Y-12 protesters: Nun sentenced to three years, men receive five

Bill Quigley, Michele Naar-Obed, and Chris Irwin

Defense attorney Bill Quigley, left; Michele Naar-Obed, wife of Y-12 protester Greg Boertje-Obed; and defense attorney Chris Irwin, center right, after a sentencing hearing in Knoxville on Tuesday.

Note: This story was last updated at 10:20 a.m. Feb. 19.

KNOXVILLE—The three protesters who broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in July 2012 and splashed human blood and spray-painted slogans on a uranium storage building were sentenced to three to five years in prison on Tuesday.

Megan Rice, an 84-year old Catholic nun who last lived in Washington, D.C., received the shortest sentence. She was sentenced to 35 months, or just under three years. Rice is the oldest of the three anti-nuclear weapons activists. She also has the least extensive criminal history, Judge Amul R. Thapar said during a 4.5-hour sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Knoxville on Tuesday afternoon.

The other two protesters, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, both were sentenced to 62 months, or a little more than five years. They have more extensive prior records. Boertje-Obed is a 58-year-old house painter from Duluth, Minn., and Walli is a 64-year-old Catholic worker and Vietnam veteran from Washington, D.C. Thapar said Boertje-Obed has 40 arrests and more than 20 convictions, and he has previously served time in prison. So has Walli. He was released on Jan. 5, 2012—about six months before the break-in—after an eight-month federal sentence for an earlier trespassing incident at Y-12.

“What do I do when eight months didn’t deter him?” Thapar asked defense attorney Chris Irwin. “It’s getting worse, not better.” [Read more...]

Sentencing for Y-12 protesters now consolidated, starts later Tuesday afternoon

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.

A federal judge has delayed for about an hour the Tuesday afternoon sentencing hearing for the three anti-nuclear weapons activists who cut through high-security fences and splashed human blood and spray-painted slogans on a uranium storage building at the Y-12 National Security Complex in July 2012.

The three protesters—Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice, and Michael Walli—had originally been scheduled to have separate hearings starting at noon today (Tuesday) and continuing through 4 p.m. But in an order filed Tuesday morning, U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar said he would consolidate some aspects of the court’s analysis and allow all three defendants to remain in the courtroom during all three sentencing hearings.

The joint sentencing hearing will now start at 1:30 p.m. today (Tuesday) in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

An earlier consolidated sentencing hearing on Jan. 28 was delayed due to snow. [Read more...]

Y-12 protesters to be sentenced in three hearings Tuesday

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, 2012, 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 anti-nuclear weapons activists who cut through high-security fences and splashed human blood and spray-painted slogans on the side of a uranium storage building at the Y-12 National Security Complex in July 2012 will be sentenced in three separate hearings in Knoxville on Tuesday.

Their earlier consolidated sentencing hearing on Jan. 28 was delayed due to snow.

U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar has ordered that Michael Walli, a 64-year-old Catholic worker from Washington, D.C., be sentenced at 12 p.m. Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Knoxville. Walli is facing the longest potential sentence, a range of about seven to nine years, for the damage caused during the unprecedented security breach.

Greg Boertje-Obed, a 58-year-old painter from Duluth, Minn., will be sentenced next, at 2 p.m. His recommended sentence is roughly six to eight years. [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...]

Guest column: U.S. Marshals place ‘Cone of Silence’ over Sr. Megan Rice

Ralph Hutchison

Ralph Hutchison

By Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

The U.S. Marshals have placed a “cone of silence” over Sister Megan Rice, the 83-year-old defendant in the Transform Now Plowshares action who is being held in jail in Knoxville awaiting her sentencing on Tuesday, Jan. 28, in federal court in Knoxville on charges of sabotage and depredation of federal property. Her actual crime was embarrassing the federal government, along with Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, by sneaking into the nation’s ultra-secure Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge and painting peace slogans and pouring blood on the side of a warehouse that stores hundreds of tons of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium.

She has been in jail since a jury delivered a guilty verdict on the trumped-up charges in May 2013.

On Sunday, Jan. 26, Megan called local supporters to report that a phone interview that had been arranged with BBC-London had suddeny been denied. “They were so helpful here at the jail yesterday with making arrangements for the call,” she said, “and then tonight the woman was loud and rude and told me there would be no call. The U.S. Marshals were not allowing it.” [Read more...]

Federal judge orders Y-12 protesters jailed until September sentencing

Y-12 Plowshares Protesters

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

The three protesters who broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in July and vandalized a uranium storage building must stay in jail until they are sentenced Sept. 23, a federal judge said Friday.

The three protesters—Greg Boertje-Obed, 57; Megan Rice, 83; and Michael Walli, 64—had sought to be released until their sentencing hearings this fall. They each face up to 30 years in prison.

But U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar denied that request in a four-page order filed late Friday afternoon. [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 protester case goes to jury this afternoon

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.

Note: This story was last updated at 12:51 p.m.

KNOXVILLE—The case against three anti-nuclear weapons activists who broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in July and vandalized a uranium storage building could go to a jury this afternoon.

The government rested its case yesterday, and the defense rested this morning after the three defendants—Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice, and Michael Walli—testified.

The three acknowledge sneaking into Y-12 on July 28, cutting through high-security fences, and pouring blood and spray-painting biblical passages on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where most of the nation’s bomb-grade uranium is stored. But they say they were religiously motivated and peacefully protesting the plant’s nuclear weapons work, symbolically disarming the 811-acre plant. [Read more...]

Y-12 protesters say fence hole remains after break-in, officials say it’s repaired

Hole in Y-12 Perimeter Fence

The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance says three protesters crossed into the Y-12 National Security Complex through this hole the trio cut in a perimeter fence before dawn on July 28, and OREPA alleges that the hole had not been repaired as of Monday. (Submitted photo)

More than four months after three protesters broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex, a hole that the trio cut in a perimeter fence still hasn’t been repaired, an Oak Ridge group said Wednesday.

In a statement, the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, which has supported the Y-12 protesters, said two OREPA members went to the nuclear weapons plant on Monday and, after 15 minutes of walking, found the spot where the protesters had cut through an outer fence. It was open from the ground up to a spot about four feet high—a hole large enough for a person to squeeze through, the group said.

But in a statement Thursday afternoon, federal officials said the fence has been repaired.

[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 cameras weren’t working, guards failed to react, federal letter says

Transform Now Plowshares

The three anti-nuclear weapons activists pictured above sneaked into a high-security area at the Y-12 National Security Complex on July 28 and triggered a security crisis that has led to personnel changes, a temporary halt in nuclear operations, and a potential termination of a federal contract with B&W Y-12. From left to right, the three protesters are Michael R. Walli, Megan Rice, and Greg Boertje-Obed. (Submitted photo)

Note: This story was last updated at 9:32 a.m. Aug. 15.

Many security cameras weren’t working when three anti-nuclear weapons activists sneaked into the Y-12 National Security Complex early in the morning on Saturday, July 28, a federal official said in a critical letter released Tuesday evening.

One of those cameras was near a fence penetrated by the protesters, who allegedly used bolt-cutters to slice through three fences before they walked to a high-security building known as the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where bomb-grade uranium is stored.

The intruders, who allegedly spray-painted slogans and splashed human blood on the HEUMF, set off many alarms in a “multi-layered sensor system” in a fence line, but the Y-12 protective force failed to react, the official said.

When guards alerted by the alarms responded with a vehicle patrol, it took them too long to arrive at the scene, and once there, they “failed to take appropriate steps to take control of the situation,” said the official, National Nuclear Security Administration Contracting Officer Jill Y. Albaugh. She said a responding supervisor finally took control and removed the protesters.

Written Friday, Albaugh’s letter gives Babcock and Wilcox Technical Services Y-12, the plant’s managing and operating contractor, 30 days to show why the federal government should not proceed to terminate its contract.

[Read more...]

Y-12 protesters plead not guilty to new charge, face more jail time

Megan Rice and Michael R. Walli

Anti-nuclear weapons activists Megan Rice, left, and Michael R. Walli leave U.S. District Court in Knoxville after pleading not guilty Thursday morning to three counts 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.

Note: This story was last updated at 1:51 a.m. Aug. 10.

KNOXVILLE—A new felony property depredation charge and the possibility of more jail time have been added to two earlier charges filed against three anti-nuclear weapons activists arrested in July near a uranium storage building at the Y-12 National Security Complex.

The defendants—Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice, and Michael R. Walli—are accused of sneaking into Y-12 before dawn July 28, cutting through three fences, and setting off alarms before spraying paint and splashing blood on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where bomb-grade uranium is stored.

The new charge, contained in a three-count grand jury indictment filed Tuesday, carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years. The three activists pleaded not guilty to all three counts during a Thursday morning arraignment in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

[Read more...]