St. Pat's Four
Acquitted on Heaviest Charge
compiled by Andy Mager from www.stpatricksfour.org
On Monday, October 26, following seven hours of deliberation,
the jury in the Saint Patrick's Four trial found the defendants not guilty of
the most serious charge of conspiracy and guilty of two lesser misdemeanor counts.
The four Ithaca activists faced up to six years in prison for entering a military
recruiting center in Lansing, NY and pouring their own blood in the center's
vestibule on March 17, 2003, immediately before the US invasion of Iraq.
"The decision to acquit on the conspiracy charge, a felony, is a huge victory, given the narrow parameters within which the four could present their defense and given the restrictions on deliberations. This is a major setback in the government's efforts to criminalize dissent," said Bill Quigley, public interest lawyer and Loyola University School of Law professor, who acted as legal advisor to the defendants.
The four were convicted of damage to property and trespassing, which carry possible sentences of one year and six months respectively.
The decision did not surprise the defendants, given that US District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy forbade them to present to the jury the legal context, particularly international treaties and the US Constitution, which would have made possible and reasonable an acquittal on all charges.
In a previous trial in Tompkins County Court in April 2004, the defendants were able to fully explain their action in this broader legal context and nine of twelve jurors voted to acquit.
"The real crime, as we've always stated, is that our government conspired against the American people and lied us into an illegal and immoral war," said defendant Peter DeMott. "The task is now upon us all to better understand the criminality of our government's aggression and to act accordingly to ensure our government adheres to international law and enters and strengthens the international community."
Sentencing has been scheduled for late January 2006. And though three of the four defendants were held in contempt for raising "prohibited issues," Judge McAvoy said that he will make a decision on the penalties in due course.
The following are excerpts from trial testimony of the four defendants.
|Ongoing vigils took place outside the Federal courthouse in Binghamton throughout the weeklong trial. Photo: www.stpatricksfour.org|
Claire Grady (opening
We are here today, the four of us parents, facing very serious charges. In a case that I believe is about love, truth, and the power of peaceful non-violent symbolic action. We are moved out of love - the love God shows us, the love we share as family and community, the love we grow into, that reaches out to all people, especially those most in need. Especially those who suffer at the work of our hands and policies. We seek the truth! The WHOLE truth. The truth about our part in the bigger picture. We are open to dispelling the lies that lead to bloodshed and the killing of the innocent.
We are not able to turn a blind eye to our part, not able to remain silent, not able to stand idly by. We put our lives on the line. Peacefully, prayerfully, we undertook this non-violent symbolic action to show the awful truth about war. To show our non-cooperation with it, and to sound the alarm, to warn others, especially our beloved youth who are also victims of war, who have been lied to, and whose honorable intentions and bravery have been exploited.
Peter DeMott (closing
The United States went to war influenced by the lies, forgeries and deceptions put forth by the Bush Administration to justify the war. You, the jury, are now being asked by the prosecutor to render a verdict in this case based on half truths and falsehoods
Our intent in protesting was to warn young recruits, the recruiters themselves and the broader community that the war about to ensue would claim the lives of tens of thousands. We knew that the war could not be waged without a wholesale waste of blood, of human life, of valuable resources. We knew that the war would contaminate the environment with fallout from depleted uranium munitions and would poison our own troops even as it annihilated the Iraqis. We knew that the war on Iraq, just like all modern wars, would murder mothers and their children, the elderly and other noncombatants in the greatest numbers.
Sadly the warning we, and millions of others around the world tried to give did not prevent the war. But the predictions that frightened us, that were described by all codefendants, have come to pass.
Danny Burns (closing
We admit that the four of us met together and planned to go the recruiting center and pour our own blood. We don't deny that there was a mess, that some posters had to be replaced. We don't deny that Sgt. Montgomery was inconvenienced.
We submit that causing a mess and inconvenience to try to prevent a war that is wrong and has taken the lives of, one thousand eight hundred and ninety five US service people and one hundred thousand Iraqi people, is justified.
We live in a great nation. There are many people in our history we can be very proud of: like local juries who refused to convict people for aiding escaping slaves, like Susan B. Anthony who was arrested in Rochester for voting when women were not allowed to vote, working people who risked their lives so that we could have weekends and a 40 hour work week.
Ours is a country with a government "for the people, of the people, by the people." That is a great gift to us, but it is also a great responsibility that you and I and all citizens have.
For our troops who have been killed in Iraq, For our country's future, For our young children who we hope and pray will never be called to fight in an illegal, unjust and unnecessary war such as this one, I ask you to use your conscience, your heart, and the law to return a verdict of not guilty on all four counts.
Teresa Grady (closing
What kind of a government are we living under?
Our government spends $200 billion on a war based on lies while claiming the lives of the innocent.
You tell me -- what recourse do we have to stop it, to stop this perversity before another life is claimed or another penny spent!
We know the economic cost of war while our cities, towns, and nations crumble. People are over-worked in order to pay their taxes: the war tax. Our children and their children are bound to pay back the debt of this war.
New Orleans is our taste of what it must be like in Baghdad.
We are hopeful because in spite of this great evil that seems to cover or shadow us, I believe in the spirit of goodness in all human beings.
When truth is spoken, goodness resonates in the human heart.
We have not been allowed to speak the truth, the whole truth, but our spirits are buoyed in that this censorship is an example of the fear our government has to hide the truth desperately clinging to keep a footing. But the fact that they are censoring the truth of the face of the victims of war, (including our beautiful young service people), that they are censoring international law, suggests to me that they too believe in goodness resonating in the in the human heart.
For updates and great background information, see: www.stpatricksfour.org
Andy is a Peace Council staffperson who wishes his job afforded time to attend "extracurricular activities" such as the St. Patrick's Four Trial.