BINGHAMTON, New York - Peter DeMott, a Vietnam veteran and civil resister, began his opening remarks at his sentencing in Binghamton federal court today by asking the court for a moment of silence to remember the dead who had perished in Iraq: both the American and Iraqi casualties. DeMott noted that thirty percent of the Iraqi dead are children. Judge Thomas J. McAvoy granted this request stating, “The Court will join you in a moment of silence because it is a good thing to do. I feel that loss deeply.”
DeMott, 59, was sentenced for two misdemeanor convictions, 4 months in federal prison and 4 months in community confinement. He is one of four non-violent peace activists known as the St. Patrick’s Day Four who carefully poured their own blood on the posters, flag and walls of a military recruiting station outside of Ithaca, NY on March 17th, 2003. DeMott said that American civil disobedience has “helped to change unjust laws and realize a more just and equitable society” since the inception of the nation beginning with the Boston Tea Party, through the Underground Railroad, Women’s Suffrage, and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.
Peter DeMott, St.Patrick's Four
The federal prosecutor, Miroslav Lovric, stated this morning, as he had yesterday at the sentencing of St. Patrick's Four member Daniel Burns, that DeMott and his colleagues lacked a sense of contrition for the crime that they had been found guilty of last September in federal court in Binghamton, NY. Lovric also made the argument before the Judge that because of the way DeMott’s actions may encourage others, he should be punished for a term beyond the federal guidelines of 2-8 months.
Judge McAvoy explained that the community confinement term was assigned out of consideration for DeMott’s family. At present, DeMott is the health care proxy for an ailing family member.
On the courthouse steps, supporters of the St. Patrick’s Four held large banners that read “No Court Can Jail the Resistance” and “International Law Does Not Apply Here.” Last September, Judge McAvoy prohibited the defendants from using the defense they had used to sway jurors in a state level court based on the Nuremberg Principles and Article VI, Section II of the US Constitution. The Four believe this ruling by the federal judge eliminated the legal grounds that the jury needed for full acquittal in their case.
Following the sentencing today, fellow activist Teresa Grady, who will be sentenced on Friday of this week, responded to the federal prosecutor’s call for contrition by saying, “If you’re doing something right, why would you stop?” Ellen Grady, DeMott’s wife, also spoke with the press and said that she was “glad her husband was clear about where he stood that day.” Grady read from a letter written by Martin Luther King in 1967:
“There is nothing wrong with a traffic law which [sic] says you have to stop for a red light. But when a fire is raging, the fire truck goes right through that red light, and normal traffic had better get out of its way. Or, when a man is bleeding to death, the ambulance goes through those red lights at top speed.”
DeMott arrived with his family at the courthouse this morning carrying his three –year-old daughter, Saoirse, on his arm. His three other daughters, Marie, Kate and Nora were present to support their father. DeMott’s eldest daughter, Marie, is also a peace activist living in NYC with the Catholic Worker community. DeMott’s wife, Ellen, is the sister of Clare and Teresa Grady.
Katie Quinn-Jacobs is a freelance writer living in Ithaca, NY.
more information on the St. Patrick's Four, see www.stpatricksfour.org