Above photo: From left, Kings Bay Plowshares defendants Martha Hennessey, a friend standing in for Steve Kelly, Mark Colville, Clare Grady, Carmen Trotta, Patrick O’Neill, and Elizabeth McAlister, stand outside the Glynn County Courthouse in Georgia on October 24 after they are found guilty on all four counts. Father Kelly is still incarcerated because he refuses to cooperate with conditions for release, and was on probation for a previous Plowshares action when he entered Kings Bay. By Ellen Thomas.
On Friday, May 22, Judge Lisa Godbey Wood of the Southern District Federal Court of Georgia in Brunswick assigned new dates for seven defendants, according to the Kings Bay Plowshares’ attorney, Bill Quigley. Many of the defendants had asked the court to postpone their May 28th and 29th court dates to accommodate their right to be sentenced in person in open court, witnessed by the public and press and not by video. The seven were convicted of three felonies and one misdemeanor last October for their nonviolent, symbolic disarmament act at the Kings Bay Trident nuclear submarine base.
The defendants had also asked for home confinement during this time of COVID-19, as entering prison could be a death sentence. Their request was denied. The prosecution contends that their offense entailed a risk to human life (meaning the defendants’ own) by entering a restricted area where lethal force is authorized.
Elizabeth McAlister, at 80 years old the eldest of the KBP7 defendants and widow of Phil Berrigan, was notified that her court date was changed from May 28 to June 8. She is to be sentenced by video while she stays at her home in Connecticut. Liz will probably not face additional prison time because she served over 17 months before trial. The US attorney is asking for 3-5 years of probation and restitution. There is expected to be an audio feed for the public to listen but the number is not known yet. Check our website for the number. It will be posted as soon as we are notified. kingsbaysplowshare7.org
Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Dorothy Day who founded the Catholic Worker Movement was granted an adjournment and given a new date of June 29, 3:30 pm, in Brunswick, GA.
Patrick O’Neill, Clare Grady, Mark Colville, Carmen Trotta, and Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J. (who has been detained in jails in Camden County and Glynn County for more than 25 months) also asked for an adjournment and were given June 29 and 30 as their new dates to appear with no times specified yet. They were not told whether they’ll be allowed to be sentenced in person in court or whether they’ll have to travel to Brunswick to be sentenced remotely by video once they get there.
The sentencing recommendations call for 18 months for Liz McAlister, up to 45 months for Steve Kelly (already served 2+ years) and up to 27 months for the others. Supervised probation and restitution ($30,000+) are also requested by the government. Judge Wood is free to sentence upward or downward from these guidelines.
Before the court changed the May 28th and 29th sentencing date, two very well received webinars were held, titled Disarm & Divest During COVID-19. You can see recorded YouTube versions at links below.
In Part 1 (link here), hosted by Code Pink on May 9, six of the defendants shared a panel with special guests Dr. Cornel West, Medea Benjamin, Jeremy Scahill, and was facilitated by Norman Solomon, with over 4,200 views by May, 21st.
Part 2’s panel (link to website), hosted by KBP7 on May 16, included four defendants and attorney Bill Quigley. It was facilitated by Jeremy Scahill. Please watch for future webinars now that the defendants possibly have more time.
Letters to the Judge
The defendants have not wanted letters sent to the judge asking for leniency for themselves. They do not want to exercise their white privilege. However, many friends and supporters have wanted to write to ask that they not be sent to prisons where the pandemic is raging. The address for Judge Wood is on the website along with some messaging points if you choose to write. Letters to Judge Wood
The Kings Bay Plowshares urge all supporters to call for the immediate release of people from federal and state prisons, county and city jails, especially the elderly, the infirm, and all nonviolent offenders. According to the Marshall Project, on May 20 at least 29,251 people in US prisons had tested positive for the virus, a 19 percent increase from the week before. Article link here. The KBP7 also calls for the release of all immigrants from detention centers. All lack soap, face masks, space for safe social distancing, and tests. Please use these links as a starting point.
Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP), rappcampaign.com
Abolitionist Law Center, https://abolitionistlawcenter.org
Faithful America, act.faithfulamerica.org/sign/coronavirus-detention
National Lawyers Guild Immigration Project https://nationalimmigrationproject.org/