OAK RIDGE, Tennessee — Defense attorneys have filed an appeal in the case of an 84-year-old nun and two other activists convicted of breaking into and defacing a storage bunker holding bomb-grade uranium in a peace demonstration at a Tennessee weapons plant.
The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1o9qL3g) reports the appeal filed Monday with the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati challenges their convictions on a sabotage charge.
The nun, Megan Rice, was sentenced in February along with activists Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli. Rice was sentenced to just under three years in prison, while Boertje-Obed and Walli each received sentences of just over five years.
The three activists cut through three fences on July 28, 2012, and reached a storage bunker that holds the nation's primary supply of bomb-grade uranium. They painted messages, hung banners and threw blood on the bunker wall.
The appeal argues that the defendants' actions didn't rise to the level of sabotage.
"It is only through a distorted and unmoored interpretation of the Sabotage Act that the government was able to secure convictions in this case," the appeal stated.
"Under the government's interpretation, a large swatch of individuals could be convicted simply for knowingly defacing government property," the document says. "While that may amount to a federal offense, it does not constitute intent to injure or interfere with the national defense and certainly does not constitute sabotage. The district court recognized as much, but the prosecution was still permitted to advance these arguments before the jury."
Although officials said 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 safekeeping at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.
After the break-in, the complex had to be shut down, security forces were re-trained and contractors were replaced.
Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com