Dangerous Nun, 84, Gets 3 Years For Assaulting 'Merca's Precious Freedom Nukes
Swift justice, after nearly two years, forthree peace activists who broke into a federal nuclear weapons facility in July 2012. Once inside the super-secure Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee -- they got in using wire cutters -- the three members of the Plowshares Christian pacifist movement painted peace slogans and threw human blood on the outside of a uranium-processing building. Then, while waiting for someone to show up and arrest them, they had a snack.
The three radicals, Sister Megan Rice, who turned 84 on Jan. 31, Michael Walli, 64, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 58, were convicted of "sabotage" although they did not actually break any machinery (and were not even wearing or throwing wooden shoes). Walli and Boertje-Obed were each sentenced to five years and two months, and Sister Rice was sentenced to 35 months, which should teach her a valuable lesson about messing with Uncle Sam.
Although the sentence may keep her in prison for what could be the rest of her life (we hope not!), Rice was asking for it. Quite literally:
During a four-hour hearing Tuesday, Rice pleaded with the judge not to grant her leniency.
"Please have no leniency on me," she said. "To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor you could give me."
Thapar didn't oblige but did say that breaking the law isn't the right way to pursue political goals. He said he hoped that a significant prison sentence would deter others from following the same path and bring them "back to the political system I fear that they have given up on."
Funny thing about motivated old nuns: they make terrific peace activists. We have a feeling she'll be spreading her dangerous radical ideas in prison, too. Whatever federal prison she's sent to is likely to see an immediate improvement in inmate literacy.
In addition to mounting a protest, of course, the group inadvertently did the government a favor by exposing huge flaws in the plant's security. The protestors were able to breach security and wander around inside for nearly two hours in what was supposed to be one of the nation's most secure nuclear facilities; following the protest, the Department of Energy removed the head of the guards at the plant and improved security overall, so that future nuns won't get quite as far into weapons plants. Oh, and maybe terrorists might have a harder time, too. Here's Rachel Maddow on the sentencing:
It would, of course, be terribly cynical to suggest that the government was particularly keen to get a tough sentence after getting caught with its pants not merely down, but hanging on a cut chainlink fence. We're OK with cynical.
U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar had to weigh federal sentencing guidelines against the decidedly non-terroristy nature of the group's actions; while defense attorneys argued that the time the defendants have served awaiting trial should be sufficient, prosecutors called for the maximum sentence possible to deter other evildoers (and maybe send a message that lax security is no excuse for vandalism). Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Theodore said that the three activists had committed
"serious offenses that have caused real harm to the Y-12 National Security Complex."
"They have shown no remorse for their criminal conduct," he said.
We have to imagine that Sister Megan Rice was rather proud of that description.
Follow Doktor Zoom on Twitter. He figures throwing blood on a nuke plant is far better than invading restaurants while wearing red hats.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.