Las Vegas Sun

August 21, 2014

Currently: 84° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Creech 14’ found guilty of trespassing, judge says ‘go in peace’

Image

Justin M. Bowen

Members of the “Creech 14” protest outside the Regional Justice Center Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011, just before a judge’s decision was announced.

Updated Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011 | 3:10 p.m.

Creech 14 Rally

Jim Haber, Coordinator of the Nevada Desert Experience, joins in a protest with members of the Creech 14, a group of people who were arrested in April 2009 for protesting the use of remote-controlled Predator drones at the Creech Air Force Base, protests outside of Clark County Regional Justice Center Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011 just before their decision was read. Launch slideshow »

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 doctrine has been defined by various courts."

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 Vitali and Jerry Zawada, both Franciscan priests.

Vitali, a friar who at one time worked in a Las Vegas Catholic parish, was not at the hearing because he is currently serving a six-month sentence in the federal prison in Lompoc, Calif., for protesting at the Ft. Benning, Ga., 'School of the Americas," which peace activists say has taught foreign military leaders interrogation techniques they use in torturing political prisoners in their home countries.

Thursday's hearing drew about 40 supporters for the defendants from around the country, who filled the courtroom.

Jansen gave each of the defendants a copy of his decision and asked them if they could also give copies to former Johnson Administration Attorney General Ramsey Clark, retired Air Force Col. Ann Wright, and Bill Quigley, a Loyal University professor. Those three had provided testimony for the defendants at the September trial. Jansen said after reviewing the transcript of that trial, he and law clerk spent four months analyzing the case in federal and state law regarding the use of the defense of "necessity."

Before Jansen sentenced them, he allowed them to make statements. Each of those who spoke said they disagreed that what they were doing wasn't out of necessity.

Sister Megan Rice told the judge that the protesters entered Creech on April 9, 2009, intending to speak to and advise the commanding officer.

"I had to speak then and I do now," Rice said. "The evil of killing and destroying people in lands 8,000 miles away, of using bombs targeted by Air Force technicians who control computer-programmed joysticks was and is emblazoned upon my awareness. I see this form of warfare as an evolution toward human execution fostered in the psyche of a nation by immoral, addictive, excessive and illegal practice of developing more and more nuclear weapons."

Rice said Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu has said "to remain neutral in situations of injustice is to be complicit in that injustice."

Rice said she had written letters and sought meetings with the base commander to warn him about the need to disobey orders that conflict with U.S. and international laws. She said she had to enter the base in order to obey "higher orders."

"I have listened to the victims of drone warfare," she said. Lebanon victims told her they had been treated like insects.

"My non-violent resistance was an is an absolute necessity," she said.

Brian Terrel, a defendant from Maloy, Iowa, said he "respectfully disagreed" with the judge there was no imminent harm occurring at Creech Air Force Base. Terrel said that after the September trial he had spent three weeks in December in Afghanistan and saw the victims of the drone attacks, including a 9-year-old child who lost an arm in an air attack,

He also said he had read an article about post-traumatic distress being suffered by soldiers carrying out drone attacks on computer screens at Creech.

"One thing that really is haunting me is that one operator said 'I am 7,000 miles away from the killing. I am 18 inches away from the killing.' One, being the distance between Creech Air Force Base and Afghanistan and the other the distance between his nose and the computer screen and the video he was seeing of human beings being dismembered," Terrel said.

He said the drones "are giving an illusion of distance. The 7,000 miles between Creech Air Force Base and Kandahar (the second largest city of Afghanistan) is an illusion. We are very, very close. The harm is imminent. The harm is real. "

Terrel said the analogy that was first mentioned by Ramsey Clark in September about disregarding a no-trespassing sign to enter into a burning building to save a child "is so close to the reality, it is the reality. "

Dennis DuVall criticized the judge's decision that the trespassing didn't fall under the argument of necessity, calling it "outrageous."

DuVall also said drones don't prevent or eliminate terrorism, but instead incite more hatred, revenge and retaliation against American military.

Every time there's a drone strike and innocent people are killed, more IEDs are built to try to harm U.S. soldiers, he said.

DuVall said a year after the protesters were arrested for trespassing at Creech, he was in New York City at a nuclear disarmament march on Times Square where a car bomb was almost detonated.

"The builder of the car bomb, this young man, Faisal Shahzad, in the New York Post the next day says why he did it: revenge for drone attacks in Pakistan," DuVall said, pointing out that those attacks originated at Creech, where the defendants trespassed. "If that isn't necessity, then what the hell is?"

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 22 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. These idiots should be tried for TREASON then executed.

  2. Good Idea, Clyde...
    We wouldn't want our citizens to protest government activities, now would we?
    Gulags! That's the answer. Build em, and fill em.
    What do you think about Labor Camps?

  3. A waste of taxpayer money.

  4. Drones are an extra-judicial execution and a war crime as well as a violation of the Geneva Convention. American citizens are also targeted.

    The Church Amendment outlawed killings like this by the CIA.

    It is apparent that many people don't deserve America, it also shows that the people that read the Constitution in the Congress don't understand what it means.

  5. Maybe Clyde is off his meds.

    I only wish there were a million more protesters such as these.

  6. These people need to come over and visit these frends they think they are protecting, maybe they will get to play the packistani national sport of christian bashing second only to socker

  7. Clyde must have immigrated over from the USSR

  8. No just a nevadan trying to protect our military folks from these peoples and their (or your?) friends.

  9. It becomes a perpetual maintenance issue.
    The use of the drones breeds responses from the locals.
    Perpetual war, from the convenience of US based trailers.
    Some people don't want to fund perpetual war.
    Crazy huh?

  10. I assume Clyde doesn't have access to a drone.

  11. Clyde, peace protesters are no more a threat to the military than vegetarians are a threat to chickens. It's the people who send them off to fight pointless wars and occupy third-world countries that are a threat to our fine military men and women. By the way, I'm a proud Army vet.

  12. Guilty. The motive is irrelevant. Probably a smart sentence. I would have given them a stiffer one.

  13. David: You never know.

  14. It's nice to know we still have a judge with some common sense and some folks with the gonads to stand up to questionable/unlawful practices. So many people today just believe what they are told and bow down as they continue to give up more and more of our rights, idiots.

  15. I worked for a psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas a few years ago and we were getting some active duty military members who were stationed at at the Creech facility. These folks were suffering from pretty severe symptoms of PTSD. They were half a world away from the battlefield, but operated Predator drones that were outfitted with cameras and armed with missiles. Apparently, from what these guys told me, they could see up close and personal what happened when they unleashed a missile strike. Imagine going to work every morning, killing guys 7,500 miles away, then punching out and going home at night.

  16. They crossed the line when they entered the base, at that point they became Potential terrorists.

    It called giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

    I remember their type back in the 60, 70s and early 80s, the ones who spit on our service people.

  17. I am thankful for the Catholic priests who showed their faithfulness in this demonstration. We must witness for goodness and truth. Where were the representatives from protestant churches? Oh, and the Mormons - perhaps following the Prince of Peace is optional for them while they support the phalanxes who entered Jerusalem to dominate and rule the people with force.

  18. I also add that you/they can come on over and check out these so called inocent civilians.

  19. No, Tom...

    "Killing guys" is just that, killing guys. You're inferring a meaning to my words to suit your own purpose, whatever in the world that might be. I didn't say that it was either good or bad; it just is. Whether they go to work with the idea that they're going to be killing terrorists does not alter the fact that there are consequences to be paid for doing so; otherwise they wouldn't be troubled by the reality of "killing guys."

  20. "These idiots should be tried for TREASON then executed."

    nez212 -- you and BRASS are clueless on what being a citizen means. You may like being ruled and told what to do. Not me -- government serves us, not the other way around. These brave protestors acted more like trustors demanding an accounting from their trustees.

    "The Fuhrer is always right." -- some baron from the Konigsberg Address

  21. If Diplomacy were the only protest method, America would STILL be fighting the Vietnam war.

    This country cannot disengage using diplomacy...

  22. The day will come when our skies are filled with drones, and we will be occupied by foreign armies. Anyone who has read the "art of war" can see is coming.