Priest Sentenced To 33 Months For Protesting Nuclear Weapons

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Above photo: Kings Bay Plowshares 7. Father Kelly is second from the left. RNS/Kings Bay Plowshares 7.

Fifteen supporters in a carefully Covid masked and distanced courtroom witnessed Father Steve Kelly receive a sentence of 33 months today. After a 20 minute delay to get the telephone conference line working and properly muted 160 people listened in to the proceedings on the audio link.

Fr. Steve’s sentence falls in the middle of the proposed guidelines and will likely allow his release from the Glynn County Detention Center where he is presently being detained 30 months after the action. He has accumulated sufficient good time during his incarceration to cover the remaining three months.

Judge Wood held up a 7 inch thick sheath of hundreds of letters she had received in support of Fr. Steve and said she had read and considered all of them. However, she then proceeded to rule against all the arguments he had submitted disputing the probation department’s assessment of his record and their recommendations for a substantial sentence. She ruled that the activists had shown disregard for human life by entering a deadly force zone and failed to show acceptance of responsibility. Fr. Steve had earlier submitted a presentencing statement where he told the court he would not agree to any conditions of probation or restitution. Judge Wood did not address this statement.

Read presentence statement:

Watch Dennis Apel reading it outside courthouse : 

Fr. Steve’s character witness, Dennis Apel from Santa Maria, CA, who has known him for many years and participated in numerous protests together strongly condemned the US court system for maintaining idolatry to the Pentagon. By using in limine motions to so broadly limit what Plowshares activists can say in court the “whole truth” which the witness’ oath demands is impossible to express. (Full text follows below)

The prosecutor, Gil Gillully, expressed horror at property destruction by the defendants while remaining deeply oblivious to the threat of total global destruction by Trident’s nuclear weapons. He argued that people who attack naval bases and destroy property are not peaceful protestors and must be  punished and deterred. He asked for the high end of the guidelines for Fr. Kelly who he said has been arrested 20 times over 20 years.

 Patrick O’Neill will be sentenced Friday, October 16 at 1pm EDT

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The other four defendants, Mark Colville, Clare Grady, Martha Hennessy, and Carmen Trotta, are now scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 12 and 13, with Covid conditions possibly causing further postponements. Liz McAlister was sentenced to time served via video from her home in Connecticut in June. She had served 17 months in the Camden and Glynn County jails. She also received similar probation and restitution requirements.

This sentencing took place almost a year since their conviction on three felony and one misdemeanor charge and nearly two and a half years since the nuclear disarmament action of the Kings Bay Plowshares. On April 4th, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. the KBP7 entered the Kings Bay Trident nuclear submarine base in south Georgia to spotlight the extreme illegality and immorality of the omnicidal weapons based there.