Aug 21, 2008

Tax Day trespassing case ends in hung jury

By CAROL A. CLARK Los Alamos Monitor County Editor

What started as a 24-hour prayer vigil in front of Los Alamos National Laboratory ended with two men praying through the night in a jail cell at the Los Alamos Detention Facility.

The men were part of a small group praying and protesting April 14 against tax money used to build nuclear weapons.

Trinity Nuclear Abolitionists members Marcus Patrick Blaise Page, 41, of Albuquerque and Michael Butler, 21, of Gallup were arrested about 9:30 p.m. and charged with criminal trespassing.

They refused to leave DOE property around Los Alamos Fire Department Station 1 and the Los Alamos Research Park on West Jemez Road, according to court documents.

Criminal trespassing carries a $1,000 fine and or up to 364 days in prison. Butler accepted a plea bargain in which he pleaded no contest and will serve 30 days of unsupervised probation. Page declined, choosing to stand trial in Magistrate Court.

On Monday, a Los Alamos jury of six could not come to consensus on the case after some three hours of testimony and four hours of deliberation.

Los Alamos Police Sgt. Jason Wardlow represented the State of New Mexico against Page who acted in his own defense.

Wardlow laid out the case against Page explaining that he entered DOE land without permission of the owner, he knew or should have known permission was not granted and he remained on the property after being asked to leave.

According to court testimony, LANL security officials including Physical Security Division Leader Jack Killeen, offered Page and Butler rides to another location near the ski hill where they would have a view of the laboratory for their prayer vigil.

They also were offered a ride back in the morning. “We very much support the right to demonstrate and protest at the laboratory...however, what we do is detail in a letter what is allowed within the safety and security perimeters of the laboratory,” Killeen said in court.

The letter states that demonstrations and gatherings can take place between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Page and Butler left the area at 6:30 p.m., Page said, but they moved across the street to the fire station.

Battalion Chief Juan Pacheco testified that he asked the men to leave for safety concerns and because people can’t be camping outside the fire station.

Executive Director Kevin Holsapple of the Commerce and Development Corporation testified that he was called out because the men were camping at the Research Park.

He also asked them to leave, stating liability issues and said he brought along some brochures showing the men alternative locations where they would be able to conduct their prayer vigil.

Page testified that he believed the property around the fire station and the research park belonged to Los Alamos County.

Wardlow had Chief Deputy Clerk Sheryl Nichols show a plat map to the jury, which clearly indicated the property was owned by DOE.

Page called several witnesses who spoke primarily against nuclear weapons and Article Six regarding treaties. Floy Barrett of Albuquerque spoke of the horrors of Hiroshima detailing the deaths and disfigurements.

Another witness, Bud Ryan of Cedar Crest, N.M., is president of Trinity Catholic Workers House, of which Page is a member.

“Nuclear weapons are illegal and immoral and any country that uses them is illegal and immoral,” Ryan told the jury. “I’m coming from a Christian basis and as an American and a patriot, our county has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the U.S. is in violation ... just read Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.

Upon hearing of the hung jury Monday evening, Page said, “I feel grateful that it was a good quality jury who took enough interest to deliberate carefully and I thank them for sticking to what they feel is right.”

Page and other members of his group intend to continue their monthly prayer vigils, which he said typically last about an hour.

The state has two years to refile the case against Page, Wardlow said, adding that the decision to do so has yet to be determined.

The last time a Trinity Catholic Workers House member was prosecuted in Los Alamos Magistrate Court was in the mid-1990s when Vince Eirene was convicted of criminal trespassing. He spent six months in jail.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

How could there not be a guilty verdict? What kind of idiots were on that jury? OOPS, I forget. A jury is composed of people too stupid to get out of jury duty.

Anonymous said...

Can't they pray while in jail?

Anonymous said...

I was thinking the same thing 12:15. The protesters trespassed, were asked to leave and they didn't. How can they not be guilty??? Boggles my mind.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that the hung jury says something about the level of support LANL currently has in the community.

qgrrrl said...

How could there not be a guilty verdict? What kind of idiots were on the jury? OOPS, I forgot. This is America. We have a Bill of Rights.

Shouldn't have trespassed. Entitled to their opinions.

Anonymous said...

"I suspect that the hung jury says something about the level of support LANL currently has in the community."

Support (or lack of) for LANL has nothing to do with whether a law was broken, and should not have affected the outcome in any way.

Anonymous said...

"I suspect that the hung jury says something about the level of support LANL currently has in the community."

False, it was most likely a technicality. Although your post says nothing about the current level of community support for LANL it certainly does say something about your current level of intelligence. And you are one of the so called "best and brightest"? Try again.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to see that there are still some free-thinkers. Glad to see the right to protest still survives in America.

Anonymous said...

"Glad to see the right to protest still survives in America."

For the overwhelming majority of protests that have been held in America for the past 50 years, could you tell me what good it's done? How useful has it been? How motivated have the American people been by them?

Or are they nothing more than something for the press to cover on a slow news day, an annoyance by special interests (which is what they really are), a chance to return to the 60's for a brief moment of exhuberance, or performance art that makes them feel...special?

Two idiots think they can strike a significant momentby planting their butt and defying authority. Sure it's their right...but who cares?

Anonymous said...

8/22 10:34 pm: "Glad to see the right to protest still survives in America."

Of course it does. The "right" you are celebrating, however, is to do so while knowingly tresspassing and refusing to leave. That "right" does not exist.

Anonymous said...

"For the overwhelming majority of protests that have been held in America for the past 50 years, could you tell me what good it's done? "

OK, I'll take a stab at it. Gays and blacks and women aren't overtly discriminated against anymore.

Darko said...

Glad to see the wing-nuts are still alive and well (commenting) here!

Two guys with an anti-nuclear-weapons beef hold a peaceful vigil at a "legal" public location on Lab property. They leave LANL property at 6:30 (as policy requires) for what appears to be a nearby public (county) location... the fire station... they are asked to leave there (safety)... they move to the research park (county land)... they are asked to leave there (liability)... they either (finally) refuse or move to undeveloped land nearby believing it to belong to the county... they are arrested for trespassing...

Doesn't sound like dangerous, violent, uncooperative folks who "entered DOE land without permission of the owner, he knew or should have known permission was not granted and he remained on the property after being asked to leave." to me... sounds like a frustrated cop.

Hung jury? DOE (and now Bechtel) have screwed this town... why wouldn't a local jury of peers have some doubt as to whether they were doing anything wrong by holding a peaceful protest and trying to cooperate when asked to "move along", seeking less egregious locations and being asked to "move along" each time.

Would any citizen walking up SR4 past the fire station and research park suddenly be guilty of "entering DOE land w/o permission?" this case would suggest so.

Wingnuts!

Anonymous said...

Maybe it was a hung jury because Los Alamos County residents are used to having unfettered acccess to the Research Park/firestation area. People meet their spouse and kids at Hot Rocks for lunch, for example. Companies lease space in the Research Park and their visitors are allowed in without permission from the Lab.

It seems like the enforcement was extremely selective against the protesters in this case.

Anonymous said...

"Gays and blacks and women aren't overtly discriminated against anymore."

Oh, that's big, that's real big...to you. I'd put that more in the "slight enlightenment of the unconscious" category.

Keep trying.

Anonymous said...

Sorry 7:19, but I did not understand your point at all.

Anonymous said...

8/25 7:08 am: "Maybe it was a hung jury because Los Alamos County residents are used to having unfettered acccess to the Research Park/firestation area."

That's only because we haven't had a SECON 2 or 1 condition (yet).

Anonymous said...

8/25/08 7:08 AM said "People meet their spouse and kids at Hot Rocks for lunch, for example. "

Yes, of course, but they don't camp there overnight. That's what these protestors were attempting to do, so Holsapple's right, they needed to get off the property after hours!

Anonymous said...

What morons.

We just need to have a world wide love in and there wqill be peace on earth.

Yeah, and I'll win the major powerball drawing ( I do not buy tickets either)