Five people arrested for trespassing at Beale Air Force Base last October were sentenced to 10 hours of community service in Sacramento federal court Monday morning.
Nevada City resident Sharon Delgado, Grass Valley resident Shirley Osgood and Janie Kesselman of Camptonville joined David and Jan Harsough of San Francisco in being sentenced at approximately 10 a.m. Monday. The five were arrested Oct. 30, 2012, at Beale for protesting the U.S. drone program, which critics maintain has killed hundreds of innocent bystanders in strikes around the world.
“People are dying. The house is burning, “ Delgado said during the sentencing in Sacramento. “We crossed the line at Beale to try to stop the conflagration and keep it from spreading. We were obeying a higher law.”
The five defendants faced up to six months in federal prison. They said they would not accept probation nor pay any fines imposed by the court.
U.S. District Court Judge Katherine K. Delaney chose to levy neither.
The trial drew regional attention from citizens opposed to the drone program as protestors gathered around the court to show support for the five defendants before each court date, including Monday.
Several people protested a possible U.S. strike on Syria during an informal protest preceding the Monday morning hearing.
Four others were arrested at the same demonstration, but charges were never filed.
A second trial relating to a similar protest April 30 is scheduled for later this year and involves five other people.
Beale Air Force Base is home to “accomplice” drones that fly reconnaissance for other lethal drones.
The United States military’s drone program has come under increasing scrutiny over the past year.
More on drones
Locally, some citizens are pushing for an ordinance that regulates the commercial and public use of unmanned aircraft within Nevada County’s borders.
Grass Valley attorney Lorraine Reich recently submitted a proposed ordinance to the county that would ban drones within county limits.
“The problem is that the technology has far surpassed what that law was designed for,” Reich said. “The law has not kept up.”
The submission prompted Nevada County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green to file a request in Nevada County Superior Court to delay the ordinance process until it can be determined whether the county has the proper authority to enact and enforce such a ban.
The county argues that it has no authority to regulate airspace — a regulatory power that rests with the federal government, according to the county’s perspective as argued in court documents.
Reich said the Federal Aviation Administration grants some authority to local airports to regulate the use of the lowest altitudes of airspace — the airspace where such local drones fly.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4239.