KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – An elderly nun and two other nuclear protesters asked Thursday to be released from jail as they await sentencing for breaking into the Y-12 National Security Complex and defacing the walls of a uranium processing plant.
A judge could rule on that next week, but on Thursday said they will have to stay in jail at least until then.
Sister Megan Rice, 83, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed (bohr-CHEE’ OH-bed’) were convicted Wednesday of interfering with national security and damaging federal property during last year’s incursion. They cut through security fences, hung banners, strung crime-scene tape and hammered off a small chunk of the fortress-like Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility inside the most secure part of the complex.
The break-in caused a temporary shutdown at the facility and a change in security contractors. But jurors weren’t swayed by the defence argument that the protesters actually aided national security by exposing flaws at the facility.
The trio appeared in court Thursday in handcuffs and leg irons seeking their release until their Sept. 23 sentencing. At one point, defence attorney Francis Lloyd asked U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar for permission to put his jacket over Rice’s shoulders, saying that the nun was chilly. The judge allowed it.
Prosecutor Jeff Theodore said the government opposes the trio’s release, noting that they testified during trial that they felt no remorse for their actions.
Defence attorney Bill Quigley argued that the defendants had refrained from any more incursions between when they were arrested in July and went to trial this week.
“The give their word not to engage in that kind of activity pending sentencing,” he said.
The three could get up to 20 years on the national security count, which they have asked Thapar to throw out on grounds of insufficient evidence. Thapar set July 29 as the deadline for legal filings on that motion.