Sacramento – Five peace advocates who peacefully protested the Obama Administration’s use of killer drones to kill innocent civilians, including children, were found guilty in U.S. Circuit Court here after the judge in the case disregarded key evidence, and refused to allow a jury to hear the case, according to a court observer.
Pro bono lawyers obtained by the National Lawyers Guild of Sacramento represented four of the five activists, and said that civil disobedience suffered a “terrible fate” as a result of the verdict.
“Civil disobedience, which at one time was honored in this country in the wake of the civil rights movement, suffered a terrible fate today at the hands of – incredibly – the administration of our first African American president,” said defense attorney Mark Reichel in an interview with local media outlets.
Guilty verdicts were returned immediately against Janie Kesselman, Camptonville; Sharon Delgado, Nevada City; Shirley Osgood, Grass Valley; and David and Jan Hartsough, both of San Francisco. They face up to six months in federal prison at sentencing Sept. 9. All have said they will refuse to pay a fine, or accept probation. They face up to a $5,000 and/or six months in federal prison each.
The “Beale 5” were arrested Oct. 30, 2012 at the main gate to Beale AFB (50 miles north of Sacramento), where the Global Hawk drone is based. It flies surveillance for lethal predator drones.
The guilty verdict – handed down by federal judge Carolyn K. Delaney after a full day of testimony – was a clear example of how political protesters in the U.S. are not afforded fair trials, according to Cres Vellucci, of the NLG in Sacramento. The NLG coordinated a volunteer defense team that included Tatiana Filippova, Michael Hansen, Joe Marman and Reichel.
The court determined the defendants didn’t deserve a jury trial even though they face six months in federal prison, and then she refused to allow the use of the ‘Nuremberg Principles’ defense, which provides that a citizen is complicit in the killing of civilians – as in the drone strikes – if they do not protest or try to stop that killing by their government.
The judge disregarded evidence from witnesses showing that the protesters did not cross knowingly onto base property. Evidence was also provided showing that only those holding signs were arrested – others were not, although they also crossed onto base property.
“Those of us who are U.S. citizens are complicit in our government’s actions. The U.S. is waging drone warfare with our tax dollars and in our name. I refuse to go along with the remote-control killing of people half a world away. Inaction is complicity. Silence is consent,” said defendant Sharon Delgado.
The defense team argued that these arbitrary arrests could set a dangerous precedent, criminalizing constitutionally-protected 1st Amendment activities and noting that defendants had a heartfelt and reasonable belief that what they were doing was consistent with what they must do to not be complicit with their government’s killing of innocent people, including children, through illegal drone strikes.
“By our silence we condone this senseless killing. We must speak out and act to stop this madness. We call on our fellow Americans, people in churches, synagogues and mosques, students, all people of conscience to join us in stopping Drones before they kill more innocent people,” said defendant David Hartsough of San Francisco – a Quaker and longtime civil rights activist who was involved in the 1960 lunch counter sit-ins in the Deep South.
A second anti-drone trial is scheduled later this year for another group of five people arrested at Beale AFB this past April 30. A NLG-led legal team will also provide pro bono defense work.