Convicted nun wants out: 83-year-old nun faces 20-30 years in prison

A nun, convicted of national security crimes after engaging in civil disobedience, has asked to be released from jail pending sentencing.

J. Miles Cary / Knoxville News Sentinel / AP
Anti-nuclear weapons activists, from left, Michael Walli, 64, Sister Megan Rice, 83, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 56, arrive for their trial in Knoxville, Tenn., May 6. All three were convicted yesterday of interfering with national security when they broke into a nuclear weapons facility in Tennessee and defaced a uranium processing plant.

An elderly nun and two other nuclear protesters asked Thursday to be released from jail as they await sentencing. The nun and others were convicted for breaking into and defacing the primary U.S. storehouse for weapons-grade uranium.

A judge could rule on that next week, but the three will have to stay in jail at least until then.

Sister Megan Rice, 83, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed were convicted Wednesday of interfering with national security and damaging federal property during last year's incursion of the the Y-12 National Security Complex. They cut through security fences, hung banners, strung crime-scene tape and hammered off a small chunk of the fortress-like Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility inside the most secure part of the complex.

The complex has had a hand in making, maintaining or dismantling parts of every nuclear weapon in the country's arsenal.

The break-in caused a temporary shutdown at the facility and a change in security contractors. But jurors weren't swayed by the defense argument that the protesters actually aided national security by exposing flaws at the facility.

The trio appeared in court Thursday in handcuffs and leg irons seeking their release until their Sept. 23 sentencing.

Prosecutor Jeff Theodore said the government opposes the trio's release, noting that they testified during trial that they felt no remorse for their actions.

Defense attorney Bill Quigley argued that the defendants had refrained from any more incursions between when they were arrested in July and went to trial this week.

"The give their word not to engage in that kind of activity pending sentencing," he said.

The three could get up to 20 years on the national security count, which they have asked Thapar to throw out on grounds of insufficient evidence.

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