Beale 5 Statements: Janie

Sharon, Janie, and Cres from the National Lawyers Guild

Sharon, Janie, and Cres from the National Lawyers Guild

For the next few days I’m going to post the statements that my co-defendants gave in court before we were sentenced.  I am grateful to have shared this experience with them.  For details about the trial of the Beale 5, the first trial of anti-drone activists in California, and about the harm caused by drone warfare, see my past blogs about drones.  Here is my good friend Janie’s statement:

Jane Kesselman’s Statement at Sentencing in Federal Court

I was too preoccupied with a death in the family to be able to organize my thoughts to be read in absentia at our trial last month, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak today.

Although I was found guilty, I don’t believe I have done anything wrong by my action.  Indeed, I believe that NOT acting to bring attention to the immoral and illegal use of drone warfare would’ve been a far worse offense.

As I understand it, in a so-called “signature strike” the military targets a supposed enemy based on profiling a particular set of movements and activities that are deemed likely to be that of a “terrorist.”  This profile is tracked using surveillance drones such as the ones at Beale AFB.  Drone strikes are then ordered for those who match the profile.  Using this protocol, many innocent people are killed by US drones, in countries with whom we aren’t even at war!

With every drone strike, with every death of an innocent child or adult, our country generates more and more hatred, exponentially boosting the number of terrorists driven to act against us.  This is such a sad and dangerous strategy!

Imagine if we used just a fraction of the money spent on drone strikes to help repair the educational, health, and economic infrastructure of the countries whose populations we’ve been terrorizing…  I believe that by acting as a humane rather than a disciplinary force in the world, the US could replace fear and hatred by our so-called enemies with respect and even gratitude.

Judge Delaney:  I am thankful to be here today with my co-defendant comrades to speak from my heart and conscience against the grievous offenses of the US military.  I am ready to be sentenced for my own offense: my civil disobedience.  If you deem it necessary, I will go to prison, but I hope you will afford me the opportunity to do community service in lieu of any fines, probation, or prison time.  Thank you for hearing me.

Jane Kesselman

Beale Anti-Drone Protestors Sentenced to Community Service

Beale Anti-Drone Protestors

Beale Anti-Drone Protestors:  Sharon Delgado, Jane Kesselman, Jan and David Hartsough, Shirley Osgood

My four friends and I were sentenced today to ten hours each of community service by the judge who convicted us last month of trespassing onto Beale Air Force Base during an anti-drone protest.   Judge Carolyn K. Delaney in U.S. District Court in Sacramento acknowledged that we were motivated by conscience and by “deeply held ethical and religious beliefs.”  We were delighted with the light sentence, which sets a precedent for other protesters.  The judge could have imposed up to six months in jail, a $5,000 fine, and/or five years probation.

Shirley Osgood, Janie Kesselman, David and Jan Hartsough and I had engaged in civil disobedience by crossing a line onto Beale Air Force Base last October during a demonstration against the U.S. drone warfare program.  Global Hawk surveillance drones, based at Beale, assist in finding targets for weaponized drones.  Here is the statement I made in court today:

Sharon Delgado’s Statement at Sentencing

Judge, although you did not allow us to use the necessity defense or to appeal to international law or to use expert witnesses, the facts are still there.  My faith compelled me to act, and I’m willing to accept the consequences.

We stepped onto Beale property because of conscience.  US drones are killing people, including children.  US drones are creating enemies who will want to take revenge.  US drones are not making us more secure, but less secure.   By acting outside of international law we are making the world a more dangerous place.

The classic metaphor when talking about the necessity defense is the image of a house on fire.  There’s a house on fire, with a child crying from the window and a No Trespassing sign on the door.  What is the right thing to do in such a situation?  Can a person ignore the sign and enter the house in order to save the child?   That’s what we’re talking about here.

In 2011, Brian Terrell was arrested with 14 others for protesting drones at Creech Air Force Base. At their trial, Brian said, “The house is on fire.  And we fourteen are ones who have seen the smoke from the fire and heard the cries of the children.  We cannot be deterred by a No Trespassing sign from going to the burning children.”

People are dying.  The house is burning.  We crossed the line at Beale to try to stop the conflagration and keep it from spreading. We were obeying a higher law.

Judge, I am non-repentant.  I do not regret standing in front of the gate at Beale and holding our sign.  I think our action was a success.  More people are talking about the drone program than they were before this action.  I would do it again.  In fact, I encourage others to take action, including nonviolent direct action, to interfere with the U.S. drone program and to stop the most recent rush to war.

I will not pay a fine,  but I will gladly go to jail or accept community service.  My faith compelled me to act, and I’m willing to accept the consequences.

Previous blogs that give an in-depth account of this case can and of the harm caused by drone warfare can be found at Sharon Delgado’s blog.  The statements of the other defendants will be posted there over the next few days.    

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Guilty Verdict No Surprise in Beale Anti-Drone Case

Defendants Jan and David Hartsough, Shirley Osgood, and Sharon Delgado with Cindy Sheehan before trial.

Defendants Jan and David Hartsough, Shirley Osgood, and Sharon Delgado with Cindy Sheehan before trial.  Defendant Janie Kesselman is not pictured.

It was no surprise that at our trial on August 12 my fellow defendants and I were found guilty of trespassing onto federal property at Beale.  The judge had ruled against our request for a jury trial, and against both the necessity defense and consideration of the Nuremberg Principles during the trial.  In the necessity defense, our lawyers would have argued that we stood our ground at Beale with our “Stop Drone Attacks” banner in an attempt to prevent a greater harm, namely drone attacks.  In appealing to Nuremberg Principles, they would have based their argument on the Nuremberg Code, enacted after World War II to try Nazi war criminals.  Principle VII states “Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity…is a crime under international law.”

Still, our pro bono lawyers made a valiant effort to have us acquitted, based on confusion about the property line.  They argued 1) that the boundary for demonstrators has shifted over a period of several months; 2)  that the “white line” we crossed was arbitrary, not an actual base boundary; 3) that we had not been warned before crossing it; 4) that many other people had also been standing on base property, and that some of them had crossed the white line without being “detained” (evidently we were not arrested, but detained);  5) that the “keep out” sign was posted at the gate to the base, which was behind us, the gate was closed, and we didn’t try to go past the warning sign or the gate.  The lawyers made the point that all these conditions together could set a dangerous precedent, allowing military installations to create arbitrary boundaries of exclusion outside of actual base boundaries.

All of these points were true.  As tedious as these arguments were and as strange as it was to hear testimony from a Beale employee and the Air Force Sergeant about property lines, halfway through the morning I started thinking that the judge might find us “not guilty.”  By then I was confused myself about the point of the white line, since it was not the actual Beale Air Force Base property line.

Of course, all this was ultimately beside the point, since the purpose of our actions was to highlight the harm caused by drones.  Any publicity that this trial receives should highlight the victims of US drone attacks and awaken people to the possibility of taking action for peace.

The afternoon testimony was much more interesting and inspiring.   Although the judge did not allow our lawyers to use the necessity defense or appeal to the Nuremberg Principles, we were able to bring up these points as we testified about our motivation on the day we crossed the line at Beale.  We each took the stand and told our story, including why we felt it necessary to take action to prevent harm (deaths of children and other civilians, harm to communities, spiritual teachings related to peace, danger of a drone arms race, etc.) and how we took action in order to avoid complicity with our government’s illegal and immoral drone wars.

The judge was patient and respectful, but since she had not ruled in our favor on any point, we were not surprised when she declared us “guilty.”  We return to court for sentencing on September 9.  How do I feel?  Calm, strong, and supported.  Ready for whatever comes.  Ready to experience the consequences of a very successful and highly publicized nonviolent direct action.  Not projecting into the future.  I’ve learned to practice the presence of God in the moment, trusting that the Spirit will be with me wherever I may be.

Our case may be the first anti-drone trial in California (so far as we know), but others have taken place around the country.  Meanwhile, five more people have been detained at Beale for crossing onto Base property to protest drones.  They will have several court appearances in September and October, before their trial on October 28.  I hope that they feel as supported as I and my fellow defendants feel.

I feel supported by our pro-bono lawyers, by a friend who is helping coordinate our defense, by peoples’ prayers, by friends and friends of friends, by networks of people I am connected with and their networks, spreading out to complete strangers who hear about this trial and are heartened by public actions for peace (as I know from my own experience).  I feel supported by and in solidarity with all who yearn for peace, justice, and the healing of creation.

See the Sacramento Bee article here.

Beale 5 Guilty as Charged

more pics


Today’s bench trial took the whole day.  The rally outside was inspiring and the courtroom was full of supporters.  We had a great team of pro-bono lawyers and interns who worked hard to try to bring in a “not-guilty” verdict, while also giving each of us the opportunity to testify about our motivations for our nonviolent direct action at Beale.

I’ll be writing more about the trial after I’ve had time to process this experience, but for now I’m going to go out and watch the meteor showers.  Our sentencing will take place on September 9th.  I’m feeling calm and positive.  Thank you for your prayers.

Below is today’s press release, from Cres Velluchi of the National Lawyers Guild, who has helped us so much.  Thank you, Cres!

BREAKING: Judge ignores testimony, Nuremberg Principles – Finds Beale 5 Guilty.
Monday, August 12, 2013

5 Anti-Drone Protesters Found Guilty of Trespassing
Monday; Federal Judge Won’t Allow ‘Nuremberg
Principles’ Defense Regarding Civilian Casualties

SACRAMENTO – Five peace advocates protesting against the Obama Administration’s use of killer drones and killings of innocent civilians, including children, around the world were found guilty late Monday in U.S. District Court here of trespassing.

The so-called “Beale 5” were arrested Oct. 30, 2012 at the main gate to Beale AFB, where the Global Hawk drone is based. It flies surveillance for lethal predator drones.

The guilty verdict – handed down by federal judge Carolyn K. Delaney late Monday – means a possible fine and/or up to six months in federal prison. Sentencing is set for Sept. 9.

All the defendants have said they will not pay a fine or accept probation.

The court refused to allow the defense of necessity or the Nuremberg defense, which provides that a citizen is complicit in the killing of civilians – as in the drone strikes – if they do not protest or try to stop that killing by their government.

Cindy Sheehan and about 50 peace advocates from Northern California attended the trial.

The defendants were represented by volunteer lawyers coordinated by the National Lawyers Guild of Sacramento, which said the government also denied defendants a jury trial, even though they could be sentenced to six months in prison.

Those found guilty were Janie Kesselman, Camptonville; Sharon Delgado, Nevada City; Shirley Osgood, Grass Valley; and David and Jan Hartsough, both of San Francisco.

A second anti-drone trial is scheduled later this year for another group of five people arrested at Beale AFB this past April 30.

My Statement Before Trial

outside courthouse

Thank you all for being here today to back us up as we go to trial for taking a stand for peace.  We come here from different places.  We have different motivations for being here, different philosophies, different spiritual traditions, but we are united in a common purpose:  to show our government and to show the public that there is strong opposition to U.S. drone warfare.

The government accuses us of breaking a civil law by trespassing onto Beale Air Force Base during an anti-drone protest last October.  I see it differently.  I crossed the line onto federal property to challenge my government’s illegal actions.  I was following a higher Law, the Law of Love.

I am a Christian and an ordained minister, a follower of the Prince of Peace.  In the United Methodist Church, at baptism we promise “to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they may present themselves.”  When I crossed the line onto Beale, I was being faithful to my baptismal vows by resisting the evil, injustice, and oppression of U.S. drone warfare.

Jesus said, “Love your neighbors as yourself.”  U.S. drone strikes have killed thousands of people, many of them civilians, including children, and have injured thousands more.  These people are our neighbors.  They are being killed without trial, judge, or jury, outside of international law.

Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Friends who have travelled to rural Pakistan tell about terrorized communities where U.S. drones hover overhead, where people are afraid to gather even for weddings and funerals, where terrified children are kept home from school.  US drones sometimes kill rescue workers by bombing the same target twice, making it difficult for would-be Good Samaritans to rescue victims or alleviate their suffering.

U.S. drones create more terrorists than they kill.  Violence begets violence.  Over seventy-five countries now have drones.  If the United States acts with impunity, other countries will follow our example.  What we do to others, they may in the future do to us, or to our children’s children.

I plead not guilty because I acted out of necessity, to prevent a greater harm.  I charge the U.S. government with violating international law by using drones to kill people in sovereign countries, even countries where we are not at war.  My actions at Beale were in response to these grave harms. Those of us who are U.S. citizens are complicit in our government’s actions.  The U.S. is waging drone warfare with our tax dollars and in our name.  I refuse to go along with the remote-control killing of people half a world away.  Inaction is complicity.  Silence is consent.

I crossed the line at Beale as an act of conscience and of trust in the power of Love to bring about both personal and social transformation.   I’m hopeful that our small efforts here today will be part of a great turning away from the evils of drone warfare and toward policies based on diplomacy, humanitarian concern, peace-building, and respect for international law.  May Peace and Love prevail.

For a sense of the spirit of last October’s action, watch this video from the military’s own website:  Protestors Blockade Beale AFB.