Daniel Burns, one of the “St. Patrick’s Four” war protesters, was sentenced in federal court today.
Burns, 44, was sentenced to six months in jail, fined $250 and ordered to pay part of the $958 of damages caused by the protest. He was sentenced by Judge Thomas J. McAvoy in Binghamton Federal Court at 9:30 yesterday morning, four months after being found guilty of two misdemeanor crimes.
Burns, along with fellow Ithacans Peter DeMott and Clare and Teresa Grady, entered a Lansing military recruiting station on St. Patrick’s Day 2003 and poured vials of their blood on posters, an American flag and the interior walls of the building in protest of the impending invasion of Iraq. They acted with the support of the Catholic Worker movement. Other members of the group stood outside the recruiting station and prayed during the demonstration.
Burns received six months each for the two misdemeanor charges and will serve the sentences concurrently. He had been charged with contempt of court during the federal trial on Sept. 22. The penalty was decided during today’s sentencing, resulting in the $250 fine.
“What happened in the courtroom today was a tragic miscarriage of justice,” DeMott said. “Justice has been denied to the human family.”
DeMott said President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and General Colin Powell “are the real criminals.”
DeMott was at the sentencing today, as were Clare and Teresa Grady. The three will be sentenced individually later this week. They have all been convicted of the same misdemeanor charges as Burns. DeMott and Teresa Grady will also receive punishment for September 2005 charges of contempt of court.
Also present at the sentencing were Burns’s wife and two children, ages three years and seven months.
According to Ithaca writer and St. Patrick’s Four supporter Katie Quinn-Jacobs, who posted a story on www.stpatricksfour.org last night, Judge McAvoy “commented that he didn’t understand how people could think that by breaking the law they would change the laws in the country.”
Both the federal prosecutor, assistant U.S. attorney Miroslav Lovric and Burns spoke before this morning’s sentencing. Lovric pointed to Burns’s “disrespect for the law,” made obvious by his lack of contrition, according to Quinn-Jacobs.
During his address to the court, Burns said it was hypocritical for the Department of Justice to comment on disrespect for the law when it obstructed the law too. Quinn-Jacobs stated that Burns pointed out the Guantanamo Bay detention center and illegal surveillance of citizens as examples of illegal activities of the Justice Department and President Bush’s administration.
While supporters of the St. Patrick’s Four consider Burns’s sentence harsh, each member of the group could have received up to six years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine had they been convicted of conspiring to impede a federal officer. They were found innocent of this, the most serious charge, in September.
The case of the St. Patrick’s Four was the first in which the federal government charged civilian war protesters with conspiracy since the Vietnam War. The case moved to the federal level after an April 2004 trial in Tompkins County court ended in a hung jury.
Archived article by Melissa Korn Sun Senior Editor