BINGHAMTON, New York - Daniel Burns, 44, was sentenced to six months of federal prison in Binghamton federal court today by Judge Thomas J. McAvoy for each of his misdemeanor convictions last fall. The two six month terms are to be served concurrently. Burns was also fined $250.00 for a contempt of court charge and was ordered to pay his share of the $958.00 restitution for damages imposed by the court.
Burns is one of the four non-violent peace activists known as the St. Patrick’s Four. The convictions stem from Burns’ participation in a non-violent protest at a military recruiting station outside of Ithaca, NY on March 17th, 2003 , where the four carefully poured their own blood on the posters, flag and walls of the recruiting station. Burns was the first of the St. Patrick’s Four to appear this week for sentencing in Binghamton, NY. Peter DeMott, Clare Grady and Teresa Grady will also be sentenced individually this week.
Daniel Burns, St. Patrick's Four
The contempt of court charge was placed against Burns during the federal trial on September, 22, 2005, when he attempted to bring the issues of international law and Article VI of the U.S. constitution relevant to his case to the jury’s attention, and then later in his testimony refused to identify the nurse who drew his blood prior to the action at the recruiting station. In court last September, Burns said, “I proudly, morally and honorably go into contempt on this issue.”
Burns and his fellow activists believe that Judge McAvoy‘s decision to exclude citing international law (to which the U.S. is a signatory) along with Article VI of the U.S. constitution from the courtroom hurt their case with the jury as they were key components of their defense. No mention of this decision was made by the judge today.
Judge McAvoy did make the surprising comment , when sentencing Burns, that he didn’t understand how people could think that by breaking the law they would change the laws in this country. Outside the courtroom speaking to the press, Mary Anne Grady Flores reminded the crowd that Rosa Parks did exactly that during the civil rights movement by refusing to give up her seat on a bus.
The federal prosecutor, Miroslav Lovric, spoke briefly prior to sentencing and pointed out that although Burns’ actions were not “the crime of the century,” Burns’ lack of contrition expressed a continued “disrespect for the law.” The moral imperative, which Burns and his colleagues expressed at the trial and continue to cite as a motivation for their actions, was never acknowledged by the prosecutor.
When Burns spoke this morning following the federal prosecutor, he questioned the credibility of the federal Justice Department that Lovric is an agent of. Burns pointed out that it is hypocritical of the Justice Department to be affronted by disrespect for the law when it has condoned the obstruction of the law itself. Burns cited the detention and torture of prisoners at the U.S. detention center in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba and the illegal surveillance of Americans as incidents of the Justice Department being complicit in the Bush administration’s obstruction of the U.S. law.
Daniel Burns walked into Binghamton federal court today with his wife Jessica Stewart and their two small children, Finian (3 years) and Francis (7 months). A group of approximately forty friends and family were also present to support Burns. When he was taken into custody supporters broke into song. Over the objections of the court attendants, they sang, “Courage brother, you do not walk alone. We will walk with you and sing your spirit home.”
Katie Quinn-Jacobs is a freelance writer living in Ithaca, NY.
more information on the St. Patrick's Four, see www.stpatricksfour.org