By Dave Toplikar
Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011, Creech Air Force Base
A Las Vegas judge on Thursday handed down a decision that got a mixed reaction from protesters of drone warfare who were arrested for trespassing nearly two years ago at Creech Air Force Base in Southern Nevada.
Judge William Jansen, in a 20-page decision, ruled that the “Creech 14” who protested April 9, 2009, at the base, were guilty of the crime of trespassing.
But the judge also decided that the defendants, who stood trial for the misdemeanor offense last September in his courtroom, would be given credit for the time they served in jail and would be free to go.
“Go in peace,” were Jansen’s final words to the defendants after an hour-long court proceeding this morning in Las Vegas Justice Court.
The judge also urged them to use diplomacy, rather than trespassing, in their attempts to get U.S. drone warfare policy changed.
There was some scattered applause in the crowded courtroom upon hearing the defendants wouldn’t get jail time — but the defendants weren’t pleased about the judge’s guilty verdict.
The protesters had argued there was “necessity” that compelled them to act. As someone might trespass onto private property to save a child from a burning building, they said they were trying to stop drone warfare from killing civilians thousands of miles away in Afghanistan.
However, in his conclusion, Jansen said that “Defendants’ motivation for why they committed the offense is irrelevant and does not constitute a defense to the charge. Moreover, defendants are unable to show that their conduct was compelled by true ‘necessity’ as that doctricne has been defined by various courts.”
Before handing down sentences, the judge allowed each of the defendants to make statements. Each of those who spoke said they disagreed that what they were doing wasn’t out of necessity.
Those found guilty of the misdemeanor charge are the Rev. John Dear, a Jesuit priest; Dennis DuVall; Renee Espeland; Judy Homanich; Kathy Kelly; the Rev. Steve Kelly, a Jesuit priest; Mariah Klusmire; Brad Lyttle; Libby Pappalardo; Sister Megan Rice, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus; Brian Terrell; Eve Tetaz; and the Revs. Louie Vitale and Jerry Zawada, both Franscican priests.