Time served for Gump; 3 months for Bichsel

Jean Gump over the line at Y-12, July 5, 2010. Photo by Felice Cohen-Joppa

Y12 Resisters’ Sentencing Begins

report from the website of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance – http://orepa.org/first-report-on-sentencing-of-y12-resisters/

MONDAY morning, September 12, 2011 • Jean Gump

Jean Gump was the first of the July 2010 Y12 Resisters to be sentenced in federal court in Knoxville.  Jean was not present, but was represented by Francis Lloyd. After hearing from the prosecution, which requested a four month prison term to be followed by five years supervised probation, judge Bruce Guyton sentenced Jean to time served and ordered to pay a fine of $500 (along with a “special fee” of $25).

The prosecution sought to twist Jean’s absence into some kind of defiance of the court: “She shows her remorse and lack of contrition by her absence,” and asserted that her actions at Y12 put the safety of many people at risk as well as threatened our national security. The prosecutor berated Jean for traveling to Europe while awaiting trial but then being unable to attend court for her sentencing. Finally, she derided Jean’s “presumptuous” attempt to “create her own sentence,” by going to jail for a month. The government asked the judge to sentence Jean to four months in prison and five years’ supervised release.

Francis Lloyd was masterful in refuting the ludicrous assertions of the prosecution—including that Jean should be held accountable for the actions of supporters, among whom were stilt-walking clowns in the courtyard of the courthouse complex. At that one, even the judge rolled his eyes, saying, “I don’t recall Ms. Gump being disruptive during the proceedings. In fact, I don’t believe she even testified.” Francis, after calling for calm to prevail in the courtroom, noted that Jean was never charged, tried or found guilty of placing anyone at risk or of threatening the security of the nation. “She was charged with a Class A misdemeanor for trespass,” he said, “and that’s all she should be sentenced for.”

Lloyd pointed out that if the court agreed with the government that Jean’s sentence should be made harsher because she sought and gained the court’s permission to be absent (a fairly common occurrence for a Class A Misdemeanor), no defendant could ever invoke that rule without fear. He also noted that, although Jean did seek permission to visit her daughter in Prague after she received a free plane ticket, she never made the trip. Oops! A little prosecutorial blunder there… Francis also pointed out that, rather than create her own sentence, Jean turned herself over to the authority of the court, went where the court instructed and complied with all obligations imposed on her, not to “a room at the Hilton.”

Francis called on the judge to set aside the hysteria of the prosecutor, take into account the nonviolent, nondestructive, cooperative nature of the action Jean took, and disregard the prosecution’s assertion that Jean was “part and parcel” of the rabble outside the courtroom. “Why, her picture was among those on the flyer they were handing out,” the prosecutor said, “and she may have been among those who sang in the courtroom when one of the defendants was brought in each morning.” Francis said, “Your honor, if my client committed any contumacious conduct, the government has the option of prosecuting her for it. Absent that, the government relies on completely unproved conduct by whatever parties…”

When the prosecution launched into it again the judge interrupted: “We’ve established she was a defendant in the case.” And then he handed down the sentence.

The judge declined to place Jean on probation, noted that she had served nearly a month in jail, and gave her time served. (Jean entered custody following the trial by refusing the comply with the terms of her supervised release; after a month in custody, she signed bond papers and was released on recognizance.)

Jean’s Pre-Sentencing Report rated her at 0-6 months; she had no points, and her last prior arrest was 1986, so she was rather uniquely situated among the eleven defendants awaiting sentencing. PSR recommendations for other defendants have varied widely, with some reporting a range of 1-7 months and others 6-12 or 2-8. There appear to be inconsistencies in applying the guidelines for tabulating the points, so we are really looking at a case-by-case situation rather than using one case to predict the future


Fr. Bill Bichsel under arrest at Y-12, Jly 5, 2010. photo by Felice Cohen-Joppa

Father Bill Bichsel (Bix) was sentenced to three months in prison by federal magistrate judge Bruce Guyton in East Tennessee District Court in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (He will return to Tacoma and self-report when told). No fine was assessed, and no probation. While Bix had more points and recent arrests than Jean Gump, the prosecution once again asked for 4 months in prison and 5 years probation. Bix’s presentencing investigation recommended a 1-7 month sentence. The court believes Bix will be on supervised release from his Kitsap conviction when his prison sentence for the Y12 action is served. The prosecution made no mention of remorse or apology from Bix.

The prosecution started with a rather whiny complaint that Mike Whalen’s motion had drawn a parallel between the US and brutal Arab governments; Whalen pointed out that what he really said was in light of the US approval of the popular uprisings against brutal governments in the Arab spring, it seem the greatest democracy on the earth could tolerate nonviolent dissent from the likes of Bix.

Mike Whalen did an excellent job representing Bix, and Bix made a pitch perfect statement to the court (see below). Mike also presented the petition signed by more than 670 people to the judge. Mike reference the new, $7.5 bomb plant proposed for Oak Ridge and said the effort of Bix and his fellow defendants to draw attention to it was an appropriate motivation. “Bix stands by his convictions,” Mike said, not apparently intending a pun, “and the court should let him go back to his work rather than jail.”

Then Bix made his statement:

“Judge, I come here with grave misgivings about the way we as a nation are headed. He thanked Erik and Libby Johnson for their hospitality and praised the OREPA community and talked about the sermon he heard John Gill preach at Church of the Savior on Sunday. “He spoke about September 11,” Bix said, “and about the power of intention. An intention to destroy or damage can reverberate throughout the country in a devastating way. So we have to think, personally and nationally, about where we are going.”

Bix spoke of Martin Luther King, Jr. “We are called to justice, judge,” he said. “All of us. You are, judge, we all are.” He said that he approached the court with MLK’s hope of a moral universe bending toward justice. “It’s important to live intentionally,” Bix said, with commitment, “throughout life, apologizing if necessary. It makes a difference in this life what we do.” He then delivered a lengthy quote from King’s Nobel acceptance speech: “I have an abiding faith in America,” King said, “and an audacious faith in the future of humankind. I refuse to accept…” and he read on and on until he reached the climax. “Unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

“When we threaten other nations with nuclear weapons,” Bix said, “We can hardly say we are bent on peace, sisterhood and brotherhood. Nagasaki and Hiroshima have shown us the terrible destructive power of these bombs. We can do something as a nation instead of using our power to show Afghans around, we can share with one another, enter into a dialogue.

“Myself, in this court of justice, I want today to recommit myself to justice, to nonviolence, to the love of Jesus, to work with others of different beliefs. I want to commit myself in conjunction with Jackie Hudson, my co-defendant who died a short while ago, she is also a very moving spirit. I do so in the presence of Sue Ablao.

“I recommit myself in the spirit of Gandhi, of Martin Luther King, Jr, of Oscar Romero. I stand hoping to have the strength to carry out this commitment, even to death, in this courtroom of justice.”

The next defendant scheduled to to be sentenced is Bonnie Urfer; she is currently in Knox county jail and will appear before judge Guyton on Wednesday, September 14.