacramental, nonviolent, symbolic disarmament. 

  1. With that, I want you to know that Ithaca, where I live, is Cayuga Land. The Cayuga were forcibly removed from this land in 1779 with the Sullivan-Clinton campaign. It was one of the largest military campaigns waged by the Continental Army, where 4,469 troops covered hundreds of miles of Haudenosaunee Territory with orders to destroy villages, homes, crops, orchards, removing the first nation people from their homeland to make way for settlements for what would become New York, one of the first 13 colonies that formed the United States. This major military offensive changed the landscape where I live here in the Finger Lakes for the next few hundred years, leaving only roadside markers as reminders of the people whose stolen land we live on. In recent years, the Cayuga people are returning to their homeland, they are still a sovereign people. They are still Haudenosaunee, People of the Long House, otherwise known as the Iroquois Confederacy. 

They have much to teach us about democracy, about matriarchy, about right relationship with the creator and creation, the centrality of giving thanks, the necessity of considering the wellbeing of the 7th generation, the wisdom that to be human we should never separate our heads from our hearts. I resonate deeply with the Haudenosaunee belief and trust that “Nothing can go against the Good Mind”. It resonates with my trust that ultimately, nothing can go against God’s Will. To Force our will, and go against God’s will, has consequence, all of us humans have experience, perhaps every day, of choosing our own will over and above God’s will. The consequence varies…but it always goes better for the common good, when we do not try to go against God’s will. I see the Trident as the ultimate logic of putting self-will above God’s will, I see it as a violation of that trust in God, a violation of right relationship with God and neighbor and the least. The Trident is the ultimate manifestation of FORCING our will above GOD’S WILL, and as the banner I carried said “The Ultimate Logic of Trident is Omnicide,” which is the death of all living. This is an unsustainable course… We are either going to continue to clench our need for power and control, to the point of death and the death of all living, or we could choose to let go and let God by disarming and restoring relationships. I am hopeful that we will accept responsibility and turn away from risking the death of all living, by many loving, truthful, just, and creative ways. 

I am now finished. 

God have Mercy on us all and Grant us Peace.  

Carmen Trotta’s Sentencing Statement, November 12, 2020

In my opening declaration to the court, I remarked that I’m a child of the Vietnam war, and my primary reason to go to college was to discover who was telling the truth about the war in Vietnam and the reasons for which we fought it. I’m only like 18 years old. It was in college, that I first heard Rev. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech, and in a way, that was the saddest day of my life.

It also redirected my life.

The proof was simple enough. As King explained it, by 1954 the United States was paying for 80 percent of the French effort to recolonize Vietnam. Then and there, I learned that the U.S. has no more no noble reason to be there than the colonizers we sought to replace. Then did I begin a journey that has led me to my presence before the court today.

I was told by the prosecution that I have an extensive criminal record, and when I heard this, I was dumbstruck. I didn’t think I had any criminal record, but I did at some point come to understand that I had 20, 30 arrests, but in my mind they were all justified. Every one of my actions has been a reaction to an American war crime.

Moreover, in every instance, my arrests were for acts of nonviolent civil disobedience or civil resistance. Let me say, unambiguously, that in all of my extensive criminal history, I have never raised a hand in anger and violence against another. In court, I had mentioned that my concern that the “institutional memory of the court is perverse.”

The court knows where and when I was arrested, what the charges were and what I was sentenced to. But nothing of the context within which I was arrested: and context is everything. We may remember in our own trial, Mark Colville was confronted with the notion that what he had done was like running a red light – a straight forward violation of the law. But there are times when, in a particular context, anyone in their right mind would run a red light, as for instance the several times I rushed my ailing father to the hospital, saving his life.

So as regards war crimes, I’ve run a lot of red lights. To be clear, this criminal has never assaulted anyone, never stolen anything, has never threatened anyone. If convicted of disorderly conduct, it was not for being drunk and urinating in the street. It was for holding a banner in front of the White House and refusing to move… unfortunately the court would not know what the banner said.

Notably, the longest sentence I’ve ever been given, prior to my fifty days for the action at hand, was twelve days. So in short, all of my arrests were deliberate, nonviolent responses to the concerns of my conscience, which I hold to be a divine gift. It is not merely a divine gift to me. It is to everyone. It is what makes a human.

My first incarceration was in 1986 in Des Moines, Iowa. A number of Catholic Workers had joined a larger coalition petitioning then Gov. Branstad to reject a federal request for the state’s National Guard unit to go down to Honduras “to build roads.” In actual fact, they would be building invasion corridors into Nicaragua for the so called Contras, a terrorist militia adopted, funded, trained and advised by the Reagan administration, to overthrow the first democratically elected government in Nicaragua in more than 40 years. Prior to the Sandinista revolution Nicaragua was a U.S. client state, under the despotic control of the Somoza family.

We should all be aware of the fact that the U.S. has almost no history of supporting democracy abroad.

Prior to our action, six states, under public pressure, had refused federal requests to state National Guard units. We were hoping to make Iowa the seventh. We went to the Capitol to meet with the Governor, and he failed to show up. Some 25 of us decided to remain in the office until he appeared. When the building closed for the night the coalition members decided we would wait overnight. Subsequently, state police entered the office to escort us out. I went limp, and was incarcerated overnight.

Days after the action, congressional legislation was passed making it impossible to deny a federal request for a National Guard unit, unless the Governor declared a state of emergency, the so-called Montgomery Amendment.

So, my first arrest was in resistance to an act of American terrorism which came to be known as the Iran Contra scandal. The most active agent of the scandal was Lt. Col. Oliver North, a decorated Vietnam veteran moved into a secret office within the National Security Council. Behind the back of congress and in violation of the Boland Amendment of 1985, North solicits money from private donors and various nations and turns a blind eye to money garnered from shipments of crack cocaine, brought into the the United States via drug cartels with ties to the Contras.

Eventually the scandal was exposed. Over a dozen government officials were convicted of crimes. Oliver North was given a 3 year suspended sentence for being a kingpin in an act of American terrorism which kicked off a ten year war which took the lives of 30,000 people. All of those convicted were pardoned by the next administration. Having never raised a hand in violence, it seems odd to me that I’m destined to serve more prison time than Oliver North.

Another war, indeed a series of wars that I responded to, were related to Iraq. For 30 years now we have been bombing Iraq.

Despite the brutal, dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein, the people of Iraq managed to create a decent infrastructure. Before U.S. intervention and occupation, Iraq had top of the line hospitals; child mortality rates were comparable to European nations; the populace was supplied with clean safe water; illiteracy was basically eradicated.

But in 1991, American bombs systematically obliterated that infrastructure. This was compounded by the most deadly regime of economic sanctions in history. Prior to the war Iraq 70% of the country’s food came from imports. The sanctions forbade U.N. member states from selling any foodstuffs to Iraq, with the exception of “humanitarian circumstances.” More the bombing destroyed nearly every water treatment plant in the country. Chlorine, an essential agent in water treatment facilities, was deliberately sanctioned. This was done with the full knowledge that water borne diseases would result. Cholera and typhoid, previously almost non-existent, spiked dramatically in the next few years.

These were unconscionable policies! Deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure, and men, women and children.

More than 200,000 Iraqis perished by the end of the first Gulf war. The Clinton administration then took the reins, and persistently, if sporadically, continued bombing. In 1996, the U.N. issued a report that 500,000 children below the age of 5 had died due to the harsh sanctions imposed. Then Sec. of State Magdalene Albright was questioned on this by Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes: “We have heard that a half million children have died…I mean…that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”

Albright responded: ”I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”

Albright never apologized for that statement.

So, this is my great dilemma: the conflict between my love of country and my conscience and, what seems to be, the increasing numbness of he nation’s conscience.

It still strikes me to hear the words “all men are created equal,” and the words“ certain God-given and inalienable rights.” Rather obviously we have not lived up to these ideals. But somehow, it is still music in my ear. It is this very conflict that has led me to my actions and to this moment standing before you. I’ve read some of your stuff, Judge Wood, and I know that you have some regard for the protection of dissent. Let us pray for the strength and resilience of one another’s conscience. And I hope you develop a relish for dissent.

Martha Hennessy’s Sentencing Statement, November 13, 2020

Dear Judge Wood,

I have thought long and hard and prayed about how to convey the reality of my nonviolent, sacramental action against nuclear weapons at Kings Bay Naval Base. I stand here as a result of my religious conviction that calls me to point out that nuclear weapons are illegal and to uphold the rule of law in the U.S. Constitution, Article 6, Section 2: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

In the months before I was born in July 1955, Operation Teapot conducted 14 open air tests from February to April. I carry the nuclear contamination in my body.

I am attempting to help transform the fundamental values of public life. I am willing to suffer for the common good and for our sin of not loving our brothers and sisters, a condition that leads to war. War stems from our unwillingness to love one another as Christ has loved us. This is what the Bomb represents to me. And the great scandal is that the vast majority of these weapons are in the hands of white Christians, the United States and Russia. I am sorry that my faith has prodded me to take such action, putting my family and community through hardships these past few years. But faith requires hardship as we see with Christ on the Cross. In my remorse over the misunderstanding over our peaceful messaging at the naval base, I continue to reflect on the meaning of it. My discernment continues even with this sentencing statement. I am remorseful that we have created nuclear bombs and it was very difficult for me to enter that military base. I am sorry to have embarrassed the personnel. I have no plans of repeating another Plowshares disarmament, even as such an action has called me to demonstrate my love for humanity. I feel I have done my part to the best of my ability; I have brought my grievance to my government. Our testimony during trial has had a profound impact on many Catholics despite the fact that we were not allowed expert witnesses or any meaningful defense. We are to live by example, to be indignant over the rejection of God’s love. We spurn God’s love and misplace it when we rely on nuclear weapons to force our will on the globe.

Every freedom of expression, right of assembly, and petition of grievance that I have participated in over the years was nonviolent and purposed for the upholding of the rule of law. The issues I have addressed include torture used on prisoners at Guantanamo, and the killing of civilians with drones. I have taken personal responsibility to advocate for changing questionably moral behaviors on the part of the U.S. military to the extent that I am able. The breaking of an unjust law such as the secrecy and protection of our nuclear weapons system was prompted by my conscience. I have used my free will and primacy of conscience to choose obedience to the protection of every living thing. I have attempted to practice the “councils of perfection”, that is in reference to the teachings of Christ, to do more than the minimum, to aim for Christian perfection, as much as that can be obtained here upon earth.

My participation in community, care of the poor, and my Catholic faith led to my discernment process for participating in nuclear disarmament. It is our obligation to speak out when we feel our faith is being violated when we are forced to accept, pay for, and worship the nuclear arsenal and its intended use against other nations, cities, and people despite the treaties that work to prevent such a holocaust. Last year Pope Francis visited the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and called for the abolition of nuclear weapons. He stated: “The use of nuclear weapons is immoral, which is why it must be added to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Not only their use, but also possessing them: because an accident or the madness of some government leader, one person’s madness can destroy humanity.” This year marks the 75th anniversary of dropping the bomb. We remain unaccountable for our war crimes.

Dear Judge, I hope you can have a change of heart and begin to understand what is at stake here for those who are on the losing end of our economic system. I have attempted to lead a moral and productive life in my volunteer work, professional career of occupational therapy, scripture study, and care of my family. I am willing to go to prison as penance for our collective sins of practicing violence, war making, and forcing deprivation against the vast majority of people in this world. God delights in EVERY human birth here on earth and expects us to protect all life. All human beings are members or potential members of the mystical body of Christ.

We must also take into consideration the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that has now been ratified by 50 countries and will become law as of January 22, 2021. Nuclear weapons are outlawed. Will our country disregard this rule of law? There actually is no law protecting the nuclear bombs. During the trial one of our jurors asked the question, “Are there nuclear weapons on the base?” The facts of that question went unanswered.

I don’t want our action to be trivialized, to be reduced to “breaking and entering” when my efforts are to bring a message of love and sanity to the world. Our nonviolent, sacramental action was found by the court to be a religious exercise. I quote from my declaration regarding my faith-based action:

“Going to the Trident nuclear submarine and missile base is similar to Jesus taking direct action against the moneychangers in the Temple.
‘Take these out of here and stop making my Father’s house a market-place.’ (John 2:16). Our nuclear arsenal is a theft from the hungry; it is economically and environmentally bankrupt, and legally and morally indefensible. Jesus preached to the poor and most of the world’s population remains poor. My Christian faith instructs me not to rely on these deadly weapons but to make visible and practice our dependence on God and love for one another. Despite my fear I entered the military base as an act of faith, hope, and love.”

I have no criminal intent; I want to help prevent another nuclear holocaust. The spirit of the law contained in international treaties for disarmament is very clear, to prevent mass murder on an incomprehensible scale. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientist’s Doomsday clock is set at 100 seconds to midnight. I see my grandchildren’s faces in that clock. We must all do our part to uphold the rule of law. I am called as a Christian to serve others. Practicing the works of mercy in caring for the poor is a spiritual discipline. My opposition to war comes from the Gospel of Life that peace is a good to be pursued out of respect for human life. Today’s wars cannot protect the lives of civilians, and nuclear war cannot practice proportionality. In the 1980s German judges blocked the roads to nuclear weapons sites the U.S. has located there. They were trying to atone for the lack of having taken a stronger stand against Hitler 40 years previously.

I pray for mercy from this court and from you, Judge Wood. I beg for the soul of Christianity to be saved from the seductions of Empire, and to allow for the flowering of our kinship of faith. In these times of dire economic conditions for millions of U.S. citizens, we can no longer afford to feed this massive war machine.

Here I share words from Japanese survivors of the atom bomb:

A six-year-old boy remembers Hiroshima:
“Near the bridge there were a whole lot of dead people. There were some who were burned black and died, and there were others with huge burns who died with their skins bursting. Sometimes there were ones who came to us asking for a drink of water. They were bleeding from their faces and from their mouths and they had glass sticking in their bodies. And the bridge itself was burning furiously. The details and the scenes were just like Hell.”
A fifth grade girl:
“Everybody in the shelter was crying out loud. Those voices…they weren’t cries, they were moans that penetrated to the marrow of my bones and made my hair stand on end…I do not know how many times I called begging that they would cut off my burned arms and legs.”
And a young woman:
“We gathered the dead bodies and made big mountains of the dead and put oil on them and burned them. And people who were unconscious woke up in the piles of the dead when they found themselves burning and came running out.”

As a Christian I can’t bear inflicting this kind of pain and injustice on innocent people. As St. Paul stated in Acts 22, “I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.”

We must pay attention to the primacy of the Spiritual. We must recognize the spirit of the law. Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount, which means we will try to be peacemakers. Thank you.

Statement by Bill Wylie-Kellermann, character witness for Clare Grady

November 12, 2020

I am ordained United Methodist pastor in Detroit, recently retired. I still write and teach; currently adjunct faculty at Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit.

I’m a participant in the nonviolent movement resisting nuclear weapons though recently applied active nonviolence to the Detroit Water Struggle (in the last five years 100,000 homes having water shut off) and to the National Poor Peoples Campaign – originally initiated by MLK in the year before his assassination, and organized around the “giant triplets” of racism, militarism, and extreme materialism.

First met Clare at a bible study retreat in Philadelphia in 1988. A mutual friend of ours, Ched Myers, was finishing what came to be widely acknowledged groundbreaking commentary on the Gospel of Mark. He demonstrated that so many of Jesus actions, including healings, were in effect deeds of civil disobedience, breaking the Levitical law of the purity and debt codes. With him, Clare and I struggled through particular passages which brought us all into closer contact with the nonviolent spirituality of Jesus which she so reflects.

But our friendship was really sealed in 2002 when we were part of a week-long community institute in Greensboro, NC – the inaugural school of a project called Word and World. There, we were part of a bible study with Nelson Johnson, an amazing pastor and movement leader who had been wounded in the 1979 Greensboro Massacre where five labor organizers were killed by members of the Klan. He was and is a continuing inspiration to both of us. Focusing that school on the history of the massacre, contributed to a process which eventually led to the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the U.S. Recently, the City of Greensboro formally apologized for the role of its police department in that massacre.

Our bible study together for the week considered the Book of Acts as a gospel of the beloved community. I think of Clare’s faith and witness, as being in that tradition. Scholars suggest Acts functioned almost as a handbook for the way in which early Christians should comport themselves on trial before the political and judicial authorities – recounting some seven arrests and as many appearances. The conversion of St. Paul took place while he was executing an arrest warrant. The story says that he met the resurrected Christ on the road, and so realized he was, in effect, on the wrong end of the warrant. He himself is eventually arrested for trespass or being accessory to trespass. At the conclusion of the book, Paul remains under house arrest for two years, awaiting trial in Rome. Sounds familiar.

Clare is dear friend. Has been for 20 or 30 years. I love her. I know the Grady clan in Ithaca, and have shared with them in grief and joy. When her mother died a few years ago, her family and community dug and covered a grave for her on a NY hillside. To be invited into that was a sacred sharing. I’ve also danced with them in celebrations which can be of joyous abandon. There is music in her life.

She is someone I pray for. That applies to her health and healing (I understand the court is aware of her recent ailments and physical vulnerability). And I’ve been praying for her in that, but also for liveliness and faithfulness to her conscience.

Over the years we have walked together as she has discerned actions of risk and nonviolence. I wouldn’t count myself her pastor, but maybe we are what the Irish call a “spiritual friends.” One time we talked about the connection between conscience and discernment in action. She was confused when I referred to conscience as what the New Testament calls a spiritual gift. We do both consider conscience an aspect of spirituality and the inner life. On the one hand, it is part of us which can be formed by study and prayer, as well as by experiences and mentors (she has been blessed with remarkable ones, some of whom we share in our formation). But it is also a gift, a charism, by which the Spirit of God can call us to discern word and action. It’s not a set of principles so much as a living way of listening. That is what Clare possesses and lives by – a deep listening for God. In that sense it is not an individual thing, but a gift for the building up of community, one which she shares freely. If you don’t exercise your conscience as a gift, it withers – that is an ailment Clare Grady has never suffered.

Her commitment to nonviolence is very strong. For her it is no tactic but a way of life whole-cloth from the smallest gesture or discipline to large public acts. There is one of the Hebrew Bible prophets who is told to hold out a plumbline to peoples and nations and empires. By it they are measured, found to be crooked or teetering to collapse. If I think of the plumbline as nonviolence I can’t tell if Clare is the one holding it out to us, or if her life is such that she is herself a plumbline for me and others.

Statement by Mary T. Yelenick, character witness for Martha Hennessy

November 13, 2020

Good afternoon, Your Honor.

My name is Mary Yelenick. I am a member of the Bar, and practiced law for nearly 40 years — first as a judicial law clerk, and later as a law firm litigation partner. 

I am presently the NGO Main Representative at the United Nations for Pax Christi International, a global Catholic movement for peace and nonviolence.

I am offering this sentencing statement on behalf of Martha Hennessy: a woman whom I respect greatly — and who I believe is an example of the kind of person we need more of, if we as a human race are to survive. 

Most of us are paralyzed by fear, or feel powerless to act, in the face of the very real threat of global extinction by nuclear weapons. The scope and specter of this cataclysm looming over the heads of each one of us assembled here today has rendered most of us mute.

Yet there are, thank God, truth-tellers among us, who are not afraid to speak, and to act. Martha Hennessy is one of those brave, selfless, clear-eyed people. She understands, as Pope Francis continues to warn, and which Ronald Reagan emphasized in his 1984 State of the Union Address, that “a nuclear war can never be won.” 

Martha Hennessy knows that as long as we remain silent about that basic truth, we – all of us – risk extinction.

As a farmer in Vermont, Martha Hennessy cares for the Earth, and for its inhabitants. She cherishes, fosters, and preserves, life. She recognizes the soil, and plant and animal life, as being integral to the health and well-being of the whole. She understands the inter-connectedness of all organisms, of all life. And she understands that our actions – both as individuals, and as nations – have consequences for all generations, and for all beings, on the planet.

Martha Hennessy has consistently demonstrated – through her life, her actions, and her choices – her deep commitment to peace, and to life. She has sacrificed her own personal comfort to safeguard the futures of everyone – including all of us participating in this proceeding today.

Her life is rooted in her strong faith, and in her biological and spiritual heritage. Martha grew up in the presence of her remarkable grandmother, Dorothy Day – a woman who has been nominated for sainthood in the Catholic Church. 

So you might say that recognizing, and speaking, unpopular truths is in Martha’s blood.

Martha has devoted years of her life working, as her grandmother did, among the poor, the hungry, and the homeless – at the Catholic Worker house in New York City. But she not only attends to the needs of the poor, but also to the souls and consciences of the comfortable. Over the years, I have attended numerous public presentations by Martha – including to civic groups, large church congregations, and at the United Nations – in which Martha enlightened and challenged all of us on issues of peace and nonviolence – and reminded us of our obligations to each other.

Martha is a deep thinker. I am sure that this Court has observed that Martha is exceedingly thoughtful, always pausing to collect her thoughts before speaking. She speaks respectfully, carefully, and in a quiet voice. She is patient. She tries, always, to listen to, and understand, others’ points of view. She models respect for others. 

Martha’s writings are filled with references to spiritual teachings about what we owe each other, and what is expected of us if we are not only to honor our Creator – but also the sanctity of creation itself. Martha’s goal, and her lifetime, demonstrable personal commitment, is to nurture, to protect, and to preserve that creation.

Martha Hennessy’s lifetime fidelity to a life of peace and nonviolence has been manifested in many, many ways, over the years. Several years ago, I spent long days with Martha, and others, in a seven-day fast and vigil near the Isaiah wall across from the United Nations complex in New York – in the plaza that bears the injunction from the Book of Isaiah that we must “turn our swords into plowshares.” For a full week, Martha fasted; walked quietly in procession, holding up signs and pictures of the haunting faces of starving, emaciated children; spoke and listened carefully to passersby; and prayed publicly and peacefully for an end to the cruel slaughter of children in Yemen.

Martha also traveled to the Korean peninsula a few years ago, as part of the effort to support the peaceful reunification of people in the South with their families and countrypeople in the North – a division that resulted, as has so much suffering in the world, from global power struggles in which our own country wields its nuclear arsenal as a threat.

Martha derives her conviction from principles of the Christian faith, in which God sacrificed his own body, and shed his own blood.

“Do this,” Jesus directed, “in memory of me.” 

And Martha did. In a deeply symbolic, sacramental action, blood was spilled at the Kings Bay nuclear-weapons naval facility in the hope that the sight of that blood would be a wake-up call, and a stark reminder, of the blood that once coursed through the veins of the hundreds of thousands of moms, dads, and children killed (and still being harmed through irradiation damage) by our nation’s nuclear weapons in Hiroshima, and in Nagasaki, and in the course of our nation’s nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands and elsewhere in the South Pacific. 

That spilling of blood is also a reminder of the certainty – far greater than any “risk of death” – that blood will gush from the bodies of billions more – human blood; animal blood; the life force of the earth itself – if nuclear weapons are not eliminated.

And in keeping with her Christian faith, and her knowledge of the horrific consequences of nuclear weapons, Martha has not only spilled blood, but is now offering for others her very body, in sacrifice: exchanging her own freedom in an effort to save the lives of others.

Two final thoughts, Your Honor: 

As an attorney with decades of experience practicing law, I recognize that adherence to “law” provides predictability and stability, in a society. But I also recognize that, over the course of our history, a number of things that we now recognize as vile, and deeply immoral – such as, in our nation’s history, the enslavement of human beings – were once deemed “legal.” 

So, too, nuclear weapons – which have incinerated newborn babies (and their young mothers, clutching them as they ran); vaporized elderly people as they stumbled in panic; and pulverized screaming schoolchildren into blackened, pulsating blobs of burned skin – are deemed “legal” in this country. 

But the global Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – under which nuclear weapons will formally, on January 22 , be deemed illegal under international law – makes clear the condemnation by the world of the diabolical weapons of mass destruction that glide ominously through the waters of Kings Bay.

None of us – in this courtroom, this county, this nation, this small, closely-connected planet – can escape the necessary consequences of what is happening in Brunswick. 

“Sentencing guidelines” cannot help us evade our own moral responsibility. Those guidelines could not have, and do not, contemplate this time of global pandemic – when consigning Martha Hennessy to prison presents a very real risk of being a death sentence. Does that stark parallel to the biblical narrative trouble our consciences? 

Martha Hennessy has accepted – and exercised – her own moral responsibility, trying to protect all of us from mass death. It is WE who have ignored, and abdicated that moral responsibility – still refusing to admit (including to the trusting Brunswick jury (who did ask the question, receiving no real answer) that yes, there DOES reside, in Brunswick, a nuclear arsenal capable of ending all life on earth.

It is only a question of when – not whether – that nuclear arsenal will be used: intentionally, or by accident or mistake, or through cyber-sabotage, or theft.

And when that happens:

The final questions that dying children everywhere – not only here in Brunswick, but all across the planet – will be asking their parents – as they and their parents scream in agony, consumed by raging fire; or withering away from radiation; or inexorably reduced to skeletal remains from global starvation, with nuclear dust clouds blocking the sun’s rays – is “why didn’t somebody stop this, while we still had a chance to stop it?”

And the response – the final agonized whispers of parents dying horrific deaths in Brunswick, Georgia, and all across the globe – the last human sounds before the extinction of all life on this small, fragile, beloved planet – will be: 

“Some people DID try to stop this. But we prosecuted them. 
And we locked them away.”


from National Catholic Reporter

(RNS) — Martha Hennessy, a granddaughter of Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, was sentenced Friday (Nov. 13) to 10 months in prison for breaking into Kings Bay Naval Base in Georgia two years ago to protest its stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Hennessy’s was the lightest sentence given for the break-in at the Navy base 40 miles south of Brunswick, Georgia, on April 4, 2018, in which Hennessy, 65, was joined by six other Catholic pacifists. Together they are known as the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, named after the Plowshares anti-war movement founded 40 years ago by Daniel and Philip Berrigan, both Jesuit priests, and six others.

On Thursday, Carmen Trotta, of St. Joseph Catholic Worker in New York City, was sentenced to 14 months in prison, while Clare Grady of the Ithaca Catholic Worker was sentenced to 12 months. Both have spent their lives at Catholic Worker houses in New York state, which house and feed the needy. All were also sentenced to probation and will be required to repay the Navy base a total of $33,500 in damages.

The Plowshares 7 were convicted last year of destruction of property on a naval installation, depredation of government property, trespass and conspiracy. During the break-in, the group cut a padlock, and later a security fence, at the naval base. They spilled blood on a Navy wall insignia, spray-painted anti-war slogans on a walkway and banged on a monument to nuclear warfare.

“We can’t allow those kinds of things to happen without recourse,” said U.S. Circuit Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood on Friday. “Taking those actions at those times in that area was dangerous not just to Ms. Hennessy but to the others there.”Four witnesses, including a Catholic nun and a lawyer for the Catholic peace movement Pax Christi, testified to Hennessy’s character during the more than three-hour sentencing hearing, which was conducted online because of the coronavirus pandemic. They spoke of her humble service preparing food, serving it and attending to the needs of the homeless and other visitors at Maryhouse, the Catholic Worker hospitality center in New York City’s Bowery neighborhood, where Day lived and died.

Hennessy is the only one of Day’s nine grandchildren to dedicate herself to what Catholics call “works of mercy,” practices considered of special merit in Christian ethics. She acknowledged she drifted away from the church as a young person but returned about 10 years ago and has since made the eradication of nuclear weapons her cause.

Mary T. Yelenick, the Pax Christi lawyer, argued at the sentencing that laws evolve, and practices once considered legal, such as slavery, are now viewed as immoral and repugnant. Nuclear weapons, she said, should also be added to the list.

“None of us, in this courtroom, in this county, in this nation or on this small closely connected planet, can escape the necessary consequences of what is happening in Brunswick (Georgia),” Yelenick said. “Sentencing guidelines cannot help us escape our own moral responsibility.”

Hennessy — in a statement right before her sentencing — said she regarded the action as a religious exercise, likening it to Jesus’ action of overturning the money-changing tables at the entrance to the Jerusalem Temple, as described in the New Testament gospels.

“I had no criminal intent,” she said. “I wanted to prevent a nuclear holocaust.”

Only one other of the seven Plowshares — Mark Colville, a Catholic Worker from New Haven, Connecticut — remains to be sentenced.


From Killing the Buddha

“There is light and there is love in this world”: An Interview with Martha Hennessy