A federal court judge has ruled that five protesters arrested at Beale Air Force Base last October will not get a jury trial.
Three of the five defendants — Sharon Delgado, Janie Kesselman and Shirley Osgood — are local. The quintet was at the base to protest the U.S. use of drones. Their trial has been set for Aug. 12 in Sacramento.
“We had hoped to make our case before a jury,” Delgado said. “We will not be able to testify before a jury of our peers, some of whom might be sympathetic to our reasons for taking the action we did at Beale.”
Delgado said the defendants weren’t counting on a jury trial but felt it was “worth a try.”
They also had hoped to be able to plead a necessity defense, which is a defense based on taking action to prevent a greater harm.
But Judge Katherine K. Delaney also barred them from claiming that their actions were a benefit to society.
“It doesn’t negate the action that we took,” Delgado said. “In fact, this had already g otten national coverage … Our purpose is to put drones on trial, so people are aware how many civilians are being killed. Just to raise the issue was our purpose. Whatever the risk is, we’ll take the consequences. I feel good that I followed my conscience and stood up and said no.”
On the day of the arrest, about 100 activists from as far away as Fresno, the Bay Area, Sacramento, Chico and other California cities unfurled large banners and carried model drones and large photos of child victims of drone strikes to show the dark side of drone warfare.
Beale has been a target of anti-drone protests for years; it is home to the U2 and the Global Hawk, the unmanned surveillance drone. Peace advocates have urged an immediate ban on the use of all drones for extra-judicial killing; a halt to all drone surveillance in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia; a prohibition on the sale and distribution of drones and drone technology to foreign countries; and an immediate stop to drone warfare.
The five defendants were arraigned in January on misdemeanor charges of unlawfully entering military property. They face as much as six months in prison and a $5,000 fine or five years’ probation.
In court Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Fogg assured Delaney that he will not seek incarceration, supervised release, or special conditions of probation, according to the Sacramento Bee.
He argued that the crime is not serious and thus not legally worthy of a jury trial.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.