Today two more of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 were sentenced by video conferencing with Judge Wood in the court in Brunswick, GA. They both received less time than was expected according to the sentencing guidelines prepared by the probation department.
Carmen Trotta was sentenced to 14 months in the morning session. This was a downward departure based on the judge granting his objection that the seriousness of his criminal history was overstated by the probation report. He only has four misdemeanor convictions for demonstration related arrests. However the judge overruled numerous other objections from the defense, particularly to the increases for risk of death and lack of acceptance of responsibility. Carmen vigorously disputed these issues to no avail.
Three character witnesses testified to Carmen’s devotion to peace and the works of mercy. Bud Courtney who lives and works with Carmen at the St. Joseph Catholic Worker house spoke about how Carmen’s example of selfless service to the poor prompted him to join in the work and move into the house. He said that “We look to (Carmen) for guidance and leadership. He is the elder. He is an inspiration.”
Kathy Kelly, an international activist with Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who has known Carmen for 25 years spoke about many of the projects they have worked on together over the years, particularly with the Afghan Youth and a weekly vigil for peace in Yemen. She also recounted a trial in Ireland for the Pitstop Plowshares action at Shannon airport. The defendants were not permitted to speak about their religious beliefs but one of their attorneys, Brendan Nix, known for his oratorical skill, managed to recite the “Sermon on the Mount”, the Beatitudes, which he called the greatest political speech of all time.
Carmen’s brother, Louis, a corporate lawyer, testified that while they didn’t agree about many things there was no doubt that he helped a lot of people through his life at the Worker and he was always trying to make the world a better place. He urged the judge to give Carmen consideration for a lighter sentence because of his work.
Carmen delivered a sentencing statement where he explained his journey of conscience began with an examination of the Vietnam war and reading Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech. He was deeply troubled by what he found were US war crimes. His first arrest was to protest the Iowa national guard going to Honduras to “build roads” to expedite the invasion of Nicaragua by the contras. He also felt that he must dissent to what his country did to Iraq by destroying the advanced water facilities and then sanctioning chlorine imports to purify any remaining water. Now that country is destroyed. He noted that Yemen is being destroyed today with 45% of the children being malnourished and stunted for life.
Clare Grady was sentenced in the afternoon in a three hour session. She was sentenced by Judge Wood to one year and one day which is well below the guidelines. After more than an hour of legal argument by her attorney, Joe Cosgrove, the judge overruled all the defense objections to the sentencing recommendations. These were basically similar to what Carmen had argued earlier in the day.
Two character witnesses spoke on Clare’s behalf profoundly framing her spirituality
and its impact in relation to her family, her community, and with creation. Pastor Bill Wylie-Kellermann, retired Methodist minister from Detroit, has known Clare since the
early 1980’s, having met at a spiritual retreat after the Greensboro Massacre in NC, and counts her as his spiritual friend. He praised Clare, saying, “She leads a life of conscience.” He described her as a plumb-line for her faith communities and her family.
Clare’s eldest daughter Leah described growing up as an unschooler, ultimately graduating from Bryn Mawr College. She was raised in the Ithaca’s Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen serving both those monetarily poor and those in need of comradship. Leah had worked there for 7 years from the age of 18, following her mother’s 17 years of service. Generosity, joy, honesty, truth, and justice, and the principle of “do no harm” are principles she sees her mother trying to live by. Leah described her mom’s action as based on her faith, believing in the arc of the universe bending towards justice. When Judge Wood asked how would she feel if her mother were to go to jail, Leah responded, “I’d be worried for her physical health as I am for each of the 2.5 million incarcerated in US prisons.”
Clare then gave a sentencing statement with a litany of twelve points that illustrated what compelled her to symbolically disarm the Trident nuclear sub base. The first seven were her love and gratitude that flows from being a mother, to working for justice , breaking bread, and living the mission statement of Ithaca’s Loaves and Fishes from Matthew 25. “I especially hold the part that says, ‘whatsoever we do to the least, that we do to Jesus.’ The bible passage tells us a little about the least, that they are those without food, drink, clothes, those without health care, without welcome, and the imprisoned. I add to this list of the “least”, those who are being killed, ESPECIALLY THOSE BEING KILLED IN OUR NAME. Because when we kill others, and harm others, we do that to Jesus. I believe it is a Christian calling to withdraw consent, interrupt our consent, from killing in our name. To do so is an act of Love, an act of justice, a sacred act that brings us into right relationship with God and neighbor. This is what brings me before this court today for sentencing, it is the consequence of my choice to join friends to undertake an action of sacramental, non-violent, symbolic disarmament because the Trident (nuclear submarine) at Kings Bay, is killing and harming IN MY NAME. To be clear, these weapons are not private property, they belong to the people of the United States, they belong to me, to you, to us. These weapons kill and cause harm in our name, and with our money. This omnicidal weapon doesn’t just kill IF it is launched, it kills every day. Indigenous people are, and, continue to be some of the first victims of nuclear weapons, the mining, refining, testing, and dumping of radioactive material for nuclear weapons all happens on Native Land. The trillions of dollars spent on nuclear weapons are resource STOLEN from the planet and her people.”
Clare’s attorney, Joe Cosgrove, spoke of Clare being a two-time cancer survivor and suffering from Lyme disease and he stated that Clare faces “the trifecta,” with her facing a COVID ridden prison sentence. Judge Wood was apparently moved by these health concerns and arguments for mitigation. With credit for time already served pre-trial Clare might only have to serve half a year.
Both defendants were also sentenced to three years supervised probation and ordered to “jointly and singly” pay restitution of $33,501. Carmen informed Judge Wood that he did not intend to pay restitution to the Navy because the base is “a genocidal criminal conspiracy.” She told him that would be taken up after he didn’t pay. Carmen requested that he be able to self report to prison in 30 days and Judge Wood agreed to recommend that. Clare requested 90 days.
Martha Hennessy will be sentenced tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 13 at 1 pm. Call in numbers to listen to the proceedings will be same.
Clare’s Sentencing Statement follows: