Sentencing of Susan Crane--Prince of Peace Plowshares Webster Notes

Federal Court, Portland, ME. October 29, l997


NOTE: Full reporting in the Court record.. Also Susan and Frank Morin spoke from prepared statements. Steve Kelly and Ardeth Platte spoke without written notes. I couldn't hear some parts and some was too fast for my notetaking ability-- MW.

Judge: [Same old script. Fast mumbling at times -- for the record]

Prosecutor: [Voice barely audible at times. Speaking fast on script] The Government's recommendation is that she be sentenced to middle of guidelines -- 24 months. View is that she deserves to have sentence greater than the minimum -- conduct was particularly egregious, resulted in damage to government property. Damaged the ship with hammers and threw blood around. Intentional damage and blood thrown around created potential danger and hazard to individuals on the ship. Also terrorism caused to individuals on the ship. They did not know --

Student calls out, What about terrorism to Iraqi children? ..... Everyone killed by the death ships . . .

Judge orders her removed from courtroom by the marshals.

John Suchard asks: Can the prosecutor speak louder? We can't hear.

Judge orders him removed from the courtroom by marshals. Says --

Judge: I will order the courtroom cleared if there are any further interruptions.

Prosecutor: Regardless of whether one classifies the conduct as violent or not, the law does not allow someone to damage property because they disagree with their political views. They showed no respect for the individuals on the ship and seeing that they were human beings. This prosecution has nothing to do with whether the government agrees with their religious or political views. They chose in their conduct to create a terrorizing and dangerous situation. Displayed complete lack of compassion for how those individuals felt. Incredible that they can argue that because horrible things happened in other parts of the world that somehow their conduct was justified. Government asks for sentence in the middle level plus supervisory release and restitution.

Susan: I would like to call witnesses.

Judge: There are no issues to be heard or resolved other than where in the guideline range the sentence should fall. There is no occasion to call witnesses.

Susan: . . . . . . would like to call witnesses to speak to the issue of . . . . Judge accedes

Witness--Fr. Frank Morin: I have been unofficial chaplain to Susan, visiting her weekly in jail. I've gotten to know her. I have a strong impression of the sincerity of what she is witness to and the conviction of her belief, following out strong church teaching as regards the arms race, military expenditures . . . that disregard the poor throughout the world and create situations of real insecurity . . . [Cites major church authorities] Susan is acting out of that whole vision. Catholic catechism speaks to her and to all of us. 'The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war it risks aggravating them . . . . It distorts the development of people.' Cites II Vatican Council . . . . Quotes church authority regarding redirecting the vast expenditures towards needs of those who are dying and who are hungry and experiencing serious . . . It is unconscionable that so much money is spent on military defense . . .

These are very, very sincere beliefs . . .

Judge: I do not doubt the sincerity. It is a matter of whether you are in conflict with the law. I have no problem believing they were sincere. I fully understand. . . Next witness.

Witness--Sr. Ardeth Platte I have been a Dominican Sister for 43 years and I have the privilege of living with Susan at Jonah House. The reason I feel that I am a credible witness is because I know her day and night. I know her in the sense of her being. [Turns to face Prosecutor] And I assure sister Helene that she is one of the most compassionate people . . . compassion for every person in the neighborhood. She shares everything that she has. I wish you could see the package of her belongings that she left behind. She gives everything to people in need. She has the gift of tears. When one can cry for injury to brothers and sisters in the world, then one must act. When the government never listens, then one has to strike hard with hammers that are both for destroying an injurious system and for building anew. It is a symbolic action. With their own blood. Symbol of blood poured out on battlefields -- 200 million killed in this century and one million have died now in Iraq. People are dying from starvation and lack of medical care. How does one . . . . Plowshares are known as non-violent people. The military . . . .

They have even allowed us at times to finish the liturgical action. They know they will never injure a life.

So in some way I plead the cause to free Susan from jail and prison. Some feel that, like Franz Jagerstatter, these six Prince of Peace Plowshares will be held up as people who stopped war-making, who stopped the killing.

I live in the inner city with Susan. We see . . . . . [violence?] daily. The reason we see it is that the government solves problems in the world with maximum killing, so what are young people in the inner city supposed to do who are exposed to that? They are then solving their own conflicts with killing . . .

I have a passage here -- because Susan is a scriptural person -- She has steeped herself in the scriptures and this is one of the passage she [lives by?] Isaiah 42. [Ardeth interpolates references to Susan's calling]

Thus says God Jehovah

who created the heavens and spread them out,

who gives shape to the earth and what comes from it,

who gives breath to the people upon it

and spirit to those who walk in it:

--Love of creation is deep in Susan. She grows our food that we eat and

share with neighbors.

I God have called you [Susan] to serve the cause of right.

I have taken you by the hand and I have formed you

--I have formed you not only bodily but in spirit. I have formed you in conscience. I have formed you through faith.

I have appointed you, given you as a covenant to the people,

a light to the nations,

--Because Susan is appointed to help save the world. Not alone . . .

to open the eyes that are blind,

to free captives from prison

-- As she has been doing. Those in cells. What is she doing? She's sharing with the women in the prison and freeing them from the captivity of oppression.

and those who live in darkness from the dungeon

-- the military that is blind, who think they make friends by killing enemies -- and who are not our enemies -- we are feeding the Russians today . . . . . . There are not any enemies unless we create them.

I am the Lord, that is my name;

my glory I give to no other,

I will not allow idols -- Aegis . . . Trident . . . F22s . . . Cruise missiles . . .Cassini

See how former predictions have come true

and new things I now declare;

before they spring forth I tell you of them.

Brother Gene Carter -- This what Susan Crane is telling you today.

I plead with you to free her, to change your mind about the other Prince of Peace Plowshares. You have just put another saint-in-the-making in prison.

God's peace be with you.

Judge: Thank you . . . Next witness.

Next witness is Fr.Steve Kelly S.J. There is a long wait for him to appear. Outside the chorus that had accompanied the last part of Ardeth's statement becomes clearer in the silence while we await Steve's appearance. Were the chanting inside the courtroom, the chorus would be removed by marshals. As it is, it now fills the courtroom.

Chorus: Susan Crane. Speak truth to power

Susan Crane. Speak truth to power

Susan Crane. Speak truth to power.

All friends stand up as Steve enters the room, minus shackles, wearing the saffron clothes of a prisoner, the tunic stamped with C C J. He chooses to stand sideways to the microphone so that the speaks both to judge and to Susan and those assembled in the courtroom.

Witness--Stephen Kelly, S.J. [speaking without notes] Stephen Kelly, Society of Jesus. Thank you for this opportunity. Susan Crane and I have known each other for some time, going back approximately eight years now. Opening up the scriptures together . . . . . she has broken down and cried for the poor people she has seen who have gone without. It made quite an impression on me personally and on other people. Testimony that her community in California was all much taken by her leadership in the area of providing for children, raising children on her own, soup kitchens, pantries, giving groceries to people. Meantime watching the hardware build up in the United States to an exponential degree of weaponry.

It was my privilege to enter Lockheed Missiles and Space some years ago -- a Trident . . . that cost $87 million . Susan expressed the number of ways that could be spent on people who literally had nothing . . .

Susan's life as far as I have seen and the reputation that she enjoys in California and perhaps even now on the east coast is that she is an advocate working constantly against the domination of a system that has caused all that misery and scarcity. Meantime, as well, there were people in California who witnessed her expressions of non-violence and learned from her how to handle themselves in the area of being treated very roughly, often by those sometimes under cover of uniform -- for example, female detainees being frisked by male guards. She recognized their pain and humiliation, bringing their feelings into positive and peaceful non-violence.

Recently I had the privilege of going on board the US The Sullivans with Susan, in which she was advocating complete nonviolence --the blood a symbol of the people killed in the wars throughout this century. This was a consequence of what the state is doing on board that ship . . .

All in all I have seen Susan time in and time out as practitioner of nonviolence. I can point to her as a person to look to who has constantly taken into account her adversaries. Even willing to suffer the consequence to herself rather than harm anyone else. At the same time constantly pointing to disparities in our society and the insensitivity of so many people that have advocated against mostly women and children.

I think we have the privilege of being in the courtroom with Susan and learning from her advocacy and her demeanor. I understand that perhaps it will be the privilege of many inmates, if she is sent to prison -- many will benefit from knowing her, seeing her. It will be our loss not to hear from her own . . . Her own interpretation of Christ's life . . .

Judge: Thank you . . . [To Susan:] You may address the Court at this time.

Susan: [Her prepared statement should become available to share]. On Ash Wednesday our Plowshares community went to BIW and we boarded a destroyer and used our own blood and household hammers to . . . We wanted to enflesh Isaiah . . . . swords into plowshares. Our witness is about saying No to death, to nuclear weapons. Yes to truth, to nonviolence, to justice, obedient and truthful and . . . about saying Yes to conversion -- of weapons on the ship and of our hearts.

Our witness was about truth. But it was difficult to talk about in this courtroom, where good is seen as evil and evil is misnamed as good. The Court says the good we did was wrong, that the truth doesn't matter. International law, the Nuremberg principles, the teachings of our faith are not welcome in this courtroom. The same Court says that nuclear weapons are good. The economy with its roots in larceny is defended by this Court.

In John's gospel there is a story of the Good Shepherd who takes care of the people. And in contrast to the Good Shepherd is the hireling. The hireling runs away when danger . . . . All of us have a choice in daily life to treat people entrusted to us . . . . or simply do our job and hide behind the rules of the institutions that we are working for. German judges sent people to concentration camps saying, 'I am just doing my job.' They were hirelings. Now, today, we may not be building concentration camps; but we are building and flying offense weapons like the missiles on the U.S. The Sullivans.

You, Judge Carter, have kept people out of our trial. You would not allow us to use defense . . . . You were just doing your job. Just a hireling. Yet traditionally a judge . . . . at every level of government has responsibility to follow international law and . . . . Justice has to do with justice for the poorest, the lowest, the least. You have distorted the concept of justice . . . defended defense contractors. . . .

One of the commandments of our faith is Thou shalt not kill. Our action was about obedience to that command. We have to ask if that is a suggestion or a commandment . . . You are my brother, Judge Carter. You, Helene, are my sister . . . How can we even think of killing other people loved by God? . . . . Here in this country we take half of every income tax dollar and spend it on the military whose actual job is to kill people, and that is what they train to do. It is hard to imagine how we can think of killing people who are loved by and created by God.

The government is making madness out of the world. The poor are sacrificed so we can build bigger, better weapons . . . Domestic violence. Youth . . . There are more and more random killings. More hand guns in the schools and neighborhoods. Unless the violence at high levels stops, there is little chance the violence at the bottom will stop. We who terrorize the world will find that we are being terrorized. Martin Luther King called this an endless spiral of despair and death.

My experience is that anyone who disagrees with this violence finds themselves in court and in jail.

You have another chance to review international law, the United States constitution, to remember the roots of your faith, and to defend the poor and powerless of the world . . .

Thou shalt not kill. The commandment is a prohibition against killing anyone, anywhere. The decision of life and death is not one for us creatures to make. All of creation is sacred . . . . . . . . the Cambodian killing fields . . . . .

I am just an ordinary person. Parent of two sons. School teacher. Active in my community . . . I don't think I am that different from anyone else. I have broken all the commandments, but I keep struggling in the hope of forgiveness. . . . . . I dare to say, Murder and killing is wrong . . . We are not allowed to intentionally take human life. . . All through the gospels the nonviolence of Jesus comes through. We can use nonviolent tactics and fight with the weapons of truth and love, but we cannot murder others.

The weapons ought not to exist. They do nothing to enhance human life. The resources used to build them are stolen out of the mouths of the hungry. We look to them for safety, but they are nothing more than idols . . .

I cannot in good conscience pay restitution. And I won't allow a probation officer to control my conscience. I won't report.

I imagine that you, like most people, do your best and perhaps in some way agree . . . Today you have a chance to make a statement for disarmament and life. And you might want to let me free today . . . At least you should know that I don't have any remorse, and I hope that my faith will sustain me . . . . Thou shalt not kill.

Judge: [asks Prosecutor if she wants to say anything]

Prosecutor: Nothing.

Judge: Proceeds with the prepared findings, but imposes maximum jail time. The Prosecutor had suggested middle range of prison time, noting that The Court could go up or down within the guidelines (21-27 months, depending presumably upon how he felt about Susan's court appearance and statement) . . . .

Please stand. [Susan does not stand]

I urge you to please stand [Susan remains seated]

At this point John Hines stands. Says: I stand for all she stands for, your honor.

Judge: Remove that spectator.

I am pleading with you to stand so I can properly sentence you.

[Susan remains seated]

I want at least [or a last] nominal indication of fundamental respect for the law.

[Susan does not stand. Says something I don't hear clearly]

[Judge proceeds to sentence. Mumble, mumble ] Twenty-seven months [He's imposed the maximum prison sentence].

24 months supervised release. Restitution $4,703.89 to the Navy. Balance unpaid to be paid . . . . Special assessment of $200. . . Remanded in the custody of U.S. marshal. . . Right to appeal the sentence . . .

The judge leaves the courtroom.

The 'spectators' all stand for Susan and cheer her as she leaves with U.S. marshals.