The four Ithaca residents known as the “St. Patrick’s Four” were acquitted of conspiracy charges yesterday in a Binghamton Federal Court. They were, however, found guilty of two lesser charges stemming from their anti-war protest of March 17, 2003, in which they spilled vials of blood at a Tompkins County Army recruiting center.
Daniel Burns, Peter DeMott, Clare Grady and Teresa Grady defended themselves in the weeklong trial, the first federal conspiracy trial against Iraq-war protesters.
Bill Quigley, the defendants’ legal advisor, expressed his happiness with the outcome of the trial, calling it “a huge victory” in a press statement yesterday. “This is a major setback in the government’s efforts to criminalize dissent,” he stated.
The prosecution, led by assistant U.S. attorney Miroslav Lovric, rested on Sept. 21 after calling just four witnesses. Jurors began to deliberate on Friday and spent more than seven hours in discussion before reaching their verdict yesterday.
Although the St. Patrick’s Four evaded the six-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine that accompanied the charge of conspiring to impede a federal officer, they will be sentenced in January for the misdemeanor crimes of trespassing at and damaging a government facility. Burns, DeMott and Teresa Grady will also face punishment for contempt of court.
Burns, DeMott and the Grady sisters entered a Lansing recruiting station on St. Patrick’s Day 2003 to protest the impending invasion of Iraq. They spilled vials of blood inside the center, on walls, windows and an American flag, while other members of the Catholic Worker movement stood outside and prayed. The Catholic Workers, founded in 1933, advocate civil disobedience as a means of protesting war and other forms of violence.
Although the defendants were allowed to describe their state of mind when spilling the blood, they were ordered by Judge Thomas J. McAvoy not to mention that they believed the war to be illegal and in violation of the UN Charter.
Throughout the trial, the St. Patrick’s Four compared themselves to historical dissidents like Susan B. Anthony, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and protesters of the Vietnam War.
The four had been brought to trial in Tompkins County Court in April 2004 on similar charges relating to the incident, but that trial resulted in a hung jury.
More than 100 peace activists held vigil outside the courthouse in Binghamton throughout the trial and many more crowded the courtroom all week. The gallery cheered when the jury’s verdict was read out.
Archived article by Melissa Korn
Sun Senior Editor