Seattle man arrested during Y-12 protest crossed blue trespass line, police say

Christopher Ryan Spicer Arrest at Y-12

Christopher Ryan Spicer of Seattle was arrested and charged with criminal trespass at the main entrance to the Y-12 National Security Complex on Sunday. (Photo courtesy Ralph Hutchison)

The Seattle man who was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing at the Y-12 National Security Complex on Sunday had repeatedly failed to comply with police commands, and he crossed a blue trespass line at the main entrance to the nuclear weapons plant, authorities said.

Christopher Ryan Spicer, 31, was participating in a weekly protest at Y-12 at about 6 p.m. Sunday at the intersection of Bear Creek and Scarboro roads. This protest was significant because it occurred less than two days before the scheduled sentencing of the three protesters who broke into Y-12 in July 2012 and spray-painted slogans and splashed blood on a uranium storage building.

Dozens of people came to Knoxville from across the country for the Tuesday sentencing of the three: Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice, and Michael Walli. However, it was postponed to Feb. 18 because of snow.

Christopher Ryan Spicer

Christopher Ryan Spicer

Oak Ridge Police Department Officer James Elkins said Spicer was among the protesters on Sunday evening before he crossed a street and walked toward the Y-12 guard shack. Spicer repeatedly failed to comply with orders given by him and ORPD Sgt. Roy Heinz, Elkins said in a warrant filed in Anderson County General Sessions Court. The officers told Spicer to stop as he approached the blue trespass line at the federal site, Elkins said. [Read more…]

Judge says Y-12 protesters not contrite as snow delays sentencing

Y-12 Plowshares Protesters

Pictured above are the three anti-nuclear weapons protesters who broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex on July 28, 2012, and vandalized a uranium storage building. From left, they are Michael Walli, Megan Rice, and Greg Boertje-Obed.

KNOXVILLE—The three protesters who cut through fences and vandalized a uranium storage building at the Y-12 National Security Complex in July 2012 have not shown contrition or accepted responsibility for what they’ve done, a federal judge said during a Tuesday sentencing hearing.

The three anti-nuclear weapons activists—Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice, and Michael R. Walli—have acknowledged that they splashed human blood, hung crime scene tape, and hammered on the side of the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility on July 28, 2012. They have freely given interviews to reporters and admitted that they spray-painted slogans—they called them “Biblical graffiti”—on the side of the HEUMF, which stores most of the nation’s bomb-grade uranium.

But acknowledging their actions is not the same as contrition, U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar suggested during a Tuesday sentencing hearing at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Courthouse in Knoxville. To accept responsibility, the trio would have to show contrition and remorse, and acknowledge that what they did was wrong, Thapar said.

However, the defendants have fought the government at every step in the 18-month-old case, the judge said. [Read more…]

Y-12 security update outlines improvements since July 28 intrusion

Y-12 Security Repairs Chart

Since three protesters broke in last summer, security cameras and sensors have been repaired and replaced. There are more security patrols at the Y-12 National Security Complex and more staff in the Central Alarm Station. And officials and workers are trying to reduce the false and nuisance alarm rate.

Those are among the improvements highlighted in a Y-12 security update published in May. It said Y-12 quickly began making changes after the July 28 security breach, when three anti-nuclear weapons activists broke into the plant before dawn, cut through three fences in the high-security Protected Area, and splashed human blood, spray-painted slogans, and hammered on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where most of the nation’s bomb-grade uranium is stored.

“Y-12 has carefully examined the circumstances that led to the event, developed actions to fix the problems that were discovered, and is applying the lessons learned to our security posture and operations,” the security update said. “These actions included adding key leadership personnel, restoring to service critical security elements, and refining alarm system components to enhance reliability.” [Read more…]

Y-12 protesters guilty of two federal charges, jailed overnight

The Fruit of Justice is Peace Slogan on HEUMF at Y-12

Three anti-nuclear weapons activists who sneaked into the Y-12 National Security Complex on July 28 splashed human blood and, quoting Proverbs, sprayed paint on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility. The protesters also hammered the building, causing it to chip, and strung up crime scene tape. (Submitted photo)

KNOXVILLE—The Catholic nun, house painter, and laborer who broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in July and splashed human blood and spray-painted slogans on a uranium storage building were found guilty on two federal counts Wednesday, one charging them with property depredation of more than $1,000 and the other alleging they willfully injured national defense premises.

The three protesters—Megan Rice, 83; Michael R. Walli, 64; and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57—were taken to the Blount County jail after the verdict was read at the end of a two-day trial in U.S. District Court in Knoxville. Dozens of courtroom supporters sang softly as the three anti-nuclear weapons activists were taken into custody after about 2.5 hours of deliberations by the nine men and three women on the jury panel.

Boertje-Obed, Rice, and Walli have a detention hearing on Thursday morning. Each faces up to 30 years in prison. [Read more…]

Y-12 protesters can’t use necessity, Nuremberg defenses at Tuesday trial

Y-12 Plowshares Protesters

Pictured above are the three anti-nuclear weapons protesters who broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex on July 28. From left, they are Michael Walli, Megan Rice, and Greg Boertje-Obed.

The three protesters accused of sneaking into the Y-12 National Security Complex and vandalizing a uranium storage building in July will not be able to argue during their trial next week that they violated federal laws in order to achieve a greater good, a judge said.

It’s what is known as a necessity defense, and it only applies in rare situations, U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar said in an opinion and order filed Tuesday. It allows a defendant to avoid a conviction even when the government has proven all the elements of an offense.

Thapar said the three anti-nuclear weapons activists—Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice, and Michael Walli—did not have any evidence to establish three of the four required elements of the necessity defense, including a “reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury due to a present, imminent, and unlawful threat.”

[Read more…]

Moved to new spot, Y-12 protesters still demonstrate; three arrested

OREPA Spring Demonstration at Y-12

Protesters say “no” to the proposed Uranium Processing Facility in a demonstration across from the Y-12 National Security Complex on Saturday.  The area traditionally used by the protesters has been blocked by a fence erected this week. Pictured above at left are Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, two of the anti-nuclear weapons activists who penetrated the high-security Protected Area at Y-12 on July 28.

Forced to move to a new spot, protesters said three people were arrested on Saturday during an annual spring demonstration opposing the proposed Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex.

An area that has traditionally been used by the protesters near Y-12’s main entrance at Bear Creek and Scarboro roads was enclosed by a fence this week. So the protesters, who oppose Y-12’s nuclear weapons work, demonstrated across the street from the 811-acre plant.

Three of them were arrested during a mile-long march from the Oak Ridge Civic Center, where the demonstration started, and Y-12. They were Larry Coleman, 71, of Knoxville; Buddhist monk Gyoshu Utsumi, 60, of Newport; and Bill Ramsey, 65, of Asheville, N.C. All three were charged with impeding the flow of traffic, and they have been released from the Anderson County Detention Facility on $100-$200 bonds. [Read more…]

Y-12 evaluation: Some excellent ratings, but unsatisfactory on security, UPF

Y-12 National Security Complex

Y-12 National Security Complex (Submitted photo)

Although it received excellent and very good ratings in some areas, the contractor that manages and operates the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge was stung by unsatisfactory marks for its performance before and during the July 28 security breach and the redesign of the new Uranium Processing Facility.

The National Nuclear Security Administration said the UPF redesign could add $539 million to the project cost and extend its schedule by 13 months. The UPF has been estimated to cost up to $6.5 billion, and plans have called for it to start operating as early as 2023.

The NNSA also said the Y-12 security system and protective force completely failed when three anti-nuclear weapons activists penetrated a high-security Protected Area before dawn on July 28. The three protesters were able to avoid detection and cut through three fences inside Y-12 before spraying paint and splashing human blood on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where bomb-grade uranium is stored.

But federal officials awarded “excellent” or “very good” ratings to the contractor, Babcock and Wilcox Y-12 Technical Services LLC, or B&W Y-12, for operations in areas that include environmental and waste management activities, infrastructure improvements, risk reduction initiatives, cyber security, and stockpile and nuclear nonproliferation work.

[Read more…]

Y-12 protesters’ trial rescheduled to May

The federal trial against the three protesters accused of sneaking into the Y-12 National Security Complex in July and vandalizing a uranium storage building has been reset to May 7.

It had most recently been set for Feb. 26, 2013. But the U.S. Attorneys’ Office said last week that the date would likely change after a federal grand jury in Knoxville returned new three-count indictments against the three defendants—Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice, and Michael R. Walli.

The new indictments, which supersede earlier three-count indictments from August, added a more serious charge of injuring national defense premises. That charge carries a longer prison sentence of up to 20 years.

[Read more…]

Opposed to nuclear weapons work, Y-12 protesters refused to plead guilty

The Fruit of Justice is Peace Slogan on HEUMF at Y-12

Three anti-nuclear weapons activists who sneaked into the Y-12 National Security Complex on July 28 allegedly splashed human blood and, quoting Proverbs, sprayed paint on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility. The protesters also hammered the building, causing it to chip, and strung up crime scene tape. (Submitted photo)

The three protesters who vandalized a uranium storage building at Y-12 National Security Complex in July said they would not accept a plea deal from the federal government earlier this year, even though prosecutors threatened to charge them with more serious sabotage crimes.

“We chose to exercise our constitutional right to a jury trial and refused to bow down to their threats,” the trio said in a statement released Wednesday. “We remain convinced that making and refurbishing nuclear weapons at Y-12 is both illegal under U.S. and international law, and it is also immoral. Ultimately, we are required to follow the law of love and our consciences.”

Calling themselves Transform Now Plowshares, the three protesters—Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice, and Michael Walli— allegedly cut through fences at Y-12 before dawn on Saturday, July 28, entered a high-security area where deadly force is authorized, and splashed human blood and spray-painted slogans on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where bomb-grade uranium is stored.

On Tuesday, a federal grand jury in Knoxville returned a new charge against the trio for this summer’s unprecedented intrusion. The new count of injuring national-defense premises carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years, longer than any of the earlier potential penalties.

[Read more…]

Y-12 protesters face new national defense charge, longer prison sentence

Transform Now Plowshares

The three anti-nuclear weapons activists pictured above allegedly cut through fences and vandalized a uranium storage building at the Y-12 National Security Complex in July and now face federal charges of property destruction, property depredation, and injuring national defense premises. From left to right the three are Michael R. Walli, Megan Rice, and Greg Boertje-Obed. (Submitted photo)

A new federal charge has been added against the three protesters who allegedly cut through fences at the Y-12 National Security Complex in July and splashed human blood and spray-painted slogans on a uranium storage building.

A three-count indictment returned against Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice, and Michael Walli adds a new count of injuring national-defense premises, U.S. Attorney William C. Killian said in a Wednesday morning press release. The new charge carries a longer prison sentence of up to 20 years.

The indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Knoxville on Tuesday supersedes the earlier three-count indictment from August.

The new indictment does not include the earlier trespassing charge. However, it does include the previous charges of property destruction and property depredation. Including all the charges, the protesters, who are opposed to Y-12’s nuclear weapons work, now face jail sentences of up to 35 years and fines of up to $750,000.

[Read more…]

Y-12 protesters get three-week extension to file motions

Transform Now Plowshares

The three anti-nuclear weapons activists pictured above cut through fences and vandalized a high-security building at the Y-12 National Security Complex in July and now face federal charges of property destruction, property depredation, and trespassing. From left to right, the three are Michael R. Walli, Megan Rice, and Greg Boertje-Obed. (Submitted photo)

A federal judge has given attorneys three extra weeks to file motions in the government’s case against three anti-nuclear weapons activists accused of sneaking into the Y-12 National Security Complex in July and vandalizing a building where bomb-grade uranium is stored.

On Oct. 9, the attorneys asked for a one-month extension, which would have given them until Nov. 9 to file motions for Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice, and Michael R. Walli. They said they hadn’t completed their investigation and needed more time to consult with the defendants.

In an order filed Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge C. Clifford Shirley Jr. gave them until Oct. 30. A motion hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 20.

“In order to remain on track for the Feb. 26, 2013, trial of this matter, this motion hearing cannot be delayed,” Shirley said. “Additional extensions of the motion deadline will not be permitted, except in the event of extraordinary circumstances.”

Shirley said attorneys had said the discovery, or information collected in the case, was minimal, and he was “somewhat surprised” to hear that more time was needed to investigate the facts.

Boertje-Obed, Rice, and Walli are accused of sneaking into Y-12 before dawn on July 28, cutting through fences with bolt cutters, evading guards, and spray-painting slogans and splashing human blood on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility.

They have been charged with property destruction, property depredation, and trespassing. The three protesters, who have pleaded not guilty, face potential penalties of up to 16 years in jail and $600,000 in fines.

Walli is represented by Christopher Scott Irwin of Knoxville and William P. Quigley of New Orleans. Rice is represented by Francis L. Lloyd Jr. of Knoxville. Boertje-Obed is representing himself, although he has the assistance of “elbow counsel,” Knoxville attorney Bobby E. Hutson Jr.

The Nov. 20 motion hearing starts at 9:30 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

The unprecedented security breach has had a significant impact on Y-12, its contractors, and the National Nuclear Security Administration. Among other things, there have been federal investigations, two congressional hearings, a temporary halt in nuclear operations, a contract termination for security guard company WSI Oak Ridge, and a firing, suspensions, retirements, and reassignments at WSI, NNSA, and B&W Y-12.

Note: This story was last updated at 10:27 p.m. Oct. 18.

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.

[Read more…]