SEATTLE – A federal jury on Monday convicted five anti-war activists, including octogenarians and Jesuit priests, who cut fences at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in 2009 to protest submarine nuclear weapons.
Members of the group could face up to 10 years in prison when they are sentenced in March.
The five defendants were convicted of conspiracy, trespass and destruction of government property, the U.S. attorney's office said.
The group includes 82-year-old Jesuit Rev. Bill Bichsel of Tacoma; 60-year-old Jesuit Rev. Stephen Kelly of Oakland, Calif.; 84-year-old Sister Anne Montgomery of Redwood City, Calif.; 67-year-old retired teacher Susan Crane of Baltimore; and 60-year-old social worker Lynne Greenwald of Bremerton.
All five remained free under their personal recognizance, the U.S. attorney's office said.
"When those who seek to exercise their right to protest violate the rights of others, they must be held accountable under the law," Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlen Storm said in the statement.
Court documents said the five defendants cut through a perimeter fence on Nov. 2, 2009, to reach an area near where Trident nuclear warheads are stored in bunkers. They cut through two more fences and an alarm system, causing about $6,000 in damage, prosecutors said.
Marines responded to the alarm and found the group inside the limited access area displaying a banner denouncing nuclear weapons, putting their blood on the fence and ground, and kneeling in prayer.
They were arrested, hooded, taken to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service office and issued letters barring them from the base. Greenwald and Bichsel had previously been permanently barred from the base.
"No, I don't have any regrets," said Crane, who recently became a grandmother. "The main thing that we know is that these weapons are just horrendous, grotesque and the base is only there to serve or take care of the trident nuclear weapons."
The guilty convictions didn't come as a surprise to the defendants, said Anabel Dwyer, an attorney for Kelly.
Judge Benjamin Settle had prohibited the defendants from using international law and the lethality of nuclear weapons as a defense.
The five defendants believe nuclear warheads stored and on submarines at the base are illegal under international, national and humanitarian law.
The trial hinged on straightforward charges relating to trespassing and property damage.
"It's sort of unnecessary prosecution," Dwyer said. "I'm very sorry about the outcome. What they did was justifiable, pointing out weapons of mass destruction."
Crane and Dwyer didn't want to speculate on sentences the group might receive in March.