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Home News Press Releases Thirty-one Nonviolent Activists Sentenced to Prison in Columbus, Georgia
Thirty-one Nonviolent Activists Sentenced to Prison in Columbus, Georgia PDF Print E-mail
Columbus, GA ? This week a federal judge in Columbus, Georgia sentenced 31 human rights activists to prison. Two of these individuals are over 80 years old; one is 19. The sentences come less than a week after a military jury in Colorado decided not to jail an Army interrogator even though they found him guilty of negligent homicide in the torture and killing of an Iraqi detainee. The 32 defendants were charged with trespass after peacefully walking onto the Fort Benning military base in protest of a controversial Army training school located there, and each person faced a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Those arrested were among 19,000 who gathered in November outside the gates of Fort Benning to demand a dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy and the closure of the U.S. Army?s School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC). The demonstration was the 16th annual one organized by School of the Americas Watch, a faith- and conscience-based organization working to close the school.

?For eight years, I have been studying this issue and listening to the stories of those most affected by the School of the Americas,? said Delmar Schwaller, an 81-year-old World War II veteran and active community volunteer sentenced to two months in prison. ?My prison sentence doesn?t change my feelings about my action. I know this was the right thing to do.?

The SOA/ WHINSEC made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Despite this admission and hundreds of documented human rights abuses connected to soldiers trained at the school, no independent investigation into the facility has ever taken place. New research confirms that the school continues to support known human rights abusers. Despite having been investigated by the United Nations for ordering the shooting of 16 indigenous peasants in El Salvador, Col. Francisco del Cid Diaz returned to SOA/ WHINSEC in 2003.

Judge Faircloth is known for handing down stiff sentences to opponents of the SOA/ WHINSEC. Since protests against the SOA/ WHINSEC began more than a decade ago, 183 people have served a total of over 81 years in prison for engaging in nonviolent resistance in a broad-based campaign to close the school.

The movement to close the SOA/ WHINSEC continues to grow. In 2005, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduced HR 1217, a bill to suspend operations at WHINSEC and to investigate the development and use of the ?torture manuals.? The bill currently has 123 bipartisan co-sponsors.

?People speaking out for justice and accountability will most likely be sent to prison this week,? said FR. ROY BOURGEOIS, founder of SOA Watch, ?while the SOA and its graduates continue to operate outside a system of real accountability.?

* * * Interviews Available * * *


Setenced to one month in prison:
Anika Cunningham, 26, Bowling Green, Ohio (and $500 fine)

Sentenced to two months in prison:
Joanne Cowan, 56, Boulder, Colorado
Sam Foster, 70, Minneapolis, Minnesota ($500 fine)
Michael Gayman, 26, Davenport, Iowa ($500 fine)
Rita Hohenshell, 81, Des Moines, Iowa
Dorothy Parker, 76, Chico, California
Judith Ruland, 47, Springfield, Massachusetts ($500 fine)
Delmar Schwaller, 81, Appleton, Wisconsin

Sentenced to three months in prison:
Buddy Bell, 23, Chicago, Illinois ($500 fine)
Fred Brancel, 79, Madison, Wisconsin ($500 fine)
Robert Call, 72, Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey
Stephen Clemens, 55,Minneapolis, Minnesota ($500 fine)
Scott Dempsky, 30, Denmark, Wisconsin ($500 fine)
Joe DeRaymond, 55, Freemansburg, Pennsylvania ($500 fine)
Sarah Harper, 36, Emeryville, California ($500 fine)
Robin Lloyd, 67, Burlington, Vermont ($500 fine)
Linda Mashburn, 63, Brevard, North Carolina ($500 fine)
Gail Phares, 66, Raleigh, North Carolina (no fine)
Donte Smith, 19, Washington, DC ($500 fine)
Cheryl Sommers, 68, Berkeley, California ($500 fine)
David Sylvester, 54, Oakland, California ($500 fine)
Frank Woolever, 72, Syracuse, New York

Sentenced to 162 days in prison:
Fr. Louis Vitale, 73, San Francisco, California (*Fr. Louis is already serving his sentence, click here for his prison address)

Sentenced to six months in prison:
Ken Crowley, Washington, DC ($1,000 fine)
Jane Hosking, 37, Luck, Wisconsin ($1,000 fine)
John LaForge, 41, Luck, Wisconsin ($1,000 fine)
Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch, 69, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Edward "Naed" Smith, 38, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Fr. Jerome Zawada, 68,Cedar Lake, Indiana

Sentenced to 12 months probation:
Jamie Walters, 41, Columbia, Missouri ($1,000 fine)

Sentenced to time served (after 72 days in county jail):
Priscilla Treska, 66, Cleveland, Ohio

Convicted last week, awaiting sentencing:
Charles Carney, 47, Kansas City, Kansas

Convicted in November at arraignment, currently serving sentences:
Christine Gaunt, Grinnell, Iowa, six months
Don Nelson, Summertown, Tennessee, 90 days
Click here for prison addresses.


Jonathan Robert, Georgia
Liam O?Rielly, 22, Portland, Maine

Thursday, February 1 Update:

Liam O?Rielly pled guilty to destruction of government property and was sentenced to 90 days in prison and a $250 fine. He will self-report to prison.

Jonathon Robert also pled guilty to destruction of government property. He awaits sentencing and remains in custody pending resolution of other outstanding charges.

Charles Carney still awaits sentencing.

Thursday, February 8 Update:

Charles Carney received word from the US Probation office in Columbus that they had received the judgment order from Judge Faircloth which provides a sentence of 12 months probation and a $500 fine.

Click here to read more about these defendants.

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