NUNS SERVING 30-41 MONTHS FOR SABOTAGE
- Sacred Earth & Space Plowshares
After their conviction in April 2003, Carol Gilbert, Jackie Hudson and Ardeth Platte agreed to sign a personal recognizance bond and were released May 1 until their sentencing on July 25, 2003. They had refused the bond since their arrest on October 6, 2002.
The three - all members of a Dominican religious order - initiated a citizen weapons inspection, public exposure, and symbolic disarmament of Minuteman nuclear missile silo N-8, near New Raymer, Colorado. They were convicted on federal charges of "Injury/ Interference/Obstruction of the National Defense of the United States" - sabotage - and destruction of government property in excess of $1,000.
With the likelihood of multi-year prison sentences, the three took advantage of the weeks before sentencing to visit and pray with their home communities; to address medical needs; to divest of their possessions; and to speak out publicly as much as possible about their Sacred Earth and Space Plowshares II action and the imperative of nuclear disarmament that made it necessary.
At sentencing the women refused to speak, to further protest the exclusion of their legal defense from the courtroom. Instead, they wore all black, in solidarity with the global Women in Black vigilers, and made their statements outside the courthouse before sentencing.
They again questioned the major charge of sabotage - damaging national defense materials (18 USC 2155) - for an action Platte explained "was a simple, measured, nonviolent, symbolic action wherein the liturgical rituals were crystal clear." Blood was poured, and a small hammer was tapped on the silo lid's steel rails with minimal damage done.
And they were appalled that law was kept out of the courtroom. Gilbert asserted that "(w)e should be acquitted for upholding International laws which this court has deemed unnecessary but which it is bound to enforce under Article 6, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution... We should be acquitted for upholding the highest law - God's Law. Judge Blackburn talked a lot about law. He didn't want this to be a political trial but a case about law. So did we. That was our deepest hope. But, we were not the ones that turned this into a political trial nor will we make of ourselves political prisoners - that will be the prosecutor and judge."
Despite these complaints, the women were unafraid of whatever sentence came. Jackie Hudson concluded her comments by telling supporters, "The hope of the world rests on each of our shoulders... I promise to do my share.... How about you?!"
The prosecutor argued for 8-10 year terms, but the judge departed downward from the guidelines, dishing out 30 months for Sr. Jackie Hudson, 33 months for Sr. Carol Gilbert, and 41 months for Sr. Ardeth Platte. Additionally, restitution totaling $3,081.04 was ordered, plus three years of supervised release following prison.
The women refused to accept self-surrender at a later date, and were immediately taken into custody. They were quickly split up to three Colorado jails, and within a few weeks, sent to separate prisons to serve their time.
Among the many activities occurring around the time of sentencing, a coalition of 35 activist groups in Colorado organized an "adopt-a-silo" action for the day after. Over 500 people participated, with small groups of activists vigiling at all 49 nuclear missile silos in northeast Colorado, plus at least three nearby in Nebraska and one in the Montana missile field. At least 12 silos were marked with crime scene tape and eviction notices. Circling over the region, a light plane towed a banner declaring that America's weapons of mass destruction had been found. Law enforcement kept a low profile.
In October, Srs. Carol Gilbert, 56, Jackie Hudson, 69, and Ardeth Platte, 68, were honored with the 2003 Nuclear Free Future Resistance Award.
The women decided to let the attorneys appeal the conviction, in part to prevent the precedent being set that such a nonviolent action involving minimal property damage is sufficient to qualify as sabotage. Oral arguments are scheduled before a panel of the 10th Circuit in Denver on October 1.
For more information, contact Bill Sulzman, Citizens for Peace in Space, POB 915, Colorado Springs, CO 80901.
Letters of support should be sent to Jackie Hudson 08808-039, FPC, Victorville, POB 5100, Adelanto, CA 92301; Carol Gilbert 10856-039, Alderson FPC, Box A, Alderson, WV 24910; and Ardeth Platte 10857-039, FPC Danbury, Pembroke Station Rt. 37, Danbury, CT 06811-0379. The three are writing occasional open letters reflecting on their prison witness, and these are available upon request from the women. An online petition to President Bush asking for pardon and release of the three can be signed at http://www.petitiononline.com/know0001/petition.html