Tuesday, June 30, 2009

17 Blackwater Defendants Plead Guilty and were Sentenced, 5 Plead Not Guilty and will go to Trial

Report from Blackwater 22 Court appearance in Galina IL

David Stocker
June 24, 2009

Galena County Courthouse, IL --"I am a third-generation farmer from Iowa. What I did on April 27 was patriotic, and I'm proud of it," defendant Chris Gaunt, 52, from Grinnell, IA, said in her statement before sentencing.

The 22 defendants in the April 27, 2009, Blackwater trespassing action were scheduled for hearing at 10 AM. By that time, the pubic gallery was about halffilled with friends and activists from the peace movement who had come to witness the next step in the process of “throwing a shoe” at Blackwater. On April 25-27, 2009, more than 100 people came to Stockton’s Unitarian Universalist Church to participate in a two-day conference/retreat on Blackwater/ Xe that included an address by author Jeremy Scahill and training for the civil disobedience action, which ended with the arrest of 22 brave souls who tried to serve moral bankruptcy papers and an eviction notice at the N IL Blackwater site. This event, along with actions in Potrero, CA and Moyock, NC, have dragged Blackwater into the national spotlight where its actions are receiving greater scrutiny than it would like. (...)

Blackwater/Xe has been persistently developing a training facility on 80 acres at Skunk Hollow Road near Stockton, Illinois. Without public invitation, Blackwater appeared as an armed force in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Blackwater has also gained lucrative contracts worth billions to perform border security in Southwestern USA and is presently operating in Iraq and Afghanistan under the rebranded title Xe.

As Rock Falls IL, defendant and peace activist Fred Turk, 71 pointed out to the court, “This is part of a B/Xe strategy—to be on the ground floor of corporatization of the national police force.”

The defendants in the Galena action finally entered the courtroom at 11:30 with their attorney Edward L. Osowski, a Chicago-based attorney, familiar with political trials after working on a number of SOA trials. After some awkwardness at seating all 22 defendants in the crowded space available, the "Choice of Plea" appearance began before
Judge Kevin Ward. All were asked if they were fully aware of the charges facing them. All replied that they understood.

The court first dealt with the defendants who wished to plead not guilty. Four defendants asked for a bench trial and entered pleas of not guilty. They were Roberta, 65, and Don, 67, Thurstin-Timmerman of Park Falls WI, (former Milwaukee CWers), Lee Jankowski, 50, itinerate CW home repair person, and Becky Lambert, 25, from the Winona, MN, CW. Their trial is scheduled for September 4 and they will be represented by Edward L. Osowski.

Defendant, Michael Walli, 60, from the Duluth MN, CW, pleaded not guilty buty requested a trial by jury. Walli wearing a bright orange T-shirt with the words “Close Guantanamo,” had traveled from Washington, DC, after appearing in court there pursuant to another civil disobedience action regarding the closing of Guantanamo. As previously agreed, Walli told the Judge while he appreciated his service thus far, he no longer wished to be represented by Edward Ozowski (Osowski had told the group earlier he would not be available for a jury trial) and asked for a court-appointed attorney. Walli told the judge he is a transient missionary with an income of less than $500 per year and had no means to hire an attorney. Judge Ward initiated the process of appointing an attorney for Michael, and his case was put on hold.

The remaining 17 defendants all pleaded “guilty” to a Class B Misdemeanor Criminal Trespass charge with a maximum penalty of $1500 and six months in jail, and a minimum penalty of “court supervision.” In the pre court exchanged between judge , the attorneys and the defendants, Judge Kevin Ward had let it be known that he was going to sentence all who pleaded guilty to pay a combined court cost and fine of $250 with a six-month unsupervised probation, about half of what the State's Attorney was recommending.

After accepting the guilty pleas of all 17 remaining defendants, each defendant was allowed to make a statement before sentencing. Many took the opportunity to speak out against Blackwater and gave reasons why they felt called to do civil disobedience.

New Hope Farm CW defendant, Mary Moody, 44, described coming to the courthouse in February to meet with officials of the county and advise them of plans for the impending action. “We shared information and acted with complete transparency. We followed our agreements. This is in stark contrast to Blackwater, a private corporation which trespasses in foreign nations, enters private homes and is alleged to have taken lives of innocent people. Blackwater violates its own contracts smuggling illegal weapons into and out of Iraq. My plea is to all courts and to all citizens that the same transparency be demanded of these corporate criminals as is being demanded of us who stand before you today.”

Mona Shaw, 58, of the Des Moines CW said, “As I stand here, my heart is filled with regret. Regret for every mother who holds a folded flag, regret for mothers who bury children for lack of healthcare or proper nutrition. I regret that we live in a moral climate where our leaders no longer work for us but rather serve Corporations. We believe that the people have a heart and soul and that the day is coming when truth rather than lies will prevail. However, what I don’t regret is what I did last April 27 at the N IL Blackwater site”

Defendant, Laurel Noblette, 22, of the Champaign IL CW described her motivation, “This action was a personal choice to intervene in the only non-violent way offered to me. We are community organizers, and we represent people without a voice. I accept the penalty in exchange for the opportunity to have you hear me say that Blackwater should be stopped.

Along with speaking out against Blackwater, and knowing that the Judge was inclined to fix a $250 sentence instead of any jail time, many of the defendants stated that as being members of Catholic Worker communities, living and serving the poor as volunteers, asked the Judge for leniency in any fines or penalties.

Two defendants; Frank Cordaro, 58, and Ed Boomer, 62, both Des Moines CWers, told the judge that they would refuse to pay any fines or court costs as a sign of solidarity with the poor. Cordaro told Judge Ward, “As a sign of standing with the poor we serve, who when in similar situations end up going to jail, more often than not, for lack of money to pay their finds and court cost, I will refuse to pay any fines or court costs that may come with my sentence today.”

At the end of defendants' statements Judge Ward sentenced 15 of the defendants, excluding Cordaro and Bloomer to pay court costs of $150 plus a punitive charge of $100. The judge told the defendants that the total fine of $250 must be paid on or before September 4, 2009, for the defendants to avoid further consequence. He also gave them six months unsupervised probation.

Turning his attention to Cordaro and Bloomer, the judge made note that he heard their stated refusal to pay any fines or court costs and subsequently warned them of unfavorable consequences should they fail to pay any of the penalties of their sentence. Then Judge Ward sentenced Cordaro and Bloomer to the same sentence he gave to the other 15 defendants.

The sentence given by Judge Ward, while seeming lenient, was still more than the minimum required by law. And, defendants were not permitted to perform community service in lieu of fine as some had requested.

Below list of the 17 defendants who plead guilty and sentenced to pay court costs of $150 plus a fine of $100 and were gave six month unsupervised probation.

Eric Anglada, LaMotte, IA, 29 yrs old - New Hope CW Farm
Ed Bloomer, Des Moines CW, 61 yrs old
Kenny Bishop, Champaign CW, 24 yrs old
Frank Cordaro, Des Moines CW, 58 yrs old
Tyler Chen, Champaign CW, 24 yrs old
Elton Davis, Des Moines IA, 47 yrs old - former DMCW
Chris Gaunt, Grinnell, IA, 52 yrs old
Carolyn Griffeth, St Louis CW, 36 yrs old
Lee Jankowski, Dubuque, IA CW, 50 yrs old
Benjamin Johnson, Dubuque CW, 25 yrs old
Chrissy Kirchhoefer, St Louis CW, 31 yrs old
Mike Leutgeb Munson, Rockford MN, 26 yrs old - former Winona CW
Mary Moody, LaMotte, IA, 44 yrs old - New Hope CW Farm
Laurel Nobilette, Champaign CW, 22 yrs old
Nick Pickrell, Kansas City CW, 27 yrs old
Mona Shaw, Des Moines CW, 57 yrs old
Chris Watson, Champaign CW, 22 yrs old
Fred Turk, Rock Falls, IL, 71 yrs old

List of the 3 defendants who plead not guilty and were given a bench trial date of Sept 4th.

Becky Lambert, Winona CW, 25 yrs old
Don Thurstin-Timmerman, Park Falls WI, 67 yrs old - former Milwaukee CW
Roberta Thurstin-Timmerman, Park Falls WI, 65 yrs old - former Milwaukee CW

Michael Walli, Duluth CW, 60 yrs old plead not guilty and asked for a jury trial and a public defendant attonrey. Future court dates to be determined.
posted by The Editors at 5:16 PM


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