"Isn't this wonderful," says Transform Now Plowshares activist Sister Megan Rice as supporters rally Monday, May 6, 2013, at Market Square. Jury selection began Monday for a trial in which Rice and fellow activists Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli answer federal trespassing and destruction of property charges for the July 28 intrusion at Y-12. Photo by Michael Patrick, courtesy of Knoxville News Sentinel

“Isn’t this wonderful,” says Transform Now Plowshares activist Sister Megan Rice as supporters rally on May 6, 2013, at Market Square. Rice was sentenced Tuesday (Feb. 18) to nearly three years in prison for breaking into a Tennessee nuclear facility in 2012. Photo by Michael Patrick, courtesy of Knoxville News Sentinel


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(RNS) An 84-year-old nun was sentenced to nearly three years in prison on Tuesday (Feb. 18) for breaking into a Tennessee nuclear facility in July 2012.

Sister Megan Rice and two other anti-nuclear activists were convicted last May of breaking into a federal complex that stores enriched uranium.

“Please have no leniency on me. To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor you could give me,” Rice told the federal judge at her sentencing hearing, according to USA Today.

U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar in Knoxville said he wanted the sentence to send a signal that others need to work for change within the bounds of the law.

The three activists have been in custody since May, when a federal jury convicted them of damaging the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, and could have received up to 20 years for the crime.

Rice, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus, broke into the Tennessee facility with Greg Boertje-Obed, 58, and Michael Walli, 64. The three used wire cutters to slice through multiple security fences.

Boerjte-Obed and Walli were each sentenced to 62 months. In addition to their sentences, the three will receive three years of supervised probation after their release.

Unexpected snow delayed the original sentencing, which had been scheduled for Jan. 28. Then, a federal judge ordered that the three pay nearly $53,000 in damages to cover facility repairs.

The Tennessee facility, also known as the “Fort Knox of Uranium,” was used in the development of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in the summer of 1945.

The protesters belong to Transform Now Plowshares, an interfaith group that advocates nonviolent resistance to nuclear weapons.

Once inside the fence, the three spray-painted messages, including “the fruit of justice is peace,” and splattered blood on one of the buildings.

The three also beat hammers against the walls of the facility in reference to the Bible’s Isaiah 2:4, “They shall beat swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”

When approached by a guard, the three lit candles, sang songs and offered to break bread.

Defense attorneys stressed that the three were “completely nonviolent” and said that should be taken into account during sentencing.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore argued that even though he has great respect for their dedication to their cause, the three should be sentenced according to federal guidelines because “they are not above the law.”

LEM/MG END MURPHY

12 Comments

  1. Bravo for Sister Rice and her two partners in “crime,” brave and loving souls. 

May we see a world where the real murderers, the Bushes, Obamas, Clintons, Putins, Clappers, Alexanders, Cheneys, Kissingers and their minions face an international tribunal and get thrown in Guantanamo, and men and women of heart and love are free.

  2. What a country we live in! Politicians send us to unnecessary wars where thousands of our soldiers and even more thousands of innocent civilians are killed or maimed; the greed of Wall Street sends the country into a devastating recession where lives are gutted; severe inequality of income is placing the American dream out of reach for so many Americans: money in politics has all but desecrated what used to be a democracy; and the U.S. Congress is unwilling (and apparently incapable) to address the simple steps necessary to meet the crucial needs of our citizens, and no one pays a price for the debauchery and crimes committed. Yet an anti-war, passionate nun who commits some minor property damage in the interests of peace is sent to prison for three years. Something is wrong with this picture, and something is tragically wrong with this country.

    • Yes.
      The problem with this country is that after 30 years of right wing Christian politics from Reagan to Rand Paul, all the money has been blown on wars, bank bonuses and Tea Party do nothings while millions of regular people are out of work and rich get infinitely richer while the middle class evaporates.

      And everyone is too busy liking things on Facebook to lift a finger to write to a congressman.

  3. This does not make me feel good about the safety of our radioactive fuel supplies. :)

    In all fairness most of the US enriched uranium stock these days go towards nuclear power, not weapons. There has been a 20 year moratorium on expanding the US nuclear weapons arsenal.

  4. Hell is for jurors, like those. They had no excuse for not simply rendering a not guilty verdict, at the end of the trial. The jurors judged the law, which is their primary task – and they should go to Hell, for their verdict.

    • You religious folk paying attention to Mathew here? I know what you’re probably thinking. You don’t agree with him right? You think his views are extreme, and he doesn’t represent real christianity.

      However, what else, besides religious belief, or insanity, would influence Mathews mind to think like this? Religious belief allows these kinds of radical thought because it implants in the mind that humans should be punished for acts that are against their god’s religious teachings.

      Now Mathew here has taken it to unimaginable (to most) extremes. But is it really any less extreme to think that it is moral to think that a human should suffer in unending burning torment for all eternity for being on a jury that found this nun guilty of breaking man made laws, than to think the same thing should happen to a human who has never heard of your god, or a person who has, but does not believe?

      I would suggest that you contemplate if your religious belief goes against what you know, as humans, to be a moral action.

      Religion really does poison the mind!

    • “They had no excuse for not simply rendering a not guilty verdict, at the end of the trial”

      Except for the fact that she committed a felony and admitted to doing so willingly. I doubt there was even much a trial since there were no facts in dispute about the act, and who committed it. Trials are for issues of fact. There was none.

      So does being pious mean you are always above the law? To you I guess the answer is yes. Even the nun would find a not-guilty verdict to be completely out of the question. She knew she was committing a crime, was willing to pay the consequences of the act and did not deny it in the least.

      • Larry, I would agree, and further, I think she actually wanted to be caught, tried and convicted. This offered her an opportunity to feel she was morally superior, and that she was being persecuted for her lord. This is a martyr complex, recognized by physiology, and is shared by jihadist suicide bombers, although it could be argued they take their martyrdom much more seriously. ;-)

        Religion is poisonous to the mind!

  5. Here’s the Irony:

    Because of the ridiculous belief in Religious Eschatology (Armageddon) the #1 threat to our world IS RELIGION ITSELF!

    It is rich that a nun would have a problem with nuclear weapons.
    When the mushroom cloud appears over the middle east, millions of Christians will be so happy that their prayers will have been fulfilled.

    Nuclear weapons are the means, but Religion will be the reason.
    And this nutty nun doesn’t get it.

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