On May 8 an appeals court in Nashville, Tenessee ruled that the conviction of Transform Now Plowshares anti-nuclear activists Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed, currently imprisoned for breaking into a nuclear weapons facility, was a mistake. The New York Times reports:
At issue was whether [they] injured national security when they cut through several fences to break into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge in July 2012. A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision that they did not.
… the trio had hung banners, prayed and hammered on the outside wall of the bunker to symbolize a Bible passage that refers to the end of war: “They will beat their swords into ploughshares.”
But the court’s opinion read:
“If a defendant blew up a building used to manufacture components for nuclear weapons … the government surely could demonstrate an adverse effect on the nation’s ability to attack or defend. …
“But vague platitudes about a facility’s ‘crucial role in the national defense’ are not enough to convict a defendant of sabotage.”
Of course, they haven’t been found innocent of all the charges. They’re still guilty of injuring government property. However
An attorney for the three, Bill Quigley, said he hopes they will be re-sentenced to time served and released from prison, where they have been since being convicted in May 2013. Rice was sentenced to nearly three years; Walli and Boertje-Obed are each serving sentences of just over five years.
Sister Megan, as she’s known, had been held in what a New York Daily News headline in January called a “Brooklyn Jail Hellhole.” Writes Linda Stasi, she and other inmates have been “shoved into the Metropolitan Detention Center, designed generally to hold male prisoners until trial, not to hold women after conviction.”
Sister Megan’s “cell” is a gymnasium-size dorm unit with 60 bunkbeds for the 111 women, placed a few feet apart. Along one wall are six half-enclosed toilet stalls, six sinks and six shower stalls, and in the middle of the room, 10 dining/work/play tables that can seat 60 women.
Sister Megan, who seems to have found a new cause in prisoners’ right, told Ms. Stasi:
“In prisons around this country — so overcrowded by unjust laws, poverty and war-making — the patience and endurance of those I live with here is a constant source of admiration and hope that change is possible when the focus can be on what is of real value to the common good.”
In other words, it’s the United States that’s guilty of sabotage — of the spirit of its citizens that it incarcerates.