A federal judge sentenced Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and several others to prison Friday for trespassing while protesting Navy bombing on Vieques.
Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and son of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, will serve 30 days for his role in protests that led to 180 arrests on the island during April and May. Other well-known Vieques protesters sentenced for trespassing include the Rev. Al Sharpton and Jacqueline Jackson, the wife of the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Actor Edward James Olmos and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) were arrested but have yet to go on trial.
Also sentenced Friday was Norma Burgos, a senator in Puerto Rico's legislature. Originally sentenced to 40 days, the judge added an additional 20 days to her sentence when Burgos said the Navy, not protesters, should be on trial.
The judge decided not to imprison Myrta Sanes, sister of the Navy security guard whose 1999 death by stray bombs on the Navy's firing range sparked all the protests. "You've suffered enough," Lafitte told Sanes, sentencing her to six months' probation.
Kennedy and the others were believed taken to San Juan's federal Metropolitan Detention Center.
Kennedy's lawyer, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, had planned to use the trial to argue for a political solution to end six decades of bombardments on Vieques. Chief U.S. District Judge Hector Lafitte rejected the attempt, saying: "I'm not going to allow political views, philosophical views, none of that."
Instead, Lafitte denounced the protest movement that has grown around the bombing. "It is an obvious concerted activity, it is a movement. There are masked individuals cutting holes in the fence of Navy lands. This is almost chaos! This is almost anarchy!" Lafitte said.
Kennedy's detention means he probably will miss the birth of his sixth child, expected next week, according to his staff at the Waterkeeper Alliance environmental group based in White Plains, N.Y.
The Navy denies that its exercises harm the environment or health, and says local studies that show otherwise are biased and unscientific.
Navy officers testified Friday that Kennedy and Rivera's incursion — from a fishing boat onto the beachside firing range — stopped ship-to-shore shelling for 2 1/2 hours while security officers searched for the intruders.
"As soon as the vessel, the boat, entered the danger zone, I had to cease fire," said Lt. Cmdr. Russell Gottfried.
Kennedy said he is glad that since he was arrested, President Bush has announced that the Navy will stop bombing exercises on Vieques by May 2003.