Kings Bay Plowshares Found Guilty on All Charges – A summary of the trial

The Kings Bay Plowshares receive a blessing at the Festival of Hope on the eve of their trial


Late in the afternoon of October 24, the seven members of the Kings Bay Plowshares – Martha Hennessy, Clare Grady, Elizabeth McAlister, Patrick O’Neill, Carmen Trotta, Mark Colville and Fr. Steve Kelly – were convicted by a jury in federal court in Brunswick, Georgia. The 12 person jury deliberated for less than two hours before finding the nuclear disarmament activists guilty of conspiracy, destruction of property on a Naval Station, depredation of government property and trespass. Defendants and supporters all left the courthouse singing “Rejoice in the Lord always”…. except for Fr. Steve Kelly, SJ, who was returned to the Glynn County Detention Center, where he has spent the last 18 months. Sentencing will be scheduled after pre-sentencing reports are completed.

Ralph Hutchison prepared the following summary of the four-day trial from his contemporaneous notes (followed by links to articles about the trial, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

The Trial of the Kings Bay Plowshares
by Ralph Hutchison

Six of the Kings Bay Plowshares entering the courthouse on the first day of their trial


Jury selection began at 9:00 AM with nearly eighty prospective jurors filling the courtroom. Supporters and even the press had been excluded, and made to observe the proceedings from metal folding chairs in a small overflow room, watching on a 32” screen. Despite a few signal interruptions, we were able to follow most of the proceedings. Federal Judge Lisa Godbey Wood informed the jurors of the four charges—conspiracy, vandalism, depredation of government property in excess of $1,000, and trespass—introduced them to all the courtroom personnel, reviewed all the lawyers and named all their partners and colleagues before she asked, “Are you related to or do you know any of these people?” For those who answered yes, the follow-up was, “Can you still be fair to both sides?” At times, a prospective juror strained for honesty and said, “I think so,” to which the judge quickly replied, “On your oath as a juror, can you be fair and impartial?” Invariably, they decided they could.

At one point, she asked jurors to identify themselves if they “already have decided they are guilty.” Nine jurors raised their hands. A few questions later, the Judge asked, “How many of you have read or heard or seen something about this case?” Twenty-three jurors raised their hands, including seven of the nine who are already decided the defendants are guilty. Which means, if you do the math, that two prospective jurors who had never heard anything about the case had already decided the seven were guilty.

By morning break at 11:10 AM, the judge had finished the opening round of voir dire—it’s French, she said, for “speak truth”— and was ready to move into a private round of sidebar discussion with individual prospects who had identified potential conflicts and the lawyers for both sides, including the five pro se defendants (representing themselves) in the proceedings.

Just after 1:00 PM, the judge concluded the sidebars. A number of jurors had been dismissed, apparently “for cause,” meaning they had a conflict that the lawyers or judge found untenable. “We’ll come back from lunch and finish,” said the judge. “We’ve done the lion’s share, but we have a little more to do.”

At 2:15 the clerk began calling out numbers chosen at random from the remaining prospects. Thirty-two names were called. One by one the judge ran through a list of questions—where do you live, where do you work, where does your spouse work, do you have children, where do they work, have you ever served in the military, have you every served on a jury, without telling me what the verdict was, were you able to reach a verdict, and what is your level of education?

Prospects who had not been called were dismissed. After a brief recess at 3:15, a handful of press slipped back into now-empty benches at the rear of the courtroom, but other press and all supporters were still prevented from entering the courtroom.

Lawyers and defendants passed slips of paper back and forth across the aisle, further winnowing down the jury pool by exercising their preemptory challenges; half an hour later the judge called fourteen numbers (twelve jurors and two alternates; ten women and four men) and declared, “We have a jury.”

The 18 remaining prospects were also released, and Judge Wood moved immediately to administer their oath and gave preliminary instructions. At 3:40 PM, she turned to the prosecutor and said, “We are ready for brief opening statements.”

Except for the defendants, the lawyers, the jury and court employees, the imposing wood-paneled courtroom was nearly empty when the trial began. No opportunity was given for excluded press and supporters to enter the chamber. Reporters and family members protesting their exclusion from opening statements were briefly even forbidden by U.S. Marshals from leaving the overflow room, but their protest had no effect.

The prosecutor was understated and matter-of-fact as he reviewed the evidence that would be presented and the people who would be presenting it. He described in detail how the seven cut a lock and entered the military base, how Steve Kelly, Liz McAlister and Carmen Trotta went into the high security Limited Zone, cutting concertina wire, undeterred by announcements threatening the use of deadly force and held up banners until they were detained by base personnel and then the police.

He explained that the other four, carrying angle grinders, pry bars, banners, paint and blood, split up again, with Martha Hennessy and Clare Grady going to the Engineering Services building, while Patrick O’Neill and Mark Colville made their way to the display of life-size nuclear missiles erected inside the base.

There the men pried letters off the sign, poured blood, hammered on the missiles replicas, and committed “various acts of destruction” until they were detained by authorities. He noted that the defendants wore GoPro cameras as they went onto the base. “We’ll show you the video,” he promised.

“Conspiracy,” he told the jurors, “is an agreement. It’s not a written contract—that would be a legal document. It’s an illegal act.” He concluded by telling the jury that their duty is to hear the evidence, listen to the judge’s instructions, retired and deliberate. “The facts are no more complicated than what I just described,” he told them. “We’ll ask you to return a verdict of guilty”

Bill Quigley rose to speak for the defense. “If I were in your seat,” he said, “I would have three questions. One—who are these people? Two—what did they do? And three—why did they do it?

“The prosecutor has done a good job of providing you a roadmap of their activities. I want to tell you a little about who these people are,” Quigley said, and he proceeded to review the lives and work of the defendants, beginning with Liz McAlister, his client. Her three children are here, he said, and her six grandchildren. He spoke of her relationship with her late husband Philip Berrigan, the founding of Jonah House, her commitment to the poor and homeless, her determination to do what she could to see that nuclear weapons money was spent not on bombs but to meet the needs of the poor.

“You can’t understand why she came to Kings Bay without understanding her Catholic faith. She came because of her faith, and because of the ten commandments. She engaged in an act of symbolic disarmament,” he told the jury. “She understood she might be arrested. She is not denying she did the actions; she is denying that what she did constitutes a crime. She has already spend 18 months in jail…”

The judge interrupted to admonish Quigley against straying into talk about punishment (which he clearly had not, yet). He resumed: “She prays for peace many times a day. Her faith teaches her ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ She doesn’t want to go to jail; she would rather spend her time with her kids and grandkids. But she wants even more for them to be able to grow up in a world without nuclear weapons.”

Saying he would give a snapshot of the others, Quigley noted they are all devout Christians in the Catholic tradition. Their work is helping the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the hungry. And sometimes they are working for peace.

“They take the Bible very, very seriously,” he said. “That’s why they took small hammers, because [quoting Isaiah 2:4] the Bible talks about swords into plowshares, and studying war no more.” The prosecution rose to object to the Bible quote, and the Judge, without actually ruling on the objection, told Quigley to “remember the focus of the trial. Go on.”

Bill reviewed Steve Kelly’s career briefly, followed by Martha Hennessy, Patrick O’Neill, Clare Grady, Mark Colville, and Carmen Trotta.

“What did they do?” Quigley asked. “You’ll see the videotape. You’ll see what they did, you’ll hear why they did it. They believe nuclear weapons are immoral. They chose Kings Bay because of the presence of nuclear weapons. They came on a day they chose on purpose—the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination. They prayed on the base. No one was hurt or threatened. The spokesman for the base said that the next morning. It was an act of conscience. They read a statement, that the nuclear weapons on the base have the power of 3,600 Hiroshimas. They had small hammers and big banners; they were seen by base personnel before they were arrested. They spilled blood and painted on the missile shrine as a symbolic act of disarmament.

“Why? Thou shalt not kill. Their faith. Their love of their children and grandchildren. They are looking forward to their chance to talk to you about that. They are not perfect, none of the them. But they are motivated by their faith, by charity, and by hope. That you will hear.

“The government will ask you to convict them,” Quigley said in closing. “The defendants will ask you to do justice.”

The judge told the jury that defendant Clare Grady would give her opening statement now, while the remaining defendants had reserved their time until after the prosecution makes its case . Clare spoke of her upbringing in a big Catholic family, with a lot of joy, music, dance, and love. She spoke of her family members who feed the hungry, are police officers, work in health care and hospitality; of her many years serving in a community kitchen, of her Catholic Worker background and the admonition in Matthew’s gospel to feed the hungry, and of caring for her elderly mother. My greatest joy is my kids, she told the jury, and to feel the earth, being in the natural world .

The prosecution objected, and the judge reminded Grady that the purpose of an opening statement is to refer to the evidence. Clare nonetheless continued, and spoke of her community gardening and the work of justice. “Not about hurting, about healing,” she said, referencing Cornel West. The judge interrupted without waiting for an objection, “This is a preview of the evidence,” she said to Grady.

Clare turned to speak of the responsibility to do justice, telling the jury “only you can render a verdict. The most important virtue you bring to this is being human. Our actions were not criminal,” she said. “We’re saying we were there and we did this. It was a nonviolent, symbolic act of disarmament. The evidence will show that we acted to uphold the law.”

She then spoke of her deep love for God and creation. “We brought a banner decrying nuclear weapons as immoral and illegal. We took full responsibility and are here for this trial, not because we are guilty, but because it was necessary. Trident is the most deadly weapon on the planet. We came her to defend and protect God’s creation, not to destroy—these weapons can destroy all creation. The highest law is to love one another,” she said.

“As it is written in Isaiah…” The prosecutor objected. The judge sustained. Clare thanked the jury and sat down.

It was 4:50 PM. The judge admonished the jury not to speak about the case to anyone, then released them until the next morning. She then turned to the defendants and said, “I have to deliver a bit of a cautionary note. I have issued rulings,” she said, referring to pretrial motions she had granted that severely restrict what defenses can be made and what words may be spoken by the defense or their attorneys.

“If you can’t follow them, we will have to make alternative arrangements for your participation in the trial. The purpose of a criminal trial is not to convert someone to your belief, but for them to hear the evidence so they can decide. I gave a lot of leeway this afternoon,” she said. “Now I am telling you to be careful to follow the orders of the court.”

With that, and after a brief discussion to resolve sound problems for those in court using headphones, court adjourned.


“Welcome back,” said Judge Wood to the jury and the packed courtroom as we sat down. And in the same breath she said, “Mr. Knoche, please call your first witness.”

The prosecutor’s job, technically, was not that challenging. The defendants had already told the jury they had committed the acts of which they were accused. All that was left was to determine what kind of crime, if any, was committed by seven peace activists who performed a nonviolent, symbolic, religious action in pursuit of nuclear disarmament.

As the day wore on and the testimony of witnesses unfolded, it became clear that much of the day would be about respect. The prosecution was not content with proving its case; it also wanted to cast the defendants in a most disrespectful light.

To that end, the plowshares activists were painted as vandals; the scripture verses they painted on walls, sidewalks and missiles were described as graffiti; the tape they strung at weapons related sites read “crime scene” but was consistently called “caution tape.”

A parade of law enforcement and security personnel from two branches of the military and one civilian police officer, along with Special Agent Kenney of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, each came to the stand to tell their part of the story. Their testimony was accompanied by photos and eventually, more than an hour of video shot by the defendants during their action and used as evidence against them.

U.S. Navy Master-at-Arms Aaron Perry described getting a call and responding to the Limited Area—a high security area where nuclear weapons are believed to be stored. When he arrived, he discovered Steve Kelly, Liz McAlister and Carmen Trotta between the final two security fences, on a gravel strip called the “rabbit run”, holding a banner. Although he testified that the first word his partner MA3 Wallace said upon reaching the fence was “Freeze!”, the video showed, and later testimony confirmed, that his first words were “Would you please turn off the video?”

Under cross examination, MA3 Perry confirmed Liz, Carmen and Steve had never acted in a threatening manner, that they were compliant, cooperating with all orders. He testified that he called the Marines who would arrest the three, and that neither he nor his partner used weapon to control the peacemakers. He also confirmed that none of them, at any time, acted in a malicious manner.

When Steve Kelly asked MA3 Perry if there were valuable assets in the highly restricted area, the answer, which we were to hear several times during the day, was, “I can neither confirm nor deny.”

Carmen Trotta, after thanking Mr. Perry for his professional behavior, elicited the fact that the two parties stood facing each other, separated by a chain link fence, for eight minutes before the Marines arrived. The young sailor, whose memory had provided many details of the events of the evening, was however unable to recall a single snippet of the conversation that took place between himself and the defendants during those eight minutes.

Perry was followed on the stand by one of those Marines, Darryl Townsend, wearing his green woolen uniform with a red sergeant’s patch on the sleeve. He testified that he had just fallen asleep on April 5, 2018 when the alert sounded, and he rolled out of bed, got his team together and jumped in their vehicles, sure that they were participating in a drill. “Definitely,” he said. “I didn’t think there was anyone out there.”

He explained the caution with which he approached the scene, his encounter with the protesters, and identified photos of equipment they had used to cut their way in. When he was asked to identify the three, they each stood up, offering themselves. He pointed out Steve Kelly and Carmen Trotta and, to Liz McAlister, said, “Thank you,” as she stood.

Under cross-examination, he was asked if the three had been compliant. “I agree wholeheartedly,” he answered, and went on to confirm they were peaceful and compliant. He said he didn’t remember getting information from the Navy personnel, but he did remember, he said, “That it was the anniversary of MLK’s assassination, and that they said they were Roman Catholic.” He denied there was any evidence of malice or malicious behavior.

Carmen Trotta was emotional as he thanked Mr. Townsend for his treatment of them that night. Steve Kelly sought to elicit information about the reason for the high security, and what the Limited Area might contain. “I can’t confirm or deny,” answered Townsend. The prosecution tried to cut off the question with an objection, but the judge noted, “He has already answered.”

Officer Lee Carter of the Kings Bay base police was the next witness. He was the first police officer on the scene at the missile shrine and the Engineering Services building where Patrick O’Neill, Mark Colville, Clare Grady and Martha Hennessey had undertaken their parts of the action.

Under direct examination, Carter described the area and the jury was shown photos of the missile shrine: a circle of missile replicas and flags, including a D-5 Trident missile and a mock Tomahawk cruise missile perched on a platform for display. The prosecutor noted the words “Abolish nukes now” painted on the base that held the largest missile on display. “Is that a regular part of the display?” he asked.

“No,” came the answer.

He pointed to the banner taped to the side of the missile—“Is the banner usual?”

“No, sir.”

He noted tailfins of the Tomahawk missile were stripped off, lying on the ground. “Were the tailfins defaced?” he asked. Officer Carter replied, “It appears that way.”

Direct examination concluded with his identification of the four activists, who also stood to make his job easier.

Under cross-examination, Carter’s clear memory got a little sketchier, especially when it came to recalling the religious nature of their protest. “They were chanting their motto or their mantra or something,” he said. Did they tell you they were Catholic? I believe they told me. I’m a Baptist, he said, as though it explained everything.

When asked about whether he felt threatened, he acknowledged that after he spoke with them, he left them and went to his vehicle to get handcuffs. Patrick O’Neill asked Carter if he remembered what they said when he arrived. He said he did not, so Patrick reminded him that he’d said, “We’re nonviolent, we come in peace!” He did not recall.

“Do you remember what you said to us when you first approached?”


“You said, ‘I suppose you folks realize you are in a bit of trouble.’” The courtroom erupted in laughter.

Officer Carter replied, “That sounds like something I’d say.”

Patrick said, “Our first encounter, there in the dark, you made me laugh.”

The judge broke in, “Is there a question in there?” After a few more questions, Patrick asked, “Has this changed your life in any way?” and the judge sputtered, “Don’t answer that!”

At 10:40 AM, we took the morning break.

After the break police officer Michael Fisher testified. He described finding the entry point, Gate 18, with a new, non-military lock on the gate and the old lock in the weeds twenty feet away.

The next witness was NCIS Special Agent Kenney who supervised the collection of evidence. The prosecutor led him through introducing this evidence to the jury as Kenney held up hammers and other implements in plastic bags. Then he introduced multiple sections totalling more than an hour of video, shot by the GoPro head-mounted video cameras worn by Carmen Trotta and Patrick O’Neill. While the audio was clear, most of the video was lost to darkness. But we heard the conversation between defendants as they made decisions about where to approach and what to do, and we watched chains getting cut, banners being hung, crime scene tape strung, messages painted, the letters and lights of a giant sign reading STRATEGIC WEAPONS FACILITY ATLANTIC being pried and torn from a brick wall and more. During the action, the videographers and others were careful to deliver a clear message—that nuclear weapons are illegal, idolatrous, and threaten the planet. Banners and painted messages included: The Ultimate Logic of Trident is Omnicide; Resist Idolatry; Love Your Enemies; Disarm…

Screen shots from confiscated cell phones confirmed that the three groups of activists followed each other’s progress via text messaging through a third party as photos documenting the action were sent to the outside world.

Under cross-examination, the defense noted that none of the banners introduced as evidence had been shown to the jury; Special Agent Kenney said they were either tainted with blood or too large. Instead, the jury was treated to a photo of the banner taken to the Limited Area that read NUCLEAR WEAPONS ILLEGAL IMMORAL.

Agent Kenney testified that the protesters harmed no one and showed no intent to harm. He was asked why he described clear messages, like ‘May Love Disarm Us All’, as graffiti; he said he used the word to describe something painted where it wasn’t supposed to be, like on a train or a bridge or something.

Questions seeking to reveal the religious nature of the demonstration were cut off by the judge, who has ruled such evidence out of bounds for the trial. Clare Grady asked why he insisted on describing crime scene tape as “caution tape.”

“Several of the exhibits clearly say ‘Crime Scene Do Not Cross’ but you repeatedly call it caution tape.” He explained it was his training. “But in your training, if you go to a crime scene, do you put up caution tape?” she asked.

No, said Special Agent Kenney, I made a mistake. I apologize.

Special Agent Kenney completed his testimony by 4:52 PM, and the judge called it a day. Court was adjourned until 9:00 AM tomorrow. The prosecution has one more witness to call.


Day three began with an objection raised by Stephanie Amiotte for the defense, which had been presented with a new piece of evidence minutes before the prosecution intended to put its witness on the stand. The judge disallowed the document, but said the information it contained could be presented in testimony. And with that we were off.

The final defense witness testified the damages exceeded thirty thousand dollars—fences fixed, new lock purchased, spilled blood and paint pressure-washed off and missiles repainted; lighting, letters and custom molded metal emblems to be replaced.

Throughout the trial, language differences have been apparent—the defense might ask if something is located on the base, while the prosecution asks, “Is that on board the base?” The large ring of mock missiles that became the focus of the action for Patrick O’Neill and Mark Colville, and later Martha Hennessy and Clare Grady, has been called “the missile shrine” by the Plowshares activists. With his last witness on the stand, Prosecutor Karl Knoche couldn’t abide it any longer. On redirect he asked the Facilities Manager, “Does anyone at the base call that a shrine?” “We call it the missile display,” came the answer.

Judge Wood had the prosecution read into the record a summary of each exhibit it had tendered into evidence, and then she excused the jury for morning break.

With the jury out, Bill Quigley stood to move for a judgment of acquittal, the standard Rule 29 motion, because the government had failed to make its case. He said there was testimony and evidence of damage at two sites—the Limited Area and the missile shrine—but the connection between them was not proven with evidence sufficient to sustain a conviction. There also was no evidence of malice, an element of the first two counts. Finally, there was insufficient evidence of depredation under the definition provided in a 1977 jury charge.

The prosecution countered with a rebuttal of Quigley’s first point and then seemed content until Judge Wood prodded Knoche to address the second part of the motion. He then declared the definition of malicious to be “intentional and deliberate disregard. And he said depredation meant simply to damage.

“I am not going to grant the motion at this time,” said the judge, explaining her reasons briefly. She confirmed that three more defendants would make opening statements, then called a recess.

The defense opened its case at 10:40 AM with Stephanie Amiotte making the opening argument for her client Martha Hennessy, beginning with her history, her marriage, her children and grandchildren, her small farm in Vermont.

“She is a granddaughter of Dorothy Day,” Ms. Amiotte said, “who is being considered by the Catholic Church for sainthood.” A small spark of electricity shivered through the room.

“She was taught that nuclear weapons are a violation of God’s law, immoral and illegal. These are the beliefs that brought her to Kings Bay. You will hear that there is no suggestion of anything of a malicious nature. Ms. Hennessy is not anti-American, she loves her country. She is anti-nuclear weapons, and this is what she says when she is speaking internationally.

“Nuclear weapons are immoral. When she was a child, she learned what nuclear weapons can do—“

The prosecution objected, the judge called a sidebar, and the sentence was removed from the record. Ms. Amiotte concluded by reviewing what the evidence would show Martha had done on April 4 and 5 during the action on the base. “We hope you will consider the evidence and deliver justice, a finding of not guilty on all counts.”

Patrick O’Neill was next up, and opened with a hearty “Good morning! We haven’t met, though you heard my headless voice on the video for more than an hour yesterday. I am happy to be here, happy that the grace of God has brought us together.”

Patrick noted that as a follower of Jesus, he saw the face of God in each member of the jury, each member of the court, and everyone in the courtroom.

“You heard the prosecution’s case and saw the video,” said O’Neill. “They told you it is simple. Rules were broken. Your job is to listen to the facts, and draw your conclusion from the facts of law and your conscience.

“I came to Kings Bay to deliver a message,” Patrick continued. “I want my children and grandchildren and yours to grow up in a world free of the nuclear threat. I came to save creation from being obliterated by nuclear weapons. Some of the evidence you will hear is normal for a trial of this nature. But some other stuff is unusual: the rosary, bottles of blood, a book, our faith-based statement. We will tell you about that.

“And you will hear our testimony. For me, it is about the survival of the planet. We chose to use ‘high drama’ that illustrates nuclear weapons on the base are deadly first-strike weapons. I draw a correlation with Jesus cleansing the temple. He did it because there was a grave injustice, like nuclear weapons. We cut locks and did symbolic property damage to say, ‘This is an idol.’ That display is a shrine to missiles. It is not something we should honor. It is the same as the golden calf smashed in the Hebrew Bible.

“We came to reveal what goes on there that nobody wants to go into—what weapons are and what they did… The symbol of blood is a little hard to understand. But in the context of faith…”

Here the prosecution objected but was overruled—

“…there are two simple components. One, the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. And then there is the blood that is the everlasting covenant. It’s also what happens in war. Kings Bay is nice and clean and you never see the blood. But the plans for war go on there. So we made it more visible.

“We did what we did because of the biblical injunction, God is love. Trident is the opposite of love, and the opposite of God. Kings Bay Plowshares stand with God’s love. What we did was deliberate, and also discerning. We used restraint. There was no effort to disown our action or flee from the consequences. The vast majority of the case you heard was provided by us; we wore cameras and recorded our actions.

“As jurors, you will consider the law, your experiences, your heart and your conscience. You will hear the evidence and search for truth—for deep truth.”

With that, Patrick O’Neill returned to his seat.

Steve Kelly, next to open, declined. “I will adopt,” he said of his codefendants’ opening statements.

The first defense witness was Martha Hennessy. Her history was reviewed, her 40-year marriage, her childhood, influenced by her grandmother and mother. She recounted reading old Catholic Worker publications. Attorney Stephanie Amiotte asked, “Did you read ‘We Go on Record’, the article your grandmother wrote in the Catholic Worker after Hiroshima?”


“Did that shape your beliefs?”


“What did you come to believe?”

That nuclear weapons are illegal and immoral.

When Ms. Amiotte attempted to offer ‘We Go on Record’ as an exhibit, the prosecution objected. Everyone convened in the corner of the room for a chat with the judge, and the exhibit disappeared into oblivion.

The testimony returned to Martha’s beliefs as formed by the Catholic Worker teachings and her grandmother. Asked what the elements of that faith are, Martha said, “To see Christ in others, compassion for the suffering, the Sermon on the Mount, feed the hungry, visit those in prison. Catholic Social Teaching—take care of creation and work for common good.”

What did you learn from your grandmother?

“She handed me a book called Hiroshima by John Hersey and I learned what the Bomb does, its illegality; it is indiscriminate, it destroys whole cities, women and children.”

The judge interrupted. “Now would you turn your attention to this case?”

Ms. Amiotte asked, “As an occupational therapist, have you personally witnessed the effects of nuclear weapons on patients?”

Even as Martha answered, “Yes,” the prosecution was objecting, and in the same breath, the judge sustained.

When asked about the indictment she posted on the door of the Engineering Services building, the prosecution objected again, calling it “self-serving hearsay.” The judge overruled, noting it was the document she posted. When the document was offered as evidence, the judge accepted it, saying to the jury, “It is not offered for you to accept the truth of its contents, but it is the document left on the door.”

Martha then read a paragraph of the document. As she reached “Whereas the Nuremberg principles…” the prosecution rose to object; the judge overruled. “Whereas the Nuremberg principles prohibit crimes against peace and humanity, they render nuclear weapons illegal under any circumstances.”

They reviewed Martha’s actions at that site—posting the indictment, pouring blood (“I put the empty bottle in the trash,” she said), delivering Daniel Ellsberg’s book The Doomsday Machine, stringing crime scene tape between two poles, and painting “May Love Disarm Us All” with a peace sign on the sidewalk—and at the missile shrine, where she painted “Abolish Nukes Now” and strung more Crime Scene tape.

Why crime scene tape? she was asked. “Because the true crime, I feel, is what the government does. And I am complicit. I have the need and the right to express myself in what the base is doing. I pay taxes that are a necessary expense for the arsenal…”

The testimony returned to Catholic Social Teaching. “We are taught to hold on to our faith. Paul says faith without works is dead. We can hold on to our beliefs, but we also must express them. Teresa of Ávila said ‘Our feet are the feet of Christ, and our hands are the hands of Christ.’ It’s not enough to attend mass on Sunday. I have to show through my works what I have learned of the gospel’s teachings.”

What message did you intend to convey? “To alert the public. These weapons are on hair trigger alert,” said Hennessy, “they can decimate cities. They are against God’s will.”

And you chose the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination? “I studied who he was, and I learned about the giant triplets: racism, excessive materialism, militarism. We felt this was appropriate considering what is happening in so many places in our country and in the world. And we wanted to convey that nuclear weapons are the keystone of systems of violence and dominance. Not just ours, but other nations’ too…”

The prosecution objected and was sustained.

“And your beliefs about nuclear weapons?” asked Stephanie.

“Objection—irrelevant!” said the prosecutor.

Sustained, said the judge.

The cross examination of Martha began. Prosecutor Knoche asked her about planning with her colleagues for the action. “My entire life has been preparation,” said Martha.

“You didn’t just wake up and decide to go to Kings Bay?” asked the prosecutor.

[I pause to note that on several occasions, always and only when dealing with women, the prosecutor has tempered his professional demeanor with a dollop of sarcasm.]

Martha didn’t bite. “It was a difficult discernment,” she said. “For about two years.”

Martha told the jury there have been more than 100 Plowshares actions, efforts to protest nuclear weapons and to enflesh Isaiah’s words, to make swords into plowshares, since the first action in 1980.

Moments later, Knoche turned once again to sarcasm. Displaying a photo of Gate 18, where the activists entered the base, he pointed out the chain, the lock, the concrete barriers. “Are any of those a welcome mat?” he asked. “You didn’t have ‘permission” he said, putting the word in verbal air quotes.”


“You came ‘under cover of darkness,’” he said. And then, no longer a question but a statement, “You never sought ‘permission.”


When he suggested protests happen legally outside the base gates, Martha replied, “A sacramental action has to take place where the sin exists.”

On redirect, Martha was asked why they call the missile display a “shrine.” She said, “We, our country, many countries, replace God with these weapons. We don’t put our trust in God. We need to study Christian teachings; it is idolatry to trust these weapons.”

Carmen Trotta was next to take the stand. Reviewing the basic facts of his bio, he noted that he lived for 30 years at the New York Catholic Worker, the house Dorothy Day founded. Moments later, his court-appointed standby counsel began his questions with: “Now at the Doris Day House…” “Dorothy,” Carmen corrected as the audience chuckled.

Asked why he went onto Kings Bay on April 4, 2018, Carmen took a moment to educate the jury. “One fourth of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is deployed out of Kings Bay,” he said, “the single most sophisticated weapon on our planet. If used, they will destroy all life on the planet. They can’t be legal.”

He described the ease with which they entered the base and carried out their action—on the base undiscovered for nearly two hours. “This is also a kind of metaphor for the instability of our nuclear arsenal,” he said.

Describing the choice to go to the Limited Area, Carmen noted he had no dependents, so he was willing to take a risk with possibly higher consequences. “I’m not brave,” he said. “Not so much about being shot, but being maimed.”

Carmen said the action was an attempt to deliver a message. Invoking Dwight Eisenhower’s admonition that democracy requires an informed and diligent citizenry, Carmen said “Part of that is to expose the base for what it is.”

He agreed with Martha that one goal was to deliver a sacrament, to initiate Isaiah’s prophecy. “We have to listen to Eisenhower, Kennedy and King,” he said, growing animated. “These things are not aspirational. We have to live them into being now.”

The judge broke in. “Please lower your voice. ”

Carmen acknowledged, “I shouldn’t preach.”

“Right,” said the judge.

The particulars of the action were reviewed, how the guards arrived and approached without raising weapons. Trotta testified that they had prepared and practiced a greeting to communicate an unthreatening manner: “We come in peace, we mean you no harm; We’re American citizens, and we are not armed.”

Carmen also noted the moment he stood and looked at dozens of nuclear weapons bunkers. “Each one of them the equivalent of a mass grave,” he said, “and that’s an understatement.”

One function of our action, he said, was to open the base to the moral scrutiny of the American people. Another was to demonstrate the outrage of Christ at these weapons.

Under cross-examination, the prosecution got absolutely nowhere. Carmen agreed to almost everything he said. When finally he refused to agree, the prosecutor kept pushing for the answer he wanted until finally the defense objected to the attempt to start a debate. The judge sustained.

Carmen’s testimony concluded at 12:10 PM, and the judge declared a lunch break .

Clare Grady took the stand after lunch. After reviewing her basic biographical materials, Clare talked about the influence of her parents’ Catholic faith. “It was not just going to church on Sunday,” she said, “the cornerstone is faith in action—it’s not enough just to talk about Jesus; our whole lives are about learning to understand that God is love.”

In reviewing the activities of the Kings Bay plowshares action, she described the banner they hung. “We used the word ‘omnicide,’” she said. “A word that didn’t exist before the nuclear age—the death of all living things. We put up crime scene tape because Trident is the biggest crime we know.”

Describing the purpose of her action, Clare said, “There were several. We wanted to sound the alarm. We did not come here to force anyone else to do something, but to take responsibility for my part. I am withdrawing my consent. I needed to do something to say, ‘I do not consent.’”

Describing the things she took on to the base with her, Clare noted she had a bell given to her by a hibakusha (survivor of the atomic bombing of Japan), reminding her of his insistence that we must say “No more nuclear weapons.”

Clare stressed that she was obeying a higher law when she entered the base. “Did you do anything wrong?” she was asked.

“I wouldn’t have done it, wouldn’t have accepted responsibility, would not be here today if I thought it was wrong.”

Under cross examination, prosecutor Knoche resumed his semi-sarcastic stance. “I do not consent to red lights,” he said (which was probably not true at all). “Can I withdraw my consent?”

“I was following laws passed by Congress,” said Clare. Big laws.

“So Clare Grady can just overrule that,” he said.

“Is that a question?” Clare asked.

“So you have the power to overrule 320,000,000 who have elected Congress to make laws…”

Clare interrupted him. “Karl, no! I read the book by Daniel Ellsberg. He was given a high security clearance by the President, the elected president, to study nuclear weapons, and what he found, after six months, was that the U.S. President had no idea.”

“You said you don’t like bullies,” said the prosecutor. He noted that she had painted a message on the sidewalk of the Administration building—he put a picture of it on the screen—the message was ‘May Love Disarm Us All’ with a peace sign and a heart.

“Do you think that people who came to work and saw that message might feel bullied?” he asked.

“I put a heart,” she said. “If someone did that, put a heart, and stayed to take responsibility for their actions, I would be grateful to them.”

“If they defaced your workplace,” he pushed on.

“But weapons are bullying,” she responded. “We didn’t accost a single person. The encounters we did have were all positive encounters.”

“So, if Clare Grady says ‘This isn’t bullying…’” he continued.

“You’re asking me,” she said, “I say let others decide. I wasn’t threatening.”

Then he began a litany, in full bully mode, attacking Clare. When he reached, “So you have a superior conscience,” the defense table erupted in objections and he was shamed down.

After a few more questions, the prosecutor turned Clare back for redirect.

“In your understanding, is a red light the same as a nuclear weapon?” her counsel asked. “Can you tell me what you mean by Supreme Law?”

“The banner said nuclear weapons are immoral and illegal. The law of God and the law of the land resonate. Human laws should not go against God’s law.”

When the prosecutor objected, it was noted that a door had been opened by the cross examination. The judge called a sidebar conference and the line of questioning went away.

The redirect concluded: Has any bully ever given you a valentine or a heart?

No, said Clare.

Has any bully ever said love to you?

No, Clare said.

Do you believe you action was lawful?

I do, said Clare, and I’ve studied quite a bit.

Next, Mark Colville took the stand. He reviewed the details of his personal life, including what his father taught him about integrity, ones “responsibility for what you know to be true.” His outlined his theological education and segued into his motivation. “My religion says faith is a myth or a lie without action,” he said. “St. Francis taught us to teach peace at all times, and if necessary, use words. ”

Under direct examination he answered one of the questions posed by a juror: Why did they replace the lock with a new one? “We wanted to do as little harm as possible and tread as lightly as possible. We wanted to close it when we came in—and we had no intention to flee or escape by any means.”

He described the shrine as “a display of replicas of missiles and weaponry arranged to give honor and invite reverence. Including religious symbols. It’s—to my mind, that place is a religious site. ”

Asked why he chose to put up a banner of Martin Luther King, Jr. with the quote: “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide,” Colville said, “Reluctantly—to face reality—my faith requires that I get a grasp on what’s going on around me. And my baptismal commitment, prophecy, is to understand what it means and tell it.”

Asked about the second banner, ‘Omnicide’, which he hung on the replica D-5 Trident missile, Mark said, “It’s important to address that weapon. That reflects what we hear King saying to our present reality.”

“We learned with the first swing of the hammer that the missile is solid concrete,” he continued. “But it was a symbolic and a sacramental action. Sacrament is a requirement of my faith—calling into reality what is not yet real.”

About using the words idolatry and blasphemy, he said, “It goes to what I believe about nuclear weapons. A core understanding. Idolatry is the greatest obstacle—placing something other than God at the center, whether it is security or ultimate security. If you see that, the Bible doesn’t say to make a speech or to vote, but to remove it. That drove me from the table at Amistad (Catholic Worker House) to Kings Bay. I would use words from the Pope…”

“Objection!” Sustained.

After a few more questions, the lawyer asked, “Are you allowed to run red lights?” Mark answered, “When my wife was in labor, I ran every red light from the Bronx to Mt. Sinai.”

The cross examination of Mark was straightforward and understated. Eventually, the prosecutor tried to push a little. “Is it you who decides what needs to be transformed?”

No, said Colville, Christianity is not practiced individually. We are called as individuals into community. We are saved together.”

But you decided which idols to transform.

“Through our communal discernment.”

“You were having a good time, laughing…”

No, not a good time. No. I was frightened. Watching the video yesterday, I was exhausted.

You found it hard to watch because…

I can tell you why I found it hard to watch. Others can tell you what they thought.

With the conclusion of Colville’s testimony, the court recessed for afternoon break.

After the break, Patrick O’Neill took the stand. He reviewed his personal history and present circumstances, including the experiences that sharpened his faith and pointed him to activism. “I see our action as part of a long tradition of nonviolent resistance,” he said. “Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, abolitionists, people who have changed the world. We are thinking a lot about where all this is going to go. Nine nations have nuclear weapons…”

Does your faith have anything to do with your being at Kings Bay?

It’s the reason.

Did you have a choice? asked the counsel.

Patrick said, “We all have free will I had a choice. Maybe you mean to ask if I felt compelled?”

Did you feel compelled? asked the counsel.

“I did. I worry about the fate of the earth and my grandkids. Two of them are one year old. They will be alive, I hope, at the turn of the next century. I want to say to God, ‘I saw injustice and tried to do something.’ I’m not saying I am sure we are right. I’m not so arrogant. But I believe we are following God in all we did.”

Could Kings Bay be considered a work of mercy?

“It was a prophetic, sacramental action. You go where sin is taking place and address it. The seven of us, I suppose we are unusual. This may be new to you. We are living in the nuclear age and people aren’t thinking about it. Our action was to say ‘Can we have some discussion about what’s happening behind the fence?’ Maybe you’ll think we are crazy—the prophets were called crazy.”

O’Neill described his actions, including the encounter with the concrete missile. “When I hit the missile with the hammer, the head came off.”

Patrick answered the same questions as the others about intention and threat, and reviewed sections of the GoPro video that were not shown to the jury by the prosecution, including the reading of Bible verses and a portion of the group’s action statement.

“We plead to our Church,” he was heard on the video, “to withdraw its complicity in violence and war. We cannot simultaneously pray and hope for peace while we bless weapons and condone war making. Pope Francis says abolition of weapons of mass destruction is the only way to save God’s creation from destruction. ..”, concluding, “This is our statement of love and hope.”

Patrick’s cross examination was comparatively brief. He was asked what he meant by his reference to “we rehearsed” what they would do when confronted.

“Play-acting,” he said. “Someone played the soldier and came up to confront us and we discussed and tried out, what would be a good thing to say? We tried things. We tried, ‘We come in peace,’ and it worked.”

When pressed to say why he chose Kings Bay, O’Neill said it was a group decision, that he had been protesting here since the 1980’s, and that they knew there had not been a plowshares action here. “Our action was designed to wake people up,” he said, “or to encourage a conversation.”

At the conclusion of Patrick’s testimony, the judge called for Steve Kelly. He declined to testify.

Bill Quigley stepped up to elicit Liz McAlister’s testimony. Quigley ran through a list of biographical questions. She spoke of teaching at Marymount College, a girls school, when many of her students had boyfriends or fiancés who were deployed to Vietnam. “We suffered with them. You couldn’t teach without being aware of their grief and concern. I knew at least thirty students whose boyfriends or fiancés came back from Vietnam in body bags. The grief was unspeakable. It led me—I had to learn how to more deeply say no to war and to weapons of war. ”

She spoke of a life of devotion and action. Prayer three times a day, “But I had to do more. That meant marches, vigils, fasts for peace.” She explained that discernment meant looking clearly and critically at things they were called to do, asking, “what is drawing us? Is it a good spirit? Is it ego? Why would I take part in this particular thing?”

She described the meetings of the group in their long process. “We did meet, a couple days at a time. Asking, ‘How are you doing? What are you feeling? Where are you being drawn?’ Every meeting began, was pock-marked, and ended with prayer.”

Eventually, Bill called for Exhibit 26; a cardboard box sealed in a plastic bag. “Is there a special way to open this?” he asked. The prosecutor provided scissors. Bill opened the bag, then the box, then withdrew the long-hidden banner and held it in his outstretched arms, taut, for all to read. “NUCLEAR WEAPONS IMMORAL ILLEGAL”.

Kings Bay has nuclear weapons, Liz said. They are poison and illegal. If you understand the kill power—if they aren’t illegal, they ought to be.

Asked how she balanced her priorities—the risk of jail against her family—the soon-to-be eighty-year-old grandmother said, “I need to witness against these weapons for the sake of these children and grandchildren.”

On cross-examination, the prosecutor asked Liz McAlister three questions and sat down.

Before resting, the defense called the Kings Bay public affairs director to recall his statement to the Washington Post the day after the action that no personnel or military assets were ever at risk. He declined to own the words initially, but when Stephanie Amiotte presented him with a card with talking points prepared by his office and asked him to read the first point, he read: “At no time was any personnel or military assets threatened.”

Is that still your testimony? she asked. “Yes,” he said.

Shortly thereafter, at 4:55 PM, the defense rested. The jury was sent out and the judge outlined the procedure for Thursday, when court will resume at 9:30 AM.


Judge Lisa Godby Wood came into the courtroom at 9:37 AM to review the charge sheets and jury instructions with the lawyers. Bill Quigley entered a few objections into the record, and by 10:10 the jury was brought into court.

Prosecutor Knoche presented the closing argument for the government. He put the google satellite view of the Navy Base up on the screen and mapped out the path of the Kings Bay 7 as they entered the base, trekked through swamp and woodland and divided into three groups.

One group headed to the high security Limited Area to bear witness to the bunkers storing thermonuclear weapons; the others moved to the administration building and the missile shrine where they hung banners, poured blood, posted an indictment, strung crime scene tape, painted messages of love and prophetic witness (not his description) on sidewalks and “missiles,” and removed lettering and lights from the large sign that declared STRATEGIC WEAPONS FACILITY ATLANTIC before they were arrested by officials—Marines at the Limited Area and base police at the missile shrine.

The rest of the evidence was reviewed in the context of the charges. “Their intent was clear,” NCIS Special Agent Kenney had testified. “They came on the base without authority to damage, depredate—that’s a jeopardy word, starts with D— on the base in order to proclaim their views on nuclear weapons.”

He resurrected his red light analogy and warned the jury that “this won’t be the land we love if people are free to pick and choose which laws they will obey.” He cited the damage charges in excess of $30,500 and compared it to the big bill his insurance company got when he had a fender bender.

“They said they ‘came in peace,’” he said, but “they couldn’t spread their message without wrecking stuff.” He noted the base has an area off-site designated for protests, but forcing employees to come to work where the sidewalk has been painted with messages of love and peace— “that’s not a pleasant sight to come upon.”

He prefigured the judge’s instructions, setting the table for a guilty verdict. “For each defendant, that box should be checked,” he concluded. “Follow the law as instructed. There is not a lot of whodunit. The dots can be connected. It’s as clear as can be.”

Bill Quigley rose for the defense. He asked for an exhibit to be projected on the jury screens and the large screen at the edge of the room. The words of the banner materialized:


After thanking everyone for their time and attention, he said, “The question before you is whether these seven people came to commit a crime or to prevent a crime.”

He then outlined three keys for the jury to take into their deliberations. First, their solemn responsibility as a juror to treat the defendants as they would want to be treated. Ultimately, it is up to you to be yourself. Second, remember the presumption of innocence—as of right now and until and unless you decide. Third, beyond all reasonable doubt.

“The defendants agreed on a lot,” he said. “They all said they did this. But beyond a reasonable doubt is for each count for each of seven people. You have 28 decisions to make, plus the elements and parts for each. Each time, the burden of proof is on the government, beyond a reasonable doubt, for each element in each of the charges.

“These terms are important to us. Count 1—willfully and maliciously; Count 2—willfully and maliciously; and Count 3, willfully depredating, which is different than damage.”

Quigley noted there were parts of the video that the government chose to edit out; things they didn’t want the jury to hear, some of which the defense showed. “The government’s sequence of events has no prayer, no spiritual dimension, no message dimension. But if you look at the defense’s evidence, the reality of their beliefs shines through. They are loving people, they follow Jesus, they honor Dr. King.

“They prayed for two years,” he continued. “As they entered, they prayed. They compared their action to Jesus cleansing the temple. They literally gave their own blood. They held up banners; they said, ‘We come in peace,’ they stayed in the light. Does this sound like people acting willfully and maliciously?”

Quigley told the jurors that even if they blocked out everything the defendants said about their behavior, he had counted 33 times in the testimony of the prosecution witnesses when the defendants were identified as non-threatening, non-combative, cooperative, not malicious, praying the “Hail Mary.”

“On the base, they talk about the incursion into the Limited Area as ‘The Night the Protesters Entered the Rabbit Run.’ It sounds like a Dr. Seuss title.”

In closing Quigley asked the jury to “stand up for what you believe. Your definition of beyond a reasonable doubt may not be the same as someone else’s. In the end, it’s up to you to decide: did they come to commit a crime or to prevent a crime?”

It was 11:00 AM, and the court took a break.

Clare Grady was next. “The opening of this case was about justice,” she said to the jury. “You took an oath that you would do justice. We rely on you to do that. I know you will keep your promise. You alone are the deciders of a just verdict. I ask you to follow your conscience and your heart. The prosecutor will tell you this is a simple case and you have no choice. That’s not true. The judge will say use your common sense and the instructions she gives you in the law. No computer can render justice. It won’t be the judge or the lawyers. It will be you.”

She told the jury that facts don’t exist outside of a context that gives them meaning. She noted that the prosecutor asked her about obeying red lights, which she said she does obey. Paraphrasing Martin Luther King, Jr., she said, “Where a fire is raging the truck goes through red lights, and normal traffic better get out of the way. Like an ambulance, sometimes it is necessary to ignore the red lights of the system.”

“Nuclear weapons can destroy life on earth,” she told the jury. “We hope you are allowed to bring that truth into the context of the facts as you decide. The omnipresent threat of nuclear weapons is like a cocked gun held to the head of the planet. Even if you never fire, you are using the gun. Even if these weapons are never launched, they are still a weapon.”

Grady asked the jury to judge their actions in the context of their religious belief. “We are taught to love one another as I have loved you. That is a hard invitation, but one that gives life.”

Grady withstood several objections as she used nearly all of her allotted 30 minutes for closing. She asked the jury to deliberate with their heads and hearts. “If you feel forced to render a verdict that violates your conscience, where is the justice?”

The prosecutor rose to object and the judge called a sidebar. When they returned, Clare said, “Follow the law, follow the facts, follow your conscience.”

At 11:45, Mark Colville rose to make his closing argument. He placed a large picture of the missile shrine on the easel for the jury. “Good morning,” he said. “I think the evidence has shown that the seven of us were between a rock and a hard place. The rock is Jesus, who told us to lay down our life for others. The hard place is the Kings Bay Naval Base, where the US government has the most poisonous and most dangerous weapons in the world. And we are required to live under their protection. We are forced to live a lie.”

The evidence, Colville said, showed the defendants were motivated not by malice, but by a sincere belief that the weapons are sinful. “Our action was to unmask them, to take our names off them, to remove them from our lives.”

He noted that the government and the court had tried to ignore the nature of their action and the reason for it. “But we need not be ignored by you,” he said to the jury. “In the jury room, as you deliberate, you may reach an uncomfortable conclusion,” he said. “You may find that the government willfully placed nuclear weapons beyond the rule of law.

“The government tried to show us as not obeying the law, even using the ridiculous example of the red light. But maybe it’s not such a bad analogy. When the law is obeyed without conscience without respect for life, it becomes an idol. It enslaves us.”

When he reached the point of suggesting to the jury that they have the power to withdraw consent from nuclear weapons the prosecution objected and the judge sustained, telling the jury, “I will instruct you. Any suggestion that you should use someone else’s view is just not right.”

“I am trying to address the characterization that I don’t respect the law,” Colville said. “I do respect the law. Sometimes, over time, I see how it gets changed, how it gets to justice. And I ask how can I act—50 years ago what was allowed? 100 years ago, what was even allowed in this courtroom? 150 years ago, what was legal in this state?

“I have been on a jury before, and if I am on a jury again, I will ask myself ‘What is my decision going to look like in fifty years, if I have that much time left…’”

At 11:50, Carmen Trotta came to the lectern. Carmen started out by thanking the jury. He then remarked that words are potent and can pierce one’s heart. He spoke of the popular definition of malicious, then turned to depredation.

“Depredation comes from the word for predator…”

The prosecution objected that there is a specific legal definition for the word.

“I know,” Carmen said, “I am coming to that. The root of the word refers to a means of survival. Predators seek prey to feed themselves. We were not malicious. We harmed no one. We had nothing to gain.”

“You will be instructed that those words have specific legal meanings. Take them in light of the evidence.

“Sacrament is another word. A visible symbol of an invisible reality. We left symbols behind us. The missile shrine, the hollywood lights. You saw in the video Clare saying ‘This looks like vandalism,’ and she recoils. The prosecution wants you to think it’s like a child’s temper tantrum.

“But it looks like the outrage of God. The invisible reality is that it is these weapons that may destroy, depredate, harm God’s creation.

“And we sought a blessing. We sought the mitigation of God’s anger, we sought to be forgiven. The Kings Bay seven are peacemakers. That’s Bible code for children of God, which I have on good authority all creation waits for. You heard that we did not intend to break the law. The government, at the beginning of this case, asked you to seek the truth. I pray you do indeed seek the truth.”

Patrick O’Neill followed suit in his closing statement. He reminded the jury that Assistant US Attorney Greg Gilluly had, at one point, said “For about an hour, you were all engaged in transformation.”

Patrick said, “He got it exactly right.”

O’Neill noted the strangeness of the case—how the defendants made no attempt to escape or avoid the consequences for their action. He was interrupted numerous times by objections which were duly sustained by the judge. In the end, after invoking Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., Patrick said, “We were prayerful, not malicious; we were loving, not malicious; we were life-affirming, not malicious.”

The judge turned to Steve Kelly. Kelly stood up, briefly looked around to his fellow defendants and to the jury, and told the court, “I adopt the statements of my co-defendants.”

At 12:28 PM, the judge called a ten minute break. Twenty-seven minutes later, court reconvened; judge and jury having an opportunity for a snack break, but defendants and spectators left waiting in the courtroom.

Stephanie Amiotte delivered the closing argument for Martha Hennessy, pointing out to the jury that Martha had caused very little damage—painting that was removed by pressure washing, and nothing more. Because of the nature of the “one for all and all for one” prosecution, the jury’s failure to convict Martha of damage in excess of $1,000 could result in acquittals for all the defendants.

She noted that each of the weapons at Kings Bay have the equivalent power of 100 Hiroshimas and repeated their message, “May love disarm us all.”

The prosecution gets the last word, and Assistant Attorney Gilluly drew the task. He was animated as he spoke to the jury, growing ever more so as he snarled the accusation that the defendants had travelled to the Southern District of Georgia simply to damage and destroy.

He quoted the defendants testimony that, “We carried each other,” and pointed to the conspiracy charge. He dismissed their religious faith, motives and intent, and their concern about nuclear weapons as“100% not important.” He derided their invocation of Jesus and Martin Luther King, Jr. “Did Jesus ever bring a power saw?”

Gilluly reviewed their defacing of property in a litany, answering each with his own response, “That’s not a peaceful protest,” as if he almost expected the jury to join him aloud.

Raising his voice, he decried that the seven had “come to Kings Bay in OUR Southern District of the 11th Circuit in Georgia to do what they did—”

A defense attorney stood to object. Sustained.

But that was enough, and the prosecution rested.

The judge read her instructions to the jury, and they were sent to begin their deliberations at 2:15 PM.

First one, then a second question came to the judge from the jury. Both questions suggest that at least one juror was considering a split verdict. Both were answered by the judge referring to her original instructions, which spelled out that if the jury found evidence of a conspiracy, they would also have enough evidence to convict each defendant on all of the other charges.

At 4:00 PM the jury returned with their verdict.

As soon as the court clerk began reading the first verdict, it was all clear. The seven would be found guilty on all counts, and, one by one, they were. The jury was polled and confirmed their verdict.

The judge thanked the jurors for their service and dismissed them. Six defendants will await sentencing at a date to be determined under their existing conditions of release, while Fr. Steve Kelly has refused those conditions and is also being held for an earlier federal probation violation from protest at the Kitsap-Bangor Trident submarine base in Washington State.

You might imagine, in the staid marble-floor hallways of the federal courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, that such verdicts would quench any spirit of hope—but as soon as the judge declared court recessed the overflow room erupted in song. “Rejoice, rejoice, again I say rejoice—”

It was one voice and then two, and by the end of the first stanza, half a dozen. As we filed into the hall we were met by people coming from the main courtroom who took up the song. We lined the hallways and the sound grew in volume and tempo. “Rejoice, rejoice, again I say rejoice!”

The defendants emerged to hugs and began to sing along, arms draped around family and supporters. And then, Carmen Trotta came down the hall and signaled our departure, down the stairs, the stairwell echoing the sound, and out past the security guards, with nods and farewells to the marshals whose courtesy, with few exceptions, was unstinting and generous as they did their job. Outside the courthouse, on the front steps, six of the defendants gathered with Bill Quigley and other members of the legal team for a press conference.

Just before the judge released the defendants, Patrick O’Neill, noting the judge was unlikely to know the answer, asked if she imagined the sentencing hearing would be before Christmas. “I do not know,” she said. “Would you like it to be before? Or after?”

“After,” said Patrick. “After New Year’s actually.”

The sentencing hearing will not be scheduled until the probation office completes a pre-sentencing report for each of the seven defendants and they have a chance to review it. Depending on the resources dedicated to it, it could take weeks or it could be months.

(l-r) Martha Hennessy, Kathleen Rumpf, Mark Colville, Clare Grady, Carmen Trotta, Patrick O’Neill, Liz McAlister after trial


Clare Grady, Liz McAlister, Frida Berrigan and Carmen Trotta after trial

– END-

October 15, 2019
October 17, 2019
October 20, 2019
October 21, 2019
October 22, 2019
Nukewatch by John LaForge
October 23, 2019
The Ithaca Voice by Charles Geisler
October 24, 2019
Uprise RI by Peter Nightingale
October 25, 2019
October 26, 2019
October 27, 2019
October 28, 2019
Truthout by Marjorie Cohn

October 31, 2019

The Nation by Sam Husseini
November 1, 2019
November 11, 2019
Beyond Nuclear International by Jack Cohen-Joppa
War is a Crime by Brian Terrell
November 25, 2019
Democracy Now interview with Martha Hennessy and Daniel Ellsberg
November 27, 2019
Pax Christi USA by Mary Yelenick
The Brunswick News by Wes Wolfe
December 2, 2019
Beyond Nuclear International by Linda Pentz Gunter


October 26, 2019

Dear Brothers and Friends,

We just received word that the King Bay Plowshares Seven were found guilty on all counts for their prophetic actions protesting nuclear weapons. Among the seven is a member of our province, Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J. According to the news brief we received, he and his six companions face more than 20 years in prison for destruction and depredation of government property in excess of $1,000, trespassing, and conspiracy.

Late at night on April 4, 2018 these courageous seven used a bolt cutter to enter a remote gate at Naval Base Kings Bay in St. Mary’s GA. They walked two miles through swamp and brush. They then split into three groups and prayed, poured blood, spray painted messages against nuclear weapons, hammered on parts of a shrine to nuclear missiles, hung banners, and waited to be arrested.

Sentencing will happen within the next 60 to 90 days, and until then six have been released on bond conditions each had prior to the trial. Our brother remains incarcerated in the Glynn County Detention Center. (If you would like to write to Steve, please carefully review the instructions at the end of this letter.) In the meantime, I ask that you pray for Steve and his companions: Mark Colville, Clare Grady, Martha Hennessy, Elizabeth McAlister, Patrick O’Neill, and Carmen Trotta. May they have courage in the face of this impending challenge of prison time. We recall in the Acts of the Apostles, when the apostles were flogged because they refused to stop speaking in the name of Jesus: “So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name(Acts 5:41). May our brother and his companions feel this same joy that they, too, have been found worthy to suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace.

May we also be courageous in our work for justice and peace. Gratefully,

Scott Santarosa, S.J. Provincial