PORTLAND, Maine -- Two peace activists were sent back to
federal prison Friday for vandalizing a pair of military aircraft
in Maryland while on probation for a similar incident aboard a Navy
destroyer at Bath Iron Works.
U.S. District Judge Gene Carter imposed 12-month sentences on
both Philip Berrigan, 77, and Susan Crane, 57, in separate hearings
that were packed with more than 50 members and supporters of the
peace group Plowshares.
Berrigan, a former Roman Catholic priest, did not deny that he
and other demonstrators broke through a fence at a Maryland Air
National Guard base and damaged two A-10 Thunderbolts. But he said
he did nothing morally wrong.
Activist Philip Berrigan talks to the media Friday outside U.S. District Court in Portland, Maine. He and Susan Crane were sentenced to 12 months in federal prison for violating conditions of their probation.
John Ewing/Portland Press Herald
''I was acting according to my conscience and the precepts of
non-violent principles and laws,'' Berrigan told the judge.
In sentencing Berrigan, Carter said he believed Berrigan's
conduct was based on ''beliefs that are profound and
conscientiously held'' but said Berrigan's beliefs did not provide
legal justification for his actions.
Afterward, a supporter stood and shouted, ''This court is an
abomination to God and man!'' before being led out by a security
Then Berrigan's supporters broke into a chorus and made peace
signs with their hands as Berrigan was escorted from the courtroom.
Some shouted, ''God bless you Phil'' and ''We love you Phil'' as he
was led away.
Berrigan was originally sentenced to two years and Crane to 27
months in federal prison following the conviction of six activists
for damaging USS The Sullivans while it was docked at Bath Iron
Works in 1997.
The protesters boarded the ship, damaged its control panels with
hammers and spilled baby bottles containing their own blood.
In addition to prison sentences, Berrigan and Crane were ordered
not to engage in criminal conduct or to associate with others
convicted of felonies under Carter's original terms of supervised
They violated those provisions on Dec. 19, 1999, when they
joined a group of demonstrators that used bolt cutters to get onto
a National Guard Base in Essex, Md., and vandalize two aircraft.
Berrigan said the A-10 aircraft use armor-piercing ammunition
that contains depleted uranium, which he believes is the source of
Gulf War Syndrome and has caused hundreds of deaths in Iraq, and in
Bosnia and Yugoslavia.
''Of all the weapons of mass destruction... perhaps the most
assiduous is D.U. depleted uranium,'' Berrigan said. He believes
2 million Iraqis alone have died from depleted uranium exposure and
sanctions since the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Countries that sent peacekeepers to Bosnia and Kosovo have been
looking for links between the depleted uranium ammunition and
illnesses contracted by veterans. So far, scientists say there is
no firm link.
Before the sentencing, Berrigan's supporters marched from a Bath
Iron Works dry dock to the federal court. Berrigan seemed to be at
ease, smiling and chatting and having lunch with supporters before
going into court.
Copyright 2001 Associated Press