No Jail Time for Drone Protestor! Read his statement to the judge here
by Mark Colville, Amistad Catholic Worker
My family and I are back home after some surprising developments at the sentencing hearing in the Syracuse court. I’m writing this by way of update for those who have expressed their care and concern for us but may not have heard the outcome or any of the details. Some links are posted below which provide a good explanation of the action for which I was brought to trial. Most of all, though, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of you who have been walking with us in so many beautiful ways during this time. We could not possibly have felt more loved and supported, so thank you all.
We all were proceeding with the well-founded belief that I was facing a long jail sentence. The judge himself had made it clear before trial that he would sentence me to the maximum, which, based on the fact that I was eventually convicted on five seperate charges, could have resulted in over two years in prison. Recently our friend Maryanne Grady, a grandmother of three, had been sentenced to a year for just one of the charges on which I’d also been convicted, and the court’s pattern of behavior has turned progressively harsh and intimidating in recent months.
That was why we were so joyously befuddled when Judge Jokl handed down a sentence which included neither jail time nor supervised probation. I was given a one-year conditional discharge (the condition being that I mustn’t be arrested again in New York during that time), a $1000 fine, $255 court costs, and a requirement to submit a DNA sample to the local authorities with an additional cost of $50. Some have asked if I plan to pay the fine and court fees. The simple answer to that question is “NO,” but we may consider trying to raise that amount and donate it to humanitarian and peace efforts in Afghanistan. For now, our fine lawyer, Jonathan Wallace, is filing an appeal of the entire case, and we believe he can get us a stay on the collection of the fine pending the outcome of that appeal.
The most important thing to be taken from this experience is the understanding that the drone attacks continue. Children and families in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other nations continue to live with the perpetual trauma of weaponized and surveillance drones hovering over their communities and striking without warning, killing innocents at an alarming rate. We have much work still to do, and the risks we are willing to take for peace must constantly be contextualized by a deepening awareness of the sufferings of our sisters and brothers living and dying on the other end of these homicidal weapons. My family and I will use this unexpected outcome as an opportunity to rejoice, cultivate hope, and reenergize ourselves for the works of mercy, justice and peace.
For the Democracy Now! interview on the morning of the sentencing, see: www.democracynow.org/2014/12/3/ peace_activist_faces_up_to_two
For the press conference at the courthouse before sentencing, and post-sentencing interview: www.youtube.com/ channel/UC-irmY8IAJdDGF8oFTB98nA/feed/
Statement Mark Coville made to Judge Robert Jokl at the sentencing hearing:
Judge Jokl, I am standing here before you tonight because I tried to intervene on behalf of a family in Afghanistan whose members have experienced the unspeakable trauma of witnessing loved ones being blown to pieces, murdered by hellfire missiles fired from remote control aircraft like those flown from the 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Airbase. I stand here, under judgement in this court, because a member of that family, Raz Mohammad, wrote an urgent personal plea to the courts of the United States, to our government and military, to stop these unprovoked attacks on his people, and I made a conscientious decision to carry Mr. Mohammad’s plea to the gates of Hancock. Make no mistake: I am proud of that decision. As a husband and father myself, and as a child of God, I do not hesitate to affirm that the actions for which I stand subject to punishment in this court tonight were responsible, loving and nonviolent. As such, no sentence that you pronounce here can either condemn me or deligitimize what I’ve done, nor will it have any impact on the truth of similar actions undertaken by dozens of others who are still awaiting trial in this court.
The drone base within your jurisdiction is part of a military/intelligence undertaking that is not only founded upon criminality, but is also, by any sober analysis, allowed to operate beyond the reach of law.
Extrajudicial killings, targeted assassinations, acts of state terrorism, the deliberate targeting of civilians- all of these crimes form the essence of the weaponized drone program
that the United States government claims to be legal in its prosecution of the so-called “war on terror.” A newly-published study by Reprieve has documented that for every targeted person killed in a drone strike, twenty eight people of undetermined identity have also been slaughtered. The military admits to employing a mode of operation which they call “double-tapping,” in which a weaponized drone is directed back to strike a target a second time, after first responders have arrived to help the wounded. Yet never has any of this been subject to congressional approval or, more importantly, to the scrutiny of U.S. courts. In this case, you had the opportunity, from where you sit, to change that. You’ve heard the testimony of several trials similar to mine; you know what the reality is. You also heard the desperate plea of Raz Mohammad, which was read in open court during this trial. What you chose was to further legitimize these crimes by ignoring them. The faces of dead children, murdered by our nation’s hand, with impunity, had no place in this court. They were excluded. Objected to. Irrelevant.
Until that changes; until someone sitting in your chair decides to apply the laws that are at your disposal, that are not only applicable, but superceding, this court continues to take an active, crucial role in condemning the innocent to death. In so doing, this court condemns itself.
And I think it’s fitting to let the last words spoken here tonight be those of Raz Mohammad, who sent me this message this afternoon on behalf of his sister, widowed after a drone attack killed her young husband. His words are addressed to you: “My sister says that for the sake of her seven year old son, she doesn’t want to bear any grudges or take revenge against the U.S./NATO forces for the drone attack that killed his father. But she asks that the U.S./NATO forces end their drone attacks in Afghanistan, and that they give an open accounting of deaths caused by drone attacks in this country.”