[With thanks to Ralph Hutchison for his faithful reportage]
It was the same and it wasn’t. Ardeth arrived in court four hours after Carol Gilbert to face sentencing for the same civil resistance act—trespass at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in July 2010 protesting the ongoing production of nuclear weapons components and the plan to build a new bomb production plant at Y12.
The prosecutor stood and reminded the judge that Ardeth had already served four months and asked for a sentence that would deter her specifically and others generally—the same language we have heard for each defendant.
The judge recited Ardeth’s points (history and offense) and status (Cateogry 2) which placed her in the 1-7 months range. Ardeth’s lawyer agreed they had no objection to the presentencing report.
And then it was Ardeth’s turn, and she addressed the court for her elocution, beginning with a blessing of peace on the judge, the judge’s staff, the prosecutors, the marshals, the audience—“everyone who has brought us to this place today.” Then she told the judge she would be sharing her history with him so he would understand a little of who she is. Her statement, “I Refuse to Be Silent,” began by calling Jackie Hudson to the gathering, and moved to reminding the judge that she came to court expecting justice, expecting law-breakers to be prosecuted, expecting killing and threats to kill to be brought to trial. She noted the prosecutors instead chose to prosecute the Y12 Thirteen, limiting their testimony at trial, and ignoring law and treaties.
“Nuclear weapons are the taproot of violence,” Ardeth said, “and they must be abolished. So I refuse to be silent.” Aligning herself with her community and her church, Nobel laureates and legal experts, the World Court and the world community, she said “We each in our own way refuse to be silent.” She described her education in the church where “the words of Jesus took root in me,” and her exposure to racism, sexism and class-ism. The movements to address those issues taught her “the way to bring about systemic change through legal, political, and direct action.” She spoke of anti-war actions and efforts to declare Michigan a Nuclear Free Zone at the ballot.
“During the 1980s and 1990s, under the tutelage of lawyers, we learned the laws of the United States applicable to nuclear weapons, war, and our own nonviolent actions,” Ardeth said, “and our duty and responsibility to stop them.”
“Nuclear weapons inflict indiscriminate and uncontrollable mass destruction, violate fundamental rules and principles of humanitarian law, and threaten the existence of life itself.” She spoke of the specific work at Y12, refurbishing the W76 warhead, as breaches of Article 6 of the Nonproliferation Treaty.
“So I ask you,” she said, “Is it out democratic right to stop wrong-doing? Is it legal to defy treaties?…My commitment has been to put my mind, body, spirit and voice on the line to stop war, weapons and killing.”
“You may wonder why I’m taking the time to add this to my record,” said Ardeth. “I have two reasons: first to let you know my commitment and my passio; second, with hope to invite you and all who are part of the court to be agents for change in this key time of history as were the courts in the abolition of slavery, voting rights for women, stopping child labor, civil rights, unionization, and a multitude of other laws protecting air, land and water… Join the movement to stop the killing.”
Ardeth concluding by invoking Jackie Hudson’s mantra, urging the court to “take a step outside your comfort zone.”
The judge listened intently to the entire elocution and then handed down his sentence: time served, no fine, no probation, and a $25 special fee to be paid immediately.
As Ardeth was taken away for processing, one of the marshals came over with her hand extended. “This is Sister Carol’s watch,” she said. “She left it here in May and told us we could give it away. But we aren’t allowed to do that; we would just have to throw it out. So I decided to keep it for her.” She then told us to expect them to be released around 6:00pm, and we adjourned for the afternoon to see Bix off to the airport and reconvene at the release.