Anti-nuclear activist Bonnie Urfer sentenced to 8 months for misdemeanor trespass at Y-12

Bonnie Urfer handcuffed at Y-12, July 5, 2010

Nukewatch press release

September 14, 2011

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee – Bonnie Urfer, 59, of Luck, Wisconsin, a long-time staff member of the nonprofit nuclear watchdog group Nukewatch, was sentenced by the federal court here today to a total of eight months incarceration. Urfer has been in jail since May 11 and will now serve another four months.

Presiding Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton had Urfer incarcerated May 11, 2011, immediately following a jury trial involving 12 activists, all of whom were convicted of trespass for a sit-down protest that took place July 5, 2010 at the Y12 nuclear weapons complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

The government prosecutor made no recommendation as to the sentence at today’s 1:00 p.m. (ET) hearing, beyond noting that Ms Urfer has already served four months incarceration. Earlier in the weei, two co-defendants, Bill Bichsel, 83, of Tacoma Washington, and Jean Gump, 84, of Bloomington, Mich., were sentenced Monday to three months, and “time served,” respectively.

Magistrate Guyton noted that the federal probation department had earlier recommended that a sentence of between two and eight months. Guyton also referred to a list of what he said were of Urfer’s 50 prior convictions and that “The only way to prevent her more-or-less routine is to separate her from the community.” Guyton neglected to mention that all of Urfer’s prior arrests for nonviolent protests against nuclear power or weapons.

In a statement to the court before the judge ruled, Urfer described the production of nuclear weapons as a crime, and described many of the rights violations to which she was an eye witness in the Blount County jail, in Tenn., and in the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia — a private institution that takes federal prisoners on a contract basis –where she and six co-defendants have been held for the last three months.

“If I am returned to jail I will continue to expose crimes there, and if I am released I continue to expose the crime of nuclear weapons.”



Report from Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

Y12 Resister Sentencing • Day 2, Bonnie Urfer

After denouncing Bonnie Urfer as a "prolific criminal," Magistrate
Judge Bruce Guyton handed down the maximum sentence allowed under
federal sentencing guidelines—eight months in prison—in federal court
in Knoxville, Tennessee. Urfer's crime was a Class A Misdemeanor
Trespass—she crossed on to the property of the Y12 Nuclear Weapons
Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in July 2010 to protest the
continuing production of thermonuclear weapons of mass destruction at

Unlike the sentencing hearings of Bill Bichsel and Jean Gump on
Monday, the prosecutor made no recommendation to the judge,
apparently content to let Bonnie's time served stand as a sentence;
the sentencing guidelines derived from Bonnie's "criminal" history
established a sentencing range of 2-8 months.

The only moment of levity in the proceedings came when Bonnie rose
for her elocution. "Raise your right hand," the court officer said,
preparing to swear Bonnie in. Bonnie failed to comply, her hands
shackled to the chain around her waist.

Bonnie eloquently spoke about the conditions she found in prison,
telling the judge, "We need people in jail to tell the truth," and
cited conditions of refusal to provide medical care, the exorbitant
expenses for phone calls and commissary, and the unhealthy diet
provided inmates. "Do I protest the crimes taking place in the jail,"
she asked, "or the crimes outside the jail?"

She told the judge she disagreed with his ruling during the trial
that nuclear weapons pose no imminent harm. "I have met people in
jail who have lost family members and suffered illness due to the
work they did at Y12. The government will pay them $150,000 for a
life, if they can prove their sickness came from Y12. How many deaths
will it take to convince the court that harm is imminent? How many
deaths will it take for the court to name it a crime? For me, it
takes one."

Bonnie ended her elocution with a promise. "If I'm returned to jail,
I will work to expose more crimes," she said. "If I'm set free, I'll
work to expose more crimes. It's your decision."

After Bonnie's lawyer filed the latest copy of the petition calling
for the release of the Y12 Resisters, now with 870 signatures, the
judge handed down the sentence. "The court finds you are a prolific
criminal," he said, noting her more than 50 convictions for trespass
on federal property and other arrests of unknown disposition. "You
are not deterred by sentences, and you have regularly informed courts
that you will not comply with terms of supervised release and your
actions have validated that promise. You most likely will not stop.
So the only way to insure you will not continue this behavior that
has become your routine, if you will, is to separate you from the
community." He then sentenced Bonnie to eight months, with credit for
time served (4 months and 3 days), no probation, and no fine. The
sentence was to serve as an adequate deterrence and a just
punishment, Guyton said.