Y-12 protesters ask federal judge to delay Oct. 10 trial

Megan Rice and Michael R. Walli

Anti-nuclear weapons activists Megan Rice and Michael R. Walli leave U.S. District Court in Knoxville after an Aug. 9 arraignment on charges of trespassing, property depredation, and property destruction at the Y-12 National Security Complex. A third protester, Greg Boertje-Obed, remains jailed in Blount County.

Two anti-nuclear weapons activists arrested in July in a high-security area at the Y-12 National Security Complex have asked a federal judge to delay their trial date.

The protesters now face an Oct. 10 trial before U.S. District Court Judge Thomas W. Phillips in Knoxville.

But in motions filed Wednesday, two of the protesters—Greg Boertje-Obed and Megan Rice—said the evidence in the case is voluminous, and it involves significant and complex issues, including national security and First Amendment issues.

“Additional time will be required to prepare this case for trial,” said Boertje-Obed, who is representing himself with the help of Knoxville attorney Bobby E. Hutson Jr.

Greg Boertje-Obed

Greg Boertje-Obed

Boertje-Obed said he has been unable to finish the investigation and the research necessary to meaningfully respond to the allegations against him. He and Rice and another protester, Michael R. Walli, have been indicted by a federal grand jury on three counts of trespassing, property depredation, and property destruction.

They are accused of sneaking into Y-12 before dawn July 28, cutting through three fences, and setting off alarms before spray-painting slogans and splashing human blood on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where bomb-grade uranium is stored.

Rice’s attorney, Knoxville lawyer Francis L. Lloyd Jr., said the case has drawn international media attention.

“As was true in past, similar cases, it presents significant and complex issues for both pretrial litigation and trial, including national security and First Amendment issues, and issues of the legality of nuclear arms under American law, and under international law applicable in the United States,” Lloyd said.

The case requires expert evidence, and lawyers and others across the country have offered help and relevant materials, Lloyd said.

Arguing that he needs more time, Lloyd said he is a solo practitioner who also has to represent other clients with cases pending in federal courts in Knoxville, Greeneville, and the Middle District of Tennessee, and other courts.

“Counsel needs additional time within which to review the significant discovery provided by the government, consider necessary pretrial motions, conduct additional investigation, and prepare for trial,” Lloyd said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge C. Clifford Shirley set several deadlines during an Aug. 9 arraignment hearing, including a Sept. 4 motion cutoff and a Sept. 18 pre-trial conference.

The three defendants face potential penalties of up to 16 years in jail and $600,000 in fines.

Rice, 82, and Walli, 63, were released from the Blount County Corrections Facility earlier this month after promising to follow certain conditions. They must stay off government property, including Y-12, abide by travel restrictions, and appear in court when required. Rice had to surrender her passport, and she and Walli went to live at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in Washington, D.C.

Boertje-Obed, 57, waived his right to a detention hearing during an Aug. 3 court appearance, and he remains jailed in Blount County.

The unprecedented security breach at Y-12 has led to a string of staff changes, a temporary halt in nuclear operations that ended Aug. 15, more security training, and a show cause notice that gives B&W Y-12, the plant’s management and operating contractor, 30 days to explain why its contract should not be terminated.

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