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.
The trial against the trio had been scheduled for Feb. 26, 2013, in U.S. District Court in Knoxville. But it may be rescheduled as a result of the superseding indictment, the press release said.
It said the new charges are the result of an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The IG’s involvement has been announced previously, but it’s not clear if the FBI’s participation in any Y-12 investigations has been revealed.
The new count alleges that “on or about July 28, 2012, Walli, Rice, and Boertje-Obed, aiding and abetting each other, with intent to injure, interfere with, and obstruct the national defense of the United States, did willfully injure, destroy and contaminate, and attempt to injure, destroy and contaminate national-defense premises, specifically, buildings and grounds of the Y-12 National Security Complex.”
They allegedly damaged the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, which stores bomb-grade uranium.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey E. Theodore and Melissa M. Kirby are representing the United States in the case against the three protesters, who were motivated by religious beliefs and called themselves Transform Now Plowshares. They have been released from the Blount County Detention Facility pending trial but ordered to follow certain conditions.
Their July 28 intrusion at Y-12 stunned local and federal officials and residents and led to a series of investigations, staff changes, congressional hearings, a temporary suspension of nuclear operations, and a termination of the plant’s security contract with WSI Oak Ridge.