Wednesday, 19. February 2014
An 84-year-old nun was sentenced to almost three years in prison for breaking into a US nuclear weapons complex and defacing the storage center with human blood as part of a protest against the American government.
Sister Megan Rice received her sentence on Tuesday after a judge ruled that she sabotaged the weapons plant and damaged federal property. Rice and two colleagues broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex, which holds the nation’s primary supply of bomb-grade uranium, in order to raise awareness about the dangers and destruction caused by nuclear weapons.
Surprisingly, Rice’s actions were much less James Bond-esque than one might imagine. The trio simply cut through three fences before reaching the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility in a secure part of the complex.
Once inside, Rice and friends hung banners, rolled out crime scene tape, and splashed baby bottles full of human blood on the wall.
“The reason for the baby bottles was to represent that the blood of children is spilled by these weapons,” said Greg Boertje-Obed, who broke into the complex with Rice.
Although the trio set off numerous alarms en route to the $548 million storage bunker, it took security forces more than two hours to reach the protestors. Not surprisingly, security crews were re-trained and government contractors were replaced in wake of the breach.
Security officials maintained throughout the trial that the public was never in danger and that protesters did not reach areas where nuclear materials could have been detonated.
During her closing statement, Rice asked the judge to sentence her to life in prison, likely because she wanted to be viewed as a symbol of defiance towards the U.S. government.
“Please have no leniency with me,” Rice said. “To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest gift you could give me.”
Some government officials wanted prosecutors to be lenient with the trio, as their defiance exposed some critical weaknesses in the facility, but the prosecution went forward with felony charges.
U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar said he issued the stern sentence in hopes of deterring other activists from participating in similar protests.
Mel Welch comments
Attorney Mel Welch provided some commentary on ruling. You can listen to his thoughts below, or skip ahead to the transcribed version.
“An elderly nun gets three years in prison for essentially a trespass on government property and throwing blood on the walls to represent the innocent lives that an unresponsive government with weapons of mass death has perpetrated on the world. This is the perspective of an 84-year-old woman.
Now, what did she do? She trespassed. She went on a place she wasn’t supposed to, and because the federal security was so lacking and so decrepit and ill-preforming that they allowed an 84-year-old woman to bypass it with a bucket of blood and whatever else graffiti-wise she had with her, I mean it’s not like she was running, it’s not like she was doing ninja flips to get in there, she walked into a compound with nuclear weapons storage.
How ridiculous is that by the US government? And because they were so ill-able to protect their premise they have to send a message, at least this federal judge, unanswerable to those that he rules over, says we have to send a message. ‘We’re going to put this 84-year-old in prison to die.’
The likelihood that she survives her prison ordeal is not great. There’s a high percentage of death when you’re in prison over 36-years-old, whether that’s due to recidivism or otherwise, these are not conditions that are amenable to the healthy living of an elderly woman. So three years in prison for saying ‘stop killing’ to a government that does not respond to its people is overkill, and it’s not right.”
Related source: CBS News