Arrests and Trials for the SOA 14 Print
On Monday, January 24 fourteen people ? including two high school students ? began trials in which they faced up to six months in federal prison for their acts of nonviolent civil disobedience calling for closure of the US Army?s School of the Americas (SOA). The fourteen were among more than 16,000 who gathered on November 20-21, 2004 to call for the closure of the SOA/ WHINSEC.

Fifteen people crossed onto Fort Benning on Sunday, November 21 and were arrested in acts of civil disobedience, many negotiating a 10-foot-high barbed-wire fence to enter the base. They took this action despite knowing they likely faced three to six months in federal prison.

The "SOA 14" began trial at 9 a.m. on Monday, January 24 in Columbus, Georgia before Judge G. Mallon Faircloth. Judge Faircloth is known for handing down stiff sentences to opponents of the SOA/ WHINSEC, often imposing the maximum of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine. Since protests against the SOA/ WHINSEC began more than a decade ago, more than 170 people have served a total of over 75 years in prison for engaging in nonviolent resistance in a broad-based campaign to close the school.
(Above: Dan Schwankl, 31, scales one of two 10-foot-high fences erected by the US Army to keep demonstrators out of Ft Benning, home of the notorious SOA/ WHINSEC. Photo by Linda Panetta,

Wednesday, January 26 Trial Recap: The remaining two defendants, Brian DeRouen and Aaron Shuman, were both sentenced to four months in federal prison and $500 fines. Court adjourned and defendants and supporters held a closing circle in front of the courthouse.

Tuesday, January 25 Trial Recap: Court commenced at 9 am, continuing with the trial of Alice Gerard. Supporters packed the tiny courtroom.

By 12:30, we had an update. Alice Gerard was found guilty, sentenced to six months in prison and given a $500 fine. Sr. Lil Mattingly was also found guilty, and Judge Faircloth sentenced her to six months in prison. The two minors were given deferred sentences, during which time they must meet a community service requirement. As long as the defendants meet the courts requirements, the charges will be dropped in six months. Nashua Chantal was sentenced to serve 90 days in federal prison.

Later that afternoon, Ron Durham was sentenced to 90 days in prison and given a $500 fine. Brian DeRouen's trial finished and he was found guilty, but he was not sentenced before court adjourned.

Monday, January 24 Trial Recap: Defendants and supporters gathered early in the morning for the start of the trials of the SOA 14 in Columbus, Georgia. After a solemn march to the federal courthouse (see photo above) and a press conference on its steps, the first group of defendants began trial in the court of Magistrate Judge G. Mallon Faircloth.

By lunchtime, we had reports of the first cases. Mike Ring, (65, Wall, NJ), pled guilty and received a sentence of one year probation and $1,000 fine. Meagan Doty (22, Ohio), Elizabeth Nadeau (27, Minneapolis, MN), Dan Schwankl (31, Siler City, NC), Liz Deligio (28, Chicago, IL), and Tom MacLean (79, Greenfield, MA) pled not guilty, stipulated to the facts of the case, and were convicted. Meagan, Elizabeth, Liz and Dan were sentenced to 90 days in federal prison and $500 fines, and Tom was sentenced to 90 days in a federal medical prison with no fine.

Alice Gerard's trial began after lunch and continued until court adjourned for the day at 5:30 pm. Defendants and supporters held a closing circle in front of the courthouse and then headed back to the hospitality apartment for a shared dinner.