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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, May 11, 2013 4:46 pm

Tenn. nuke protesters to stay in jail until fall

The Associated Press

A judge has ruled that a nun and two other protesters must remain in jail until they are sentenced in September for breaking into a nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee.

Sister Megan Rice and protesters Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed (bohr-CHEE' OH-bed') were convicted Wednesday of sabotaging the plant and damaging federal property last year at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.

The sabotage charge carries a maximum prison term of up to 20 years. The damaged property charge has a penalty of up to 10 years.

A defense attorney asked the judge during a hearing on Thursday to allow their release until their Sept. 23 sentencing.

Defense attorney Bill Quigley argued that the defendants had refrained from further incursions between when they were arrested in July and went to trial this week and they would continue to refrain.

Prosecutor Jeff Theodore said the government opposes the trio's release, noting that they testified during trial that they felt no remorse for their actions.

U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar said in an order issued Friday that releasing them would be too lenient.

"The defendants' offenses fall within the category of more serious offenses that triggers the stronger presumption in favor of detention," he wrote.

In order to be released, the defendants would have to show two things: that they are likely to win a motion to acquit or that prosecutors plan to ask for no imprisonment and that they are unlikely to flee or to pose a danger to the community.

Thapar said that the defendants can't meet the first requirement as federal prosecutors have said they plan to seek prison time.

Thapar also noted that the defendants have not shown any "unique circumstances that would weigh against detention."