'Plowshares Vs Depleted Uranium' Activists Tried, Sentenced
Editor's note: we will be publishing news of this trial in our next edition of the Nuclear Resister. These notes are an ad-hoc update to issue #118.
The following excerpts are from the Mar 24 2000 Philadelphia Enquirer:
On Mar 23 2000 Judge James T. Smith of Baltimore County Circuit Court sentenced Elizabeth Walz, 33, of Philadelphia, to 15 more months in the county detention center, where she has resided since her arrest Dec. 19.
Minutes before the sentencing, the state prosecutor had told the judge that state sentencing guidelines for the charges against Walz, who has no record, call for probation or one month in jail.
State's Attorney Mickey Norman, who prosecuted the case, had recommended sentences ranging from three months to one year for the other 3 defendants.
But Smith sentenced Philip Berrigan, 77, of Baltimore, to 30 months in state prison and Susan Crane, 56, also of Baltimore, and the Rev. Steven Kelly, 50, of New York, to 27 months, less the three months already served in jail awaiting trial.
All had been charged with malicious destruction of property and conspiracy for cutting a fence at the Air National Guard Base in Essex, Md., on Dec. 19, and afterward pouring blood, hanging a rosary and a banner, and hammering on two A-10 Warthog bombers.
The mounting tension in the courtroom came to a head Wednesday when Smith refused to allow the defense to present witnesses to testify about the hazards of the use of depleted uranium.
Crane then read a statement asserting: "We cannot put on a defense about the dangers of depleted uranium.. . ." The judge ordered her to stop, but she continued reading: "We will not participate in what amounts to a legal gag order."
Berrigan, Walz, Crane and Father Kelly then turned their backs on the judge. Father Kelly began reading a passage about justice from the Book of Jeremiah....
And here is a response from Elizabeth McAlister, Mar 28 2000:
We heard today from all 4 of the plowshares vs depleted uranium. Liz called from Towson early to say that Susan was moved out at about 6:00 a.m. Then Susan called from Jessup to announce arrival and address. This afternoon Phil called from downtown Baltimore to say that he and Steve were in the Diagnostic Center...
[Editor's note: see Inside and Out for updated addresses.]
Sr. Rosalie Bertell shared with us the letter she wrote to Judge Smith. I append it here; you may want to write in similar or different fashion; I don't put much store by his willingness to change his mind but there is value in letting him know that people know about what he did and are outraged. As the spirit moves you...
27 March 2000
Judge James T. Smith, Jr.
Circuit Court for Baltimore County
400 Bosley Ave.
Towson MD 21204, USA
Re: Ploughshares vs Depleted Uranium
Dear Judge Smith,
You must be somewhat disturbed over the trial of Philip Berrigan, Susan Crane, Stephen Kelly, SJ, and Elizabeth Walz. Your sentencing was so excessively vindictive that I would guess that the action of these men and women deeply challenged your "faith" and belief that Catholic doctrine supported US military activity, regardless of the judgement of the Church's more prophetic members.
By eliminating expert witnesses in this case, you eliminated my testimony. I am a Grey Nun of the Sacred Heart (Motherhouse in Yardley Pennsylvania), and also President of the North American Association of Contemplative Sisters. I am also an Epidemiologist with 30 years experience with communities exposed to uranium mining and milling, and related polluting activities. I have been working for the last three years with the veterans of the Gulf War who are seriously ill. It was in recognition of my expertise in the health effects of radiation, especially from uranium compounds, that I was asked by the defendants to testify to the rationality of their actions.
In your better moments, you must find that shooting radioactive waste at one's enemy is outrageous behaviour. How much more outrageous is it to undermine the health of one's own military personnel, and the women and children of the land which you have polluted. There is no war theory which condones indiscriminate poison. By the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations, depleted uranium can be handled only by licensed and trained personnel, and all releases to the environment must be cleaned up. It is legally recognized as a poison.
I hope that even though you expressed your moral distress and confusion in an inappropriate way in the court, you will on sober reflection realize that your silencing of the defendants did not make the depleted uranium problem go away. As a Catholic Judge, you should be prepared to hear unwanted truth, and respect the righteous actions of those who clearly see and denounce a wrong. I will pray that you find a way quickly to redress the wrong which you have done and reduce the sentences of the Ploughshares defendants. Silencing the messengers and prophets has long been the pattern of behaviour of false leaders. Do not continue on this wrong path.
Dr. Rosalie Bertell