Seven members and friends of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker community have been sentenced to 45 days in jail as a result of a plea agreement negotiated on behalf of others arrested at the same time. Civil disobedience actions occurred at the downtown federal building in Los Angeles periodically as the invasion of Iraq loomed. The Catholic Workers usually would risk federal arrest while the local Pledge of Resistance and others engaged local courts by acting on city property or blocking the street nearby.

On Ash Wednesday, the Catholic Workers instead joined Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace for an anti-war blockade of the intersection of Temple and Los Angeles Streets. Eighteen were arrested, and in late April a plea agreement reduced the charge and suspended a $50 fine for most of the group. The seven were not offered the reduced charge, apparently because city prosecutors knew they had recently been arrested on federal property, as well. Instead, they were offered a choice of one year probation plus 100 hours community service, or 45 days in jail. When engaged in nonviolent direct action, the community generally does not want nor accept probation. Consequently, Jeff Dietrich, David Gardner, Catherine Morris, Jim and Joyce Parkhurst, Fr. Chris Ponnet, and Martha Scarborough changed their pleas to guilty and were sentenced to 45 days in jail.

Dietrich was already in jail following his federal trespass arrest on March 12 at the downtown federal building. He will be sentenced on April 30 for the federal arrests, and the courts have already agreed that his state time and any federal time will be served concurrently.

David Gardner, Jim Parkhurst, and Fr. Ponnet turned themselves in April 23. Fr. Chris Ponnet was released a few days later to house arrest at his parish. Catherine Morris, Joyce Parkhurst and Martha Scarborough go to jail on May 1.

Letters of support should be addressed individually to David Gardner #66-7967 and Jim Parkhurst #766-7966, at POB 86164, Terminal Annex, Los Angeles, CA 90086-0164; and to Robert Jefferson Dietrich #81196-012, MDC-LA, POB 1500, Los Angeles, CA 90053-1500. Mail must include the prisoner's ID number in the address. Letters for Catherine Morris, Joyce Parkhurst and Martha Scarborough, and also Fr. Chris Ponnet, should be sent c/o the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, 632 N. Britannia St., Los Angeles, CA 90033. Mail will be forwarded to the women in jail, and Fr. Ponnet at his parish.

The Nuclear Resister
April 2003