Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

84-year-old nun sentenced to nearly 3 years in prison for break-in at US nuclear plant

Art Laffin, center, from Washington, D.C., rallies supporters of three anti-nuclear weapons activists before their sentencing hearing Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Knoxville, Tenn. Michael Walli, Sister Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed were convicted of interfering with national security when they broke into the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant and defaced a uranium storage facility on July 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Michael Patrick)

Enlarge Image

Art Laffin, center, from Washington, D.C., rallies supporters of three anti-nuclear weapons activists before their sentencing hearing Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Knoxville, Tenn. Michael Walli, Sister Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed were convicted of interfering with national security when they broke into the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant and defaced a uranium storage facility on July 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Michael Patrick)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - An 84-year-old nun was sentenced Tuesday to nearly three years in prison for breaking into a U.S. nuclear weapons complex and defacing a bunker holding bomb-grade uranium, a demonstration that exposed serious security flaws.

Two other activists who broke into the facility with Megan Rice were sentenced to more than five years in prison, in part because they had much longer criminal histories of mostly non-violent civil disobedience.

Although officials claimed there was never any danger of the protesters reaching materials that could be detonated or made into a dirty bomb, the break-in raised questions about the safekeeping at the Y-12 National Security Complex. The facility holds the nation's primary supply of bomb-grade uranium.

After the protest, the complex had to be shut down, security forces were re-trained and contractors were replaced.

In her closing statement, Rice asked the judge to sentence her to life in prison, even though sentencing guidelines called for about six years.

"Please have no leniency with me," she said. "To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest gift you could give me."

Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli all said God was using them to raise awareness about nuclear weapons and they viewed their break-in as a miracle.

They had been found guilty of sabotaging the plant and damaging federal property.

On July 28, 2012, the three activists cut through three fences before reaching a $548 million storage bunker. They hung banners, strung crime-scene tape and hammered off a small chunk of the fortress-like Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility inside the most secure part of complex.

They painted messages such as, "The fruit of justice is peace," and splashed baby bottles of human blood on the bunker wall.

"The reason for the baby bottles was to represent that the blood of children is spilled by these weapons," Boertje-Obed, 58, said at trial.

Although the protesters set off alarms, they were able to spend more than two hours inside the restricted area before they were caught.

When security finally arrived, guards found the three activists singing and offering to break bread with them. The protesters reportedly also offered to share a Bible, candles and white roses with the guards.

The Department of Energy's inspector general wrote a scathing report on the security failures that allowed the activists to reach the bunker, and the security contractor was later fired.

Some government officials praised the activists for exposing the facility's weaknesses. But prosecutors declined to show leniency, instead pursing serious felony charges.

Rice testified at trial that she was surprised the group made it all the way to the interior of the secured zone without being challenged and that plant operations were suspended.

"That stunned me," she said. "I can't believe they shut down the whole place."

The activists' attorneys asked the judge to sentence them to time they had already served, about nine months, because of their record of goodwill. Rice became a nun when she was 18 and served for 40 years as a missionary in western Africa teaching science.

U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar said he was concerned they showed no remorse and he wanted the punishment to be a deterrent for other activists. He was also openly skeptical about whether the protesters caused any real harm and challenged prosecutors to prove it.

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Submit a Random Act of Kindness
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media