Defendants Vow to Continue Anti-Drone Activism Following Guilty Verdict
Judge William Jensen found 14 anti-drone activists—including Pace e Bene’s Fr. Louie Vitale, OFM—guilty of trespass at Creech Air Force Base on Thursday, January 27. He then sentenced them to time served.
This verdict stemmed from a nonviolent witness at the drones base north of Las Vegas, Nevada in April 2009. The trial was held in September 2010, after which the judge decided that he needed to take three months to consider the protesters’ claim that their actions met the test of the “necessity defense.” On Thursday, the judge ruled against this claim and found the group guilty.
Fr. Louie Vitale, who is serving six months in prison in Lompocx federal prison following his nonviolent action at the School of the Americas, was sentenced in absentia.
The Creech 14 are: Fr. John Dear; Dennis Duvall; Renee Espeland; Judy Homanich; Kathy Kelly; Fr. Steve Kelly; Mariah Klusmire; Brad Lyttle; Libby Pappalardo; Sr. Megan Rice; Brian Terrell; Eve Tetaz; Fr. Louie Vitale; and Fr. Jerry Zawada.
Below is a press release issued by the Creech 14.
Las Vegas—On Thursday, January 27th, activists charged with trespass, along with their supporters, filled Judge Jansen’s courtroom to hear his verdict regarding their April, 2009 protest at Creech Air Force Base Crews at Creech control the drones used in these expanding wars, killing civilians in remote controlled assassination attacks.
In a 20-page written decision, Judge William Jansen found the fourteen guilty of trespass as charged, ruling that their defense did not meet the legal requirement of immanence for acquittal based on necessity.
Before being sentenced, twelve made statements calling for an end to the drone bombings and for nonviolent ways of resolving international conflict. The Creech 14 were arrested during an April 2009 demonstration at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada, protesting the remote piloting of armed killer drones from Creech in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All were sentenced to time served.
Although Judge Jansen had insisted that he would only hear evidence related to a relatively minor trespass charge, the case was groundbreaking because expert witness testimony was admitted and because Judge Jansen opted to take the case under advisement, write a written decision, and take three to four months to do so.