Blood-Spilling Anti-War Protesters Not Guilty

Only lesser charges stick to St. Pat's Four

On Sept. 26, a federal jury in Binghamton, N.Y., found four Catholic peace activists not guilty on charges of conspiracy to impede an officer of the United States during a March 17, 2003, protest inside a military recruiting office outside Ithaca. The so-called St. Patrick's Four – Clare Grady, 46, Teresa Grady, 40, Peter J. DeMott, 58, and Daniel J. Burns, 45 – entered an Army-Marine recruiting center armed with vials containing several ounces of their own blood, which they poured on themselves, on the floor near the entrance, on the walls, and on a flag in a protest against the Iraq war, which officially began the next day.

While the initial charges against them were state misdemeanors for criminal mischief and trespassing, once the U.S. attorney's office got hold of the case the charges morphed into federal counts of impeding the duties of the recruiters and destruction of federal property. (The New York Times reports that during closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Miroslav Lovric described the four as "religious zealots," who had so far avoided any punishment for their destructive activism.) While the four beat the rap for the most serious charges against them – the impeding charge carried a possible term of six years in the federal pen – the jury did find them guilty of the lesser misdemeanor charges of damage to property (punishable by up to one year in prison) and trespassing (punishable by up to six months in the pen). "Regardless of the penalties, we will continue to call for justice for the Iraqi people and [for] our troops," Burns said. "We know our principled dissent now represents the majority of the public, and we're inspired by the jury's decision to refuse the government's attempt at intimidation."

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for January. For more on this, go to www.stpatricksfour.org.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Iraq Warfreedom of speech, St. Patrick's Four, Clare Grady, Teresa Grady, Peter J. Mott, Daniel J. Burns, Miroslav Lovric, Iraq war

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