As some of you may remember, I reported earlier about the group of Burlington-area activists who had held a sit-in/lock down at the offices of weapons contractor General Dynamics and the local State’s Attorney who had vowed to “put and end to civil disobedience in Chittenden County” through prosecuting them to the fullest.  Well a couple of days ago I got an email update which said, in part:

As many of you know, our sentence included “restitution” to General Dynamics for alleged overtime fees for security guards, along with a six month deferred sentence (probation), and 50 hours of community service.  (Two of the activists) refused to pay General Dynamics, and were cited for Violation of Probation.

At their Violation of Probation arraignment, the judge couldn’t find probable cause because of obscure wording in the statute that doesn’t recognize failure to pay restitution as a violation.  Despite this ruling, the judge was furious with the two for not paying and charged them with Criminal Contempt of Court.  Heading into their CoC hearing, which was August 4, the lone two of the original ten who had the time, energy, and willingness to fight on were fully expecting to be convicted to 6 months in jail without a jury trial, as is apparently fairly standard for such situations.  As the two said in the email:

(We) refused to pay because we felt that in doing so, we would be giving in to the very company we originally opposed, and would be violating our values in a fundamental way.  While we accept that our actions are accompanied by serious consequences, and made our decision with this knowledge, we think that the latest developments have shed light on some interesting aspects of the so-called “justice system”.

Now I’ve just received an entirely unexpected follow-up email:

Court went in a fairly surprising direction.  (We) went expecting and prepared to go to jail, and the judge made it known that she was not in favor of “letting us off the hook”.  TJ Donovan, (the same State’s Attorney who previously vowed to do away with civil disobedience in his district), argued in our favor, stating that he didn’t think it would be beneficial to give us a criminal record, and that although he disagreed withour methods, he thought that “sticking to our principles was commendable”.

In the end, the deal that was worked out has the two activists paying double the amount of money originally sought by General Dynamics to a charity that aids the families of armed service personnel, which the judge reluctantly agreed to.  As their email continued:

I feel I must give thanks where they are due, and say that TJ Donovan truly helped us out this time.  Hooray for fewer dollars going to General Dynamics!

Great news for these incredibly brave and principled activists, and good on TJ Donovan for doing the right thing.  Now, if we could just keep any more money from going to the manufacturing of weapons, and if we could just end the wars and the logic which require such weapons to be made….


 

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