ST PATRICK'S FOUR NOT GUILTY OF CONSPIRACY; CHARGED WITH 2 MISDEMEANORS
(9/26/05 - BINGHAMTON, NY) Members of the St. Patrick's Four, their families, friends and legal team were grateful to learn that the jury, after over seven hours of deliberation, had found the peace activists not guilty of the most serious charge, conspiracy to impede an officer of the United States.
"The decision to acquit on the conspiracy charge, a felony, is a huge victory, given the narrow parameters within which the four could present their defense, and given the restrictions on deliberations. This is a major setback in the government's efforts to criminalize dissent, said Bill Quigley, acclaimed public interest lawyer and law professor at Loyola University School of Law, who has been acting as legal advisor to the defendants.
The four were convicted on lesser charges, damage to property and trespassing, both misdemeanors which carry possible sentences of one year and six months respectively.
"Regardless of the penalties, we will continue to call for justice for the Iraqi people and our troops." stated Daniel Burns, one of the four defendants. "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.
The decision did not surprise the defendants, given Senior U.S. District Judge Hon. Thomas J. McAvoy forbade them to present to the jury the legal context, particularly international treaties and the US Constitution, which would have made possible and reasonable an acquittal on all charges.
"Our actions were lawful, however, we were repeatedly denied the chance to explain why," stated Teresa Grady, one of the defendants. "We were not allowed to mention Article VI, paragraph four of the Constitution, which says that the treaties of the United States are the supreme law of the land. We were not allowed to explain our actions in the context of the Nuremberg Principles, which declare that citizens can be held responsible for crimes of their government. Nor could we explain how this war was a violation of the UN Charter. The jury made a wise choice with what they had. It's unfortunate, however, that they were denied the full truth.
In a previous trial in Tompkins County Court in April 2004, the defendants were able to fully explain their action in this broader legal context, and nine of twelve jurors voted to acquit.
"The real crime, as we've always stated, is that our government conspired against the American people and lied us into an illegal and immoral war, said Peter DeMott, a member of the St. Patrick's Four. "The task is now upon us all to better understand the criminality of our government's aggression and, as citizens, to act accordingly to demand that our government adheres to international law."
Clare Grady, another co-defendant, said, "Our work is just beginning. We all must continue to speak on behalf of the victims of this criminal war -- the innocent Iraqi civilians, US service members, and indeed all of humanity. Whether it's Crawford or Binghamton or Washington or beyond, our dissent will not be silenced. Truth, justice, and peace will prevail.
Sentencing has been scheduled for late January of next year. And though three of the four defendants were held in contempt, Judge McAvoy said that he'd make a decision on the penalties in due course.
For more information and legal and court documents, please see http://www.stpatricksfour.org
SP4 Support Team