DENVER - Three Roman Catholic nuns who defaced a
Colorado nuclear missile silo with their own blood as part of a
peace protest last year were sentenced on Friday to prison
terms ranging from 30 to 41 months by a judge who called them
U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn sentenced Ardeth
Platte to 41 months, Jackie Hudson to 30 months and Carolyn
Gilbert to 33 months. The sentences varied depending on the
number of prior arrests each had for previous civil
Sister Ardeth Platte, second from left, hugs an unidentified supporter, left, as sisters Jackie Hudson, third from left, and Carol Gilbert, right, look on as the three Dominican nuns head into federal court in downtown Denver on Friday, July 25, 2003, for sentencing. The women were convicted in April of obstructing the national defense and damaging government property for swinging a hammer at the silo and smearing their blood on it in the form of a cross. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
The Dominican nuns were convicted in April of malicious
destruction of property and interfering with the national
defense for their protest at the unmanned Minuteman III missile
silo near Greeley, Colorado on October 6, 2002.
The three peace activists admitted breaking into the silo
and pouring their blood around the site and pounding the
half-ton concrete silo lid with a household hammer.
The nuns, who all testified at their trial, said the
protest was a "symbolic disarmament" and did not endanger the
Blackburn said in the sentencing hearing in U.S. District
Court that it was "incredible and inexcusable" that the
longtime peace activists would place U.S. Air Force security
teams who responded to the scene in harm's way.
"It was dangerously irresponsible," the judge said.
However, Blackburn said that the nuns' community ties and
service, combined with the minimal damage done, allowed him the
discretion to give them less than the maximum sentences of
eight-years behind bars.
Frida Berrigan of New York, sits next to a protest sign during a peace rally in Civic Center Park in downtown Denver, Thursday, July 24, 2003. The rally was held to mark the scheduled sentencing of three pacifict nuns in federal court in Denver on Friday for obstructing the national defense and damaging government property for their protest acts at a missile silo near Greeley, Colo., last October. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
"They did not create a substantial risk of death or injury,
or a threat to national security," he said.
The nuns, attired in black, declined to speak at the
The sisters, who are in their 50s and 60s, belong to Sacred
Earth & Space Plowshares, a national nuclear disarmament
organization. About 200 supporters of the nuns showed up
outside the courthouse with antiwar and anti-nuclear-weapons
Hudson's attorney, Walter Gerash, said afterward that he
was pleased that the judge was lenient on his client. She
hasn't decided whether to appeal the conviction, Gerash said.
U.S. Attorney John Suthers issued a statement, saying the
sentences were fair and reasonable.
"Contrary to the contention of the defendants, their
lawyers and their supporters, this case was never about
suppression of opposition to U.S. government policies, it was
about upholding the law," Suthers said.
The judge gave the nuns until August 25 to report to
federal prison, but they chose to begin their sentences
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd