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Nun Sentenced to Almost 3 Years for Nuclear Facility Protest
An octogenarian nun on Tuesday was sentenced to nearly three years behind bars for breaking into a U.S. nuclear-weapons site and staging a protest.
Megan Rice's two cohorts in the July 2012 trespassing at the Y-12 National Security Complex, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, received longer prison sentences of more than five years, partially because they had longer track records of civil disobedience, the Associated Press reported.
Rice, 84, asked the judge for a life-sentence despite suggested sentencing guidelines recommending only six years.
"Please have no leniency with me," said the nun, who is a sister in the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. "To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest gift you could give me."
The trio anti-nuclear peace activists who dubbed themselves "Transform Now Plowshares" said they wanted to call attention to what they see as excessive U.S. spending on atomic arms and the military, the wire service reported. The protesters said they believed their Y-12 break-in was wildly successful and offered no regret for their actions, which revealed lax security practices at the so-called "Fort Knox of uranium" in Tennessee.
Despite triggering Y-12 security alarms, the activists spent more than two hours by themselves in the site's restricted area, where they spray-painted anti-war slogans, emptied bottles of human blood and prayed. They were eventually discovered and arrested by security guards. The company that managed the site's security lost its contract in the aftermath of the break-in.
U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar was publicly dubious about the government's assertion that the protesters had caused any real national security harm by exposing the security lapses at the Y-12 plant. Still, the judge said he wanted to discourage further similar protests.
After they are released from prison, Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed are to spend another three years under supervision. They were earlier ordered to pay fines totaling $53,000.
"They just keep doing it," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore was quoted by the Knoxville News-Sentinel as saying. "They are incorrigible. ... The next chance they get, they will do it again."
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