Y-12 Sentencings: Dennis Duvall – “…we [humanity] get what we deserve.”

Y12 Resisters’ Sentencing • Day 7, Dennis DuVall [Witnessed and written by Ralph Hutchison]

Upon first meeting Dennis DuVall, with his Arizona tan, square jaw, bright eyes, and tall white cowboy hat, you can’t help but think “Marlboro Man.” Then you talk with Dennis and listen to the depth of his commitment, his bright wit, his thoughtful response in almost any circumstance, and you realize there is a lot going on under that hat.

That was never more apparent than this morning, in federal court in Knoxville, when Dennis stood before the judge. The hearing was a little a-kilter, because Dennis’s attorney, Robert Kurtz, had challenged his pre-sentencing report and it’s assignment of category points. Eventually the judge would recess to consider and then deny the motion, but the effect at the beginning of the hearing was the judge completely skipped the prosecution’s recommendation on Dennis’s sentence.

Instead, he turned to Dennis to ask if he had anything to say. And Dennis brought order back to the court, with a statement of clarity and power.

“I’ve done a lot of thinking over the past four months,” Dennis began, after thanking his supporters, “and I conclude that we get what we deserve. Not the Y12 defendants, but humanity.

“Sadly, over sixty-six years, we have learned to live with the bomb. Most people are apathetic or complacent, or brainwashed, such as the jury that sat in this court. Then there are the lawmakers, the politicians who make sure the corporate oligarchy has a nuclear arsenal to protect its profit-taking and political power. And we have a system of justice that protects the purveyors of weapons intended for mass murder, while punishing those who risk their personal freedom standing up for the abolition of nuclear weapons as all the nations of the world and our own Nobel Peace Prize-winning President has continued to appeal for.

“What kind of democracy is it where we cannot talk about these things?”

Dennis said, “What bothers me the most, and what I care most about, is that the destructive power of our weapons threatens all life on Earth. I have to ask myself, how can I live with the reality that humankind’s march toward annihilation threatens the entire web of life on our planet? It is the ultimate affront to the miracle of life that one species would threaten one million species, all having a unique place in God’s creation.

“This is the destructive arrogance of Y12, threatening the extinction of all Creation in the aftermath of thermonuclear H-bomb explosions.”

Dennis went on to explain how a nuclear exchange would destroy the ozone layer (after asking permission to be allowed to be pedantic for a moment), citing the report of a conference of public health and medical experts in 1980 titled The Last Epidemic: The Medical Consequences of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear War.

Dennis noted the history of thermonuclear weapons tests in space and attempted to explain the scale of the monstrosity of nuclear weapons to the court. “A 100-kiloton W76 H-bomb made at Y12 equals an amount of explosive that would require a train 20 miles long to carry.”

Chiding the prosecution’s characterization of the actions of the defendants as a whole, Dennis said, “My personal act of conscience was not just a well-meaning or well-intentioned protest. Edward Abbey said, ‘Sentiment without action is ruination to the soul.’ My nonviolent action at Y12 was a principled act of resistance in defense of Mother Earth, a peaceful and deliberate act of conscience for all Creation.”

Dennis closed with a request, “For this reason, I would urge everyone to trespass at Y2, and in the spirit of Jackie Hudson—Resist always!”

Dennis’s lawyer indicate Dennis did not desire a lengthy term of probation or supervised release, but was requesting a sentence at the low end of his sentencing range, 1-7 months. The judge took a recess, returning ten minutes later to pronounce sentence: Dennis was remanded to the custody of the Attorney General for a period of one month. No fine was levied, and no probation.

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