Nun could spend rest of her life in prison for sabotage

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An 83-year-old Catholic nun convicted in a protest and break-in at the primary U.S. storehouse for bomb-grade uranium will find out Tuesday whether she spends what could be the rest of her life in prison.

Sister Megan Rice is one of three Catholic peace activists convicted of sabotage last year after they broke into the nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Sentencing for all three is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday at U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

The government has recommended sentences of about six to nine years each for Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed. It also is seeking restitution of nearly $53,000 for damage incurred when the three cut through fences and painted slogans on the outside wall of the uranium processing plant. The protesters also splattered blood and hammered on the wall.

The activists are asking for leniency. They say their actions at the Y-12 National Security Complex were symbolic and meant to draw attention to America’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, which they call immoral and illegal.

“These people have been committed peace and justice advocates for decades,” defense attorney Bill Quigley said.

He noted that there is no minimum sentence, so the judge has a lot of discretion. The activists have been in prison since they were convicted last May, and it is possible that they could be sentenced to time served.

However, U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar has refused previous requests for leniency from the defendants, including his decision that they would remain jailed until sentencing. In a ruling last October denying requests for acquittal and a new trial, Thapar wrote, “The defendants are entitled to their views regarding the morality of nuclear weapons. But the defendants’ sincerely held moral beliefs are not a get-out-of-jail-free card that they can deploy to escape criminal liability.”


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