Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch sentenced to time served for Y-12 action

Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch at Y-12, July 5, 2010. photo by jpKERNODLE

Y12 RESISTERS SENTENCING REPORT • Day 6, Part 1, Mary Dennis Lentsch

From Ralph Hutchison, OREPA

Mary Dennis Lentsch appeared this morning before judge Bruce Guyton in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee to be sentenced for her nonviolent civil resistance at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in July of 2010. The courtroom was full of supporters as Mary Dennis was brought in in shackles; she has been in custody since mid-June in Ocilla, Georgia.

The Assistant District Attorney, Melissa Kirby, set the tone, telling the judge that Mary Dennis was “a little different” from the others who have been sentenced over the past ten days. “Her offenses are almost exclusively at this facility, at Y12,” she said; she’s had seven convictions at Y12, including a prior federal arrest in 2002. At that time she was sentenced to two months in a halfway house [served instead in federal prison] and one year of supervised release. It did not appear to serve a deterrent effect as she continues to go to Y12 to commit these offenses.”

Mary Dennis’ attorney, John Eldridge reminded the judge he had heard Mary Dennis testify as to her actins and her motivations. “No one can possibly question her sincerity,” he said. “We ask for a sentence of time served.”

Then Mary Dennis spoke. Despite the federal marshals efforts to constrain her to face only the judge, she turned to the court, “I bow to the sacred in everyone,” she said. “I bow to the sacred in the plants and animals. I bow to the sacred in all creation.”

“In order to protect all the sacred gifts of creation, I feel called to do whatever is necessary to abolish nuclear weapons. My years of nonviolent resistance and acts of conscience have their roots in my Christian baptismal promise to renounce and resist evil, and in the public witness of my religious vows as a Catholic sister.

“My heartfelt conviction for resisting nuclear weapons is reinforced by a passage from the Bible. In the Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 30 verse 19 we read: ‘…I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life that you and future generations may live.’

“It is a known fact that nuclear weapons are instruments of death and massive destruction. The explosion of a nuclear bomb gives off immense quantities of heat and energy, as well as powerful and prolonged radiation that cannot be contained in time and space. This violence of nuclear weapons has the potential to destroy all that is sacred—all living beings, as well as our ecosystems, and our planet.”

Mary Dennis noted that she was unable to present evidence in her trial—that the sign she carried which spoke of international law and the US Constitution was not provided in discovery, though other defendants’ signs were. “It was my hope and expectation that the judge and jury would weigh in the balance of justice the gravity of the United States violating international law and the Constitution of the United States, with my puny action of calling attention to these violations regarding the continued nuclear bomb production at Y-12,” she said.

Invoking the founder of the Presentation Sisters, Nano Nagle, and Jesus, and “many prophetic witnesses before me,” Mary Dennis said she accepted “the consequential suffering of my decision to follow my conscience.”

After thanking the people who had gathered in support of her, she said, “It is my prayerful hope that the nonviolent energy of each person in this room, and all people around the world, could one day soon, insure the sacred gift of life and existence for all in a nuclear-free future. We must abolish nuclear weapons!”

The first glimmer of hope came as the judge began his pre-sentencing litany, reviewing Mary Dennis’s history he said, “The defendant has had several prior arrests,” minimizing her record. Minutes later he handed down the sentence—time served, with no probation or supervised release and no fine.

Beth Rosdatter is scheduled for sentencing this afternoon.