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Trial Update- PDF Print E-mail
July 9, 2002
July 10, 2002
July 11, 2002
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July 12th - SOA 43 Sentencing!

Photos Available at www.soawne.org/Photos1Trial37.html

Sentencing for the SOA 43 took place on Friday. Seven received six months probation. Fines ranged from none to $5000. Eight of the defendants pled guilty to trespass on Monday. Ten pled not guilty while stipulating to the facts presented by the prosecution. Judge G. Mallon Faircloth found these ten guilty on Tuesday. Fourteen defendants were tried on Tuesday and Wednesday ? all found guilty with one exception. Five defendants who represented themselves were tried Thursday. All of the defendants (excepting the one acquitted) were sentenced yesterday afternoon well into the night.

Sentencing of the 37 SOA Watch Defendants (listed in order of state)

Fr. William O?Donnell Berkeley, CA, 72, Sentenced to six months in federal prison, $1000 fine

Leone Reinbold Oakland, CA, Sentenced to six months probation, $500 fine

Fr. Louis Vitale San Francisco, CA, Sentenced to three months in federal prison

Toni Flynn Valyermo, CA, 56, Sentenced to six months in federal prison (in custody now)

Jonna Cohen Denver, CO, 20, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Michael Sobol Golden CO, 18, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Kathy Shields Boylan Washington DC, 58, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, no fine

Richard Ring Atlanta, GA, 33, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Mary Dean Chicago, IL, 37, Sentenced to six months in a federal prison, $1000 fine

Kathleen Desautels Chicago, IL, 64, Sentenced to six months in a federal prison

Brigid Conarchy Grayslake, IL, 23, Sentenced to six months probation, $500 fine and barred from entering Muskogee County for twelve months

Fr. Jerry Zawada Cedar Lake, IN, 65, Sentenced to six months in federal prison (in custody now)

Janice Sevre-Duszynska Nicholasville, KY, 52, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Ralph Madsen Newtonville, MA, 68, Sentenced to six months probation, $500 fine

Palmer Legare Springfield, MA, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Rev. Charles Booker-Hirsch Ann Arbor, MI, 41, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Maxwell Sadler Edwards Waterville, ME, Sentenced to six months in federal prison, $2500 fine

Summer Nelson Missoula, MT, 26, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine (in custody now)

Tom Mahedy Wall, NJ, 39, Former Navy ROTC. Sentenced to three months in federal prison

Linda Holzbaur Ithaca, NY, 45, Sentenced to six months probation, $500 fine

Rae Kramer Syracuse, NY, 55, Sentenced to six months in a federal prison, $5,000 fine

Laura MacDonald Syracuse, NY, 23, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine (in custody now)

Mike Pasquale Syracuse, NY, 33, Sentenced to six months in a federal prison, $1000 fine

Chani Geigle Salem, OR 19, Sentenced to six months in a federal prison, $1000 fine

Shannon McManimon Philadelphia, PA 26, Sentenced to six months probation, $500 fine

Rev. Erik Johnson Maryville, TN, 57, Sentenced to six months in federal prison, $1000 fine

Kenneth Crowley Houston, TX, 60, Sentenced to six months in federal prison, $1000 fine

Niklan Jones-Lezama Blacksburg, VA, 38, Sentenced to six months in federal prison

David O?Neill Elkton, VA, Sentenced to six months probation, $500 fine

Lee Sturgis Elkton, VA, Sentenced to six months probation, $500 fine

Peter Gelderloos Harrisonburg, VA 19, Sentenced to six months in federal prison (in custody now)

Abi Miller Harrisonburg, VA, 23, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Sue Daniels Pembroke, VA, 41, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Nancy Gowen Richmond, VA, 68, Sentenced to three months in federal prison, $500 fine

Lisa Hughes W. Hartford, VT, 36, Acquitted

John Heid Luck, WI, 47, Sentenced to six months in federal prison

Kate Fontanazza Milwaukee, WI 53, Sentenced to six months in federal prison, $1000 fine

Columbus, Georgia
July 9, 2002
Today’s court session began with the testimony of a defendant charged with entering the base with a previous ban and bar letter. Like the most recent defendants, Lisa Hughes pled not guilty with a stipulation. Lisa’s stipulation was significantly different than the previous defendants’ because she admitted that she had crossed the line at the entrance to Fort Benning, but had not walked around the fence to reach the base. After the rally, marchers left their crosses, banners and other memorials on the fence and Lisa knelt on the grass to the side of the road praying in memory for the family of her honorary mother in El Salvador. Lisa’s testimony about the deaths of the women and the children of El Salvador seemed to affect the judge as well as the other people in court. The prosecutor asked Lisa several questions about why she had not crossed the line and asked “Would it be fair to say your heart was with those who crossed onto the base?” Lisa answered that it was in fact fair to say that.

Judge Faircloth then adjudicated all the cases of defendants accused of trespassing onto the base, who had previous warnings and had stipulated to the facts presented by the prosecution. He found Ken Crowley, Gerry Zawada, Michael Pasquale, Toni Flinn, Kathleen Desautels, Erik Johnson, Rae Kramer, Kate Fantanazza, Bill O”Donnell and Mary Dean guilty. Lisa Hughes was found not guilty.

Before announcing his decisions, the judge allowed the defendants to make additional statements if they wished to. Some of the statements: Rae Kramer: “if Rotarians from Iowa marched on the lawn at Ft Benning with signs proclaiming support for WHISC, they would be welcome on the base. It is our challenge, not political statements, that the Army objects to.” Bill O”Donnell, “I am not at home in the houses of government. I am at home in the houses of the poor.” Erik Johnson:, “I believe in the power of nonviolent love and our government has tried to silence that. You, Judge Faircloth, can make a difference, just as other Southern judges made a difference for the civil rights of our brothers and sisters of a different color.” Kathleen Desautels, “Our movement has taken many steps to close the SOA. We have taken one extra step. Our conscience is our higher guide.”

The next group of cases heard was people charged with first time trespass that were willing to sign a stipulation. The testimony given was individual and powerful. Several defendants responded specifically to Judge Faircloth’s repeated assertions that experts agree that the SOA has been closed and that WHISC has not produced a single perpetrator of atrocities.

Tom Mehedy spoke of the forcible removal of the Creek Indians from land now owned by the US Army at Fort Benning, comparing it with policies in Latin America today. Chuck Booker-Hirsch, a Presbyterian minister from Ann Arbor Michigan, spoke of his work at El Barrio, a Texas refuge that housed 12,000 Guatemalans in only ten years. Chuck compared reform of the School of the Americas, because of its history, to “offering a chauffeur’s license to someone with 1000 DWIs.”

Nancy Gowan of Richmond Virginia spoke of her mother’s violent beating, rape and murder by a gunshot to the head and how the grief she felt led her to work with anti-capital punishment groups, volunteer in prisons and live a life devoted to peace and nonviolent activism. Michael Sobol, an 18 year old Coloradan, graduated from an alternative high school in May, a school which granted him credit for participating in the November actions. He talked about the need for ‘global community service.’ “I am attracted to gentleness and humility,” he said. “I don’t want to close WHISC; I want to change it to teach community, human rights and compassion.”

Jonna Cohen, from Denver, spoke about her work with rape victims, their horror and emotional scars. Her work inspired her to take action to close the SOA, a school that teaches rape as a method of intimidation. “It is ironic that we are discussing law when lawlessness is taught at WHISC.”

Janice Sevre-Dazynska, Lexington Kentucky, a teacher and ‘woman called to ordination in the Roman Catholic Church,’ suggested replacing the stars and stripes with guns and dollar signs. Her Polish ancestry and the knowledge of Polish relatives living under the horrors of Nazi occupation led her to work to close the SOA.

Laura McDonald of Syracuse NY identified herself as a member of the human family. “People don’t [look at]the cost of their lifestyles. We must change the policies of our country.”

Louis Vitale of San Francisco is a Franciscan brother and priest now but he described his earlier life as a ‘bit of a partier’. He had been an ROTC officer and an officer in the Air Force as a flight interceptor. During a long life of activism, Louie met his chief mentor, Cesar Chavez, who he credited with teaching him about fasting and nonviolent civil disobedience and social change. Quoting Gandhi, Louie said, “No one has all the truth; we all have some of the truth.”

The judge has repeatedly asked defendants if they have ever tried other methods of democratic change such as writing letters to Congress. Rich Ring spoke directly to Judge Faircloth’s previous statements of support for civil disobedience…if it didn’t break any laws. Rich defended civil disobedience by boldly suggesting that perhaps Rosa Parks should have written a letter to her white mayor instead of sitting at the front of the bus, or that Dorothy Day should have written to her male Congressman to ask for the right to vote.

Kathy Boylan, a Washington DC Catholic Worker, testified about her history of resistance to all violence and war and about the government’s lies during her lifetime, specifically about Vietnam and Iraq.

The defendants who plead not guilty, while stipulating to the facts, will be adjudicated tomorrow morning. Following the Judge’s decisions, the remaining eight defendants will present their cases pro se.

July 10, 2002
Reigning on the wall of the courtroom are Jimmy Carter’s words: “There is but One Law for All – The Law of Humanity and Justice.” Unfortunately for the thirteen activists whose cases were adjudicated today, this was not borne out.

Before Judge Faircloth could begin adjudicating the ten defendants (Richard Ring, Rev. Charles Baker-Hirsch, Kathleen Boylan, Janice Sevre-Duszynska, Laura MacDonald, Jonna Cohen, Michael Sobol Golden, Nancy Gowen, Thomas Mahedy, and Louis Vitale) who had entered “not guilty” pleas on Tuesday, with stipulations, defense attorney John Reed entered a motion for acquittal on the basis of 18 USC 1382 and its idea of necessity [of protest] required in the face of the imminent danger posed by the [military] installation. The attorney ended his motion by remembering how Martin Luther King, Jr. answered those who would criticize him for going too fast to let the legal process take its course, to the effect that “we can never forget everything Hitler did was legal, and everything that the Hungarian freedom fighters did was illegal.” The motion was denied. The judge ruled that the intent of the defendants, their “higher purpose,” is irrelevant to their cases. Whether they in fact made unauthorized entry onto Fort Benning for the purpose of the proscribed activity of demonstrating is alone relevant.

Each of the ten defendants was found guilty. They were each allowed to make a final statement, of which highlights follow.

Rich Ring in reference to the judge’s statement that SOA/WHISC was just a microscopic part of Fort Benning said he’d gladly protest in front of the school if only the judge would instruct the guards to let him through to it. Regarding the Government charge that defense failed to present evidence of imminent danger, Rich said that the judge would not allow the multitude of existing evidence to be admitted. “The court says we’ve not proven that the smoke means there is a fire. There is a fire, and we all know about it.”

Rev. Hirsch referred to the Carter quotation on the wall, and quoted from the Bible, how Jesus said he was not here to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it; how the Gospels distinguished between the letter and the spirit of the law when Mary, Martha’s sister, a woman, sat at the feet of Jesus, a rabbi; when Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Likewise, he, Rev. Hirsch was here not to undermine the security of anyone, but to build up the Law, to fulfill it, through acts of non-violent civil disobedience. It was in response to Rev. Hirsch’s impassioned statement that the judge managed to equate civil disobedience to violence, mentioned above.

Kathleen Boylan addressed the barriers against acting to end violence stop the killing, She sighted the Nuremburg trials and asked the judge to imagine what might have happened to Germans who tried to stop the Holocaust. She queried, what if the S/S training took place on a larger base, and on the particular day that they demonstrated, they weren’t able to prove that the immolation of people was taking place on that particular day? Kathleen likened the U.S. bombing of Iraq and the U.S.’ disproportionate use of world resources to terrorism.

Nancy Gowen reflected on the words of Mother Theresa and what she would do if she where here. “If your heart tells you to cross the line for Justice, and State says no; cross the line for justice [anyway.]”

Tom Mahedy named the events at which he demonstrated, one by one, “but they would not hear my voice. The democratic process is not working, so I came here to offer my body. I don’t want to, but it [the court] is the one place I can get heard. I’ve tried everything else.”

Louie Vitale remembered how Maximilian who was arrested by the Nazis, offered to go to death in place of a prisoner who had children. Vitale movingly asked Judge Faircloth to add whatever sentence he would give to Tom Mahedy, father of three children, to his own instead. Then Vitale detailed how SOA Watch had succeeded in sending someone to a [new and improved] WHISC meeting of the oversight board. When this person spoke with Congresswoman Sanchez she said she had given up – WHISC had not changed its curriculum, or its practices. She will recommend supporting Bill 1810, as will Pellosi. He spoke of listening to the voice deep within himself, despite people’s warning him of the possible consequences of six months’ jail time. Finally, Vitale proposed that the judge postpone sentencing indefinitely, so that the acts of SOA/WHISC will be known by everyone, and carrying out the sentencing would be as anachronistic as sentencing someone under the old Segregation Act.

Before adjourning for lunch, Judge Faircloth made a surprising suggestion to the just-adjudicated defendants (save Kathleen Boylan who’d been banned and barred for life) – a tour by the Fort Commandant of the WHISC. The defendants quickly agreed that they’d prefer to stay in court to support their not-yet-tried codefendants. A possible tour of the base may be postponed until after trial.

Chantilly Geigle, Susan Daniels, and Niklan Jones-Lezama pled not guilty in order to force the prosecution to present evidence against them. Judge Faircloth found the three defendants guilty despite the Government’s prosecution, which failed to uphold the burden of proof, proving the defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution’s case was so poorly prepared that it was condescending to the defendants. “Turning the concept of ‘presumed innocent until proven guilty’ on its head,” in defense attorney Reed’s words, the prosecution challenged the defense to prove that the area around the fence was not part of Fort Benning property. Prosecution troubled itself to obtain neither deed to the property in question nor the complete army regulation on which prosecution based its case. The defense, on the other hand, eloquently revealed the flaws in the case of the prosecution. Reed said, “the U.S. Government has not taken seriously its obligation to provide the burden of proof.”

Chantilly took the courtroom to the pinnacle of emotion with her telling of her story. “My journey toward this moment started a long time ago, and I want to tell the court my story.” She spoke of her activism in her hometown of Salem, Oregon, her involvement in the legislative process, her efforts to spread the word throughout her community about the activities of SOA/WHISC. “And now you are providing me the opportunity to spread the word to thousands more.” Chantilly described her ideal community through two stories. The first story was about a peace community in Colombia, and their decision to be non-violent, intentional, and remain somehow neutral in the conflicts in the area. Her second story was about her correspondence with a young Colombian penpal, Carlos, who offered her prayers and sympathy after 9/11. She finished with a quote by [MLKJr]: We must accept finite disappointment, but we must not forget infinite hope.

Daniels and Jones-Lezama opted not to make statements and let their case rest.

Reported by Elizabeth (Liza) Cobb, mother of defendant Peter Alan Gelderloos

July 11, 2002
Today was a day of creative defenses and much legal argumentation, defending our First Amendment Rights

Summer Nelson and Abi Miller (their cases joined), plead Not Guilty, acting Pro Se (i.e. self-representation).

Government witnesses were called, to testify to Ban and Bar letters, details of the videotape of the Nov. 18, 2001 Action, and of posted and bullhorn-announced warnings to Defendants on that date.

The defendants’ defense was that they had been part of the legal protest, but went inside solely to deliver an “Indictment” to the commandant (or his representative) of the SOA, charging them with specified crimes against humanity, and “to confront the fact that our government is training torturers.” The videotape from Nov. 18 showed officers waving the defendants towards the base, while warnings were issued to protesters as they were forced to the ground and into a waiting bus. The defendants’ closing argument centered around “our constitutional right to petition our government to redress grievances.” The judge rejected all arguments and found them Guilty, as charged.

Peter Gelderloos, plead Not Guilty, acting Pro Se

The same government witnesses were called, this time adding information about various Fort Benning checkpoints and how people are vetted to enter the base. The judge repeated his contention that “a breach of the law is a breach of the peace.” Major Joe Blair (U.S. Army, retired) was called to the stand by Peter. Major Blair had long been in charge of instruction at the SOA, after also being a “Political/M ilitary Officer” in Latin America and Viet Nam. Major Blair confirmed the SOAW allegations that some of the routine courses taught at SOA included interrogation and torture, and techniques of physical abuse, torture, and infiltrating (labor) unions. Major Blair later became outspoken on these issues when he became aware that this was a violation of the Executive Order of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who had prohibited the use and teaching of these “Project-X” classified manuals that had been used in VietNam and elsewhere. After a recent visit to SOA/WHISC, Major Blair concluded “there are no substantive changes besides the name.” He continued in saying “they teach the identical courses that I taught and changed the course names, and use the same manuals.” They also continue to teach courses on U.S. military strategy, tactics and use of technology, although torture techniques are no longer taught.

During his testimony, it was pointed out that Latin America only fights wars internally, not to defend their country. They are taught these techniques to use against their own civilian population. He agreed that what is taught at SOA/WHISC directly results in violations of U.S. treaty law, human rights law, human rights treaties, international agreements on tariff and trade, and the North America Free Trade Agreement. Major Blair closed by saying that the vast majority of the officers who teach at the SOA/WHISC are Latin American, and that he considers SOA/WHISC a quasi-Latin American military school, but he was glad that they are starting to teach a new 8-hour Human Rights class.

Peter then took the stand himself. He said that he legally protested outside the gate, then entered to deliver an information document to the SOA/WHISC commander, and insisted that we all have a clear First Amendment right to lawful assembly and to petition for redress of grievances. Peter raised many reasons for innocence and acquittal, based on the Supremacy Clause, on International law, on the OAS Charter, on the Equal Protection law, on First Amendment rights, and others.

There were some tense moments as the prosecutor unsuccessfully struggled to keep up with Peter’s creative defense and cool demeanor. An exciting debate on Free Speech took center stage, with Peter’s assertion that people are ultimately ruled by their own morality. He insisted that Free Speech is the main foundation of our freedom, and especially objected to men with guns (and power) using coercion to silence people, both in Latin America and in this very courtroom. “It is important to listen,” he stated to the judge and prosecutor, “especially when your basic assumptions are being challenged.” Following up the prosecution’s former statement “a protest by any other name…” comment, Peter closed with “The First Amendment, by any other name, is valid.” He pointed out that Law and Justice are not identical, and challenged Judge Faircloth to uphold both of these ideals.

Peter was found guilty as charged.

Palmer Legare, acting Pro Se, plead Not Guilty.

Palmer contended simply that his case, as well as the others, should be acquitted because of international law. “I thank the prosecution for selecting me as one of their [quota of ] 43,” he said, and then told a touching story of personally learning the pain of oppression of minorities, how this led him to a life of activism to help alleviate suffering, and of his experiences in Guatemala. “I couldn’t understand that when some one knew about this oppression going on, that they did not do anything about it.” He said that it seems that “WHISC is needed so that the U.S. can continue to make money overseas, and generally keep the people of Latin and South America powerless,” for that purpose.

Palmer challenged Judge Faircloth directly, explaining that he and others were upset with the court’s behavior and treatment of the defendants. He also showed compassion for the judge and his point of view. To everyone’s surprise, Judge Faircloth wanted to know how he was perceived and why people would be upset with him. Although in the end the Judge concluded that they simply misunderstood each other, the dialog was electric. Palmer concluded by asking the Judge to look him in the eye when sentencing him, and to know that any sentence he passes makes him complicit with the SOA atrocities, that he can slow down the SOA Watch, but not stop it.

Judge Faircloth stated “You mentioned that Martin Luther King and Malcolm X did what they thought was right no matter the consequences. You all talk about doing what you think is right. This is the first mention of consequences. You all knew there would be consequences for your actions. I admire you for acknowledging this and for saying it.” The judge also said, “While I am not authorized to break the law, I can bend procedure in court. I have bent it to the extent that I have allowed you all to say whatever you have to say. I do not know another judge who would have allowed this. [However,] I am bound by the law.”

Judge Faircloth also said, “I am glad to hear that they are no longer teaching torture at SOA. When I go out there, I want to take Major Blair with me. I want to see what you see. I want you to point it out to me.”

Palmer was then pronounced Guilty, as charged.

John Heid, plead Not Guilty, acting alone, Pro Se

As time was short, the Prosecution presented their case quickly. John raised many questions during his cross exam of the government’s two witnesses, such as how SOA students are screened, if at all. He asked the Chief of Administration and Civil Law if he was aware that one SOA instructor was a convicted war criminal from Chile, how such an appointment could happen and questioned whether the SOA students + instructors are immune from U.S. Federal law.

John will present his defense case tomorrow. John’s case is the last of the 37.

So far, 35 guilty and one acquittal. Tomorrow afternoon (Friday), sentences will be pronounced for the SOAW 37.

 

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phone: 202-234-3440
email: info@soaw.org