Roy Exum: Our Misguided Nuclear Nun

Thursday, February 20, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Three incredibly selfish and brazen people – one said to be a Catholic nun – were sentenced to 35 months and more in a federal prison on Tuesday after they wantonly disobeyed the laws of the United States and were found guilty of serious federal offenses. The justice system of the United States worked exactly as it should in a Knoxville courtroom when the three were found guilty of criminal trespass, sabotage of federal property and intent to harm national security.

Sister Megan Rice, age 84, Catholic layman Michael Walli, age 65, and Minnesota house painter Gregory Boertje-Obed, age 58, were brought to justice after they invaded, damaged, and defaced government property in Oak Ridge that contains the United States’ stockpile of weapons-grade uranium on July 28, 2012. Rice received two years and 11 months in prison while her two followers each received five years and two months after serving similar sentences in the past.

Most news accounts identified the trio as “peace activists” who cut through four fences, splashed human blood and wrote Bible verses on the outside of the Y-12 National Security Complex but, in fact, they are lowly criminal misfits whose twisted minds and jumbled thinking are in direct violation of our nation’s laws and our undiminished yearning for a civilized society that adheres to the same principles and Constitutional guidelines.

I know many activists who have a passion for everything from animals to religion, from human rights to racial equity, but they realize to be “active” they must play by the rules, abiding by the laws of the land, or else all they hope to obtain is dashed away in a vain effort that serves only their shallow and misguided personal agendas.

U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar, who dutifully recognized their three for their conscience and good works, told the scofflaws, “If all that energy and passion was devoted to changing the laws, perhaps a real change would have occurred today” but the judge also said he hoped the significant jail time “will lead people back to the political process I fear they’ve given up on.”

According to court records, sometime before dawn on July 28, 2012, the three cut through a chain-link fence, walked over a mile and cut through three more fences while breaching the most tightly-secured uranium processing and storage facility in the country. They threw baby bottles of human blood on the building, painted Bible verses and defaced its surface with a hammer.

When a guard appeared they offered him a Bible, some food and began singing. The companies charged with guarding the facility were later severely disciplined with one fined $12.2 million and losing contracts worth $23 billion. Four Congressional hearings followed the security breach and operations at the site were shut down for two weeks.

Upon sentencing, Sister Megan told Judge Thapar, “Please have no leniency with me. To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest gift you could give me," and then, with the judge’s permission, led a large gallery of onlookers in a song that contained the words, “Sacred the earth, sacred the waters, sacred the sky.”

Walli, a Viet Nam veteran from Washington, D.C., told the court, “I was acting upon my God-given obligation as a follower of Jesus Christ,” he said. “I make no apology. I have no sense of remorse or shame. I would do it again.”

In a New York Times article last year, Sister Rice claimed she has been arrested 40 to 50 times and once spent six months in prison. After her arrest in Oak Ridge she and her cohorts released “an indictment” accusing the United States of “war crimes” and three weeks ago Judge Thapar ordered the three to pay $52,953 in fines and restitution.

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said Rice and her followers were actually “recidivists and habitual offenders” and said their blatant disregard for the law warranted serious sentences. A spokesperson for the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, the Catholic order of which Rice is a member, asked the court that Rice’s sentence should be reduced due to “her age, her health and her ministry.”

Each perpetrator will receive 8 ½ months credit for time already served and all reserved the right to appeal their sentence. But what a flagrant waste of life; it’s so selfish it is sickening.

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