The four longtime peace witnesses on whom we first reported in December after they were found guilty of trespassing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California have been fined for their action, but did not receive jail sentences from a U.S. District Court magistrate.
After hearing statements from defense attorney Kate Chatfield, the military judge advocate general and the defendants, Magistrate Rita Coyne Federman said March 12 that the charges did not warrant jail time. Instead, she issued the fines and assigned court costs, which all four pledged not to pay.
Jesuit Father Steve Kelly and Jeff Dietrick of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker were fined $1,000. Franciscan Father Louis Vitale was fined $500. Dennis Apel of the Guadalupe Catholic Worker in Guadalupe, Calif., was fined $2,500. All were part of an Armed Forces Day vigil May 19, 2007 at the base.
It was Apel who first began to talk with base soldiers keeping an eye on the vigilers about their role in carrying out military orders that led to the deaths of innocent civilians, especially in Iraq. When he refused to step back across a line the base had designated as off limits to nonmilitary personnel, he was joined by the others in support. All four were arrested, leading to their Dec. 4 trial in which Federman determined they were guilty.
Apel’s statement to the court prior to sentencing can be read here.