Y-12 Sentencing: Brad Lyttle – “The Flaw of Deterrence”

[Brad Lyttle’s sentencing, September 20, by Ralph Hutchison]

If Brad and the judge were going to have a difference of opinion, it wasn’t going to be over Brad’s lack of courtesy. “Mr. Lyttle, can you hear me?” Judge Bruce Guyton asked, as he does of every defendant at the beginning of proceedings. “I certainly can, your honor,” replied Brad cheerfully. And then he thanked the judge for releasing his passport allowing him to travel to Afghanistan and Canada while he was on supervised release, for being kind and open-minded, for assigning the public defender to assist him in his self-representation. Then turning to the Assistant District Attorney, Melissa Kirby, he offered his congratulations on her marriage.

The government made no recommendation about Brad’s sentence, preferring to defer to the judgement of the court. Brad’s history and points placed him in the range to receive a sentence of 1-7 months.

Brad’s elocution called to mind the recent commemorations of September 11, the moving pictures of the catastrophic destruction wrought in New York—“buildings collapsed, people bereaved, in search of loved ones. Over two thousand people in New York alone. I was deeply moved.”

Then Brad cited the testimony of the Manager of Y12 during the trial; Ted Sherry declined to say how powerful the W76 warhead, currently being refurbished at Y12, was, but Brad filled in the gap—if it were exploded in lower Manhattan, “it would all be wiped out, probably every human, and a large number of people in Brooklyn. Every borough of New York City would be on fire. One thousand times the destructive power of Hiroshima.” Brad went on to note that Mr. Sherry did acknowledge the US possesses more than 5,000 of those bombs. Noting Russia maintains a similar arsenal and “untold others” held by other nations, Brad said, “The machine is in place for total destruction of the entire human race. We’re not talking about cities that can be rebuilt; we’re talking about wiping out the human race. Y12 contributes to this machine through the work of refurbishing nuclear warheads. This is reality.”

Then Brad got to the heart of his argument, noting the judge would not permit a jury to hear it. He gave the judge and the prosecutor a copy of his paper, “The Flaw of Deterrence,” which applies the science of probability assessment to the argument of deterrence. “The probability approaches certainty over time.” The fact that it is impossible to know when is tantamount to playing Russian roulette with a revolver that holds an unknown number of bullets. “To play once is irrational,” Brad noted. “And this is the situation with nuclear weapons.”

Coming to a close, Brad said, “Our action was completely justified and necessary to keep the human species from destroying itself. I hope you will take that into consideration; the jury had no chance to hear it.”

After the morning session, the judge summoned Brad’s assigned counsel, Kim Tollison, to chambers for a chat. Kim subsequently spent twenty minutes locked in the conference room with Brad. The upshot was the judge indicated he would not put Brad in prison if Brad would promise not to do it again. But Brad would make no such promise.

Instead, citing his age and health concerns, Brad allowed as how he has no plans at the current time to engage in similar actions at Y12. We held our breath waiting to see if the judge would  push for a promise.

Instead, the judge declared a sentence of one year probation, the first month to be served on home confinement. Drug tests were waived. And with that, court was adjourned. In the gallery, the audience danced little celebratory dances.

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