Decision time

Tuesday is judgment day for the Plowshares protesters.

Nine months after the faith-based activists — Michael Walli, Sister Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed — were convicted on federal charges associated with the July 28, 2012 break-in at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge and nearly a month after the first attempt at sentencing got snowed to a halt, U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar is expected to decide on sentences for the three.

Those sentences apparently will be meted in separate hearings, stacked one after another, beginning at noon, at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Federal Courthouse. Walli’s hearing is scheduled first, followed by Boertje-Obed and Rice.

The previous sentencing hearing on Jan. 18 was consolidated so that the three defendants could share common witnesses. But that portion of the hearing was completed before snow forced the early closing of the courthouse.

Each of the three will now have a last chance to state their case before the judge and make an argument as to why they should received a reduced sentence and perhaps to elaborate on the reasons for their actions.

The peace activists, who referred to themselves collectively as the Transform Now Plowshares, never denied any of the actions taken at Y-12. They openly admitted, before and during the trial, that they cut through fences, spray-painted messages on structures inside the government facility, and tossed human blood on the walls of the plant’s storehouse for bomb-grade uranium.

The protesters maintained that their actions were necessary in order to protect humankind from the possibility of nuclear destruction. They also suggested that the real criminal activity is Y-12’s continued production of warhead parts.

They were convicted of sabotage and depredation of government property, both serious felony charges.

The unanswered question is whether Thapar will follow the government’s recommended sentencing guidelines for the three or accept any of the arguments for a “departure” from those recommendations.

Rice, who turned 84 years old on Jan. 31, faces a recommended sentence between 5 years, 10 months and seven years, three months. The sentences recommended for Walli, 65, and Boertje-Obed, 58, are higher, based on the number of previous convictions and other factors.

A new feature on Atomic City Underground allows readers to sign up for email updates and receive a notice each time new information is posted on the news blog. Just put your email address in the box on the lower right of the blog’s front page and follow instructions. Thanks to all loyal readers.

This entry was posted in NNSA, nuclear, security, Y-12 on by .

About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.