Sister Megan Rice, an 84-year-old nun, was sentenced to 35 months in prison for her role in a protest at a Tennessee nuclear facility.
Rice was found guilty in May, along with fellow anti-nuclear activists Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, of destroying U.S. government property and causing more than $1,000 in damage to federal property. In the early morning of July 28, 2012, the three activists cut through a chain link fence at the perimeter of the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
While at the nuclear facility, touted as one of the nation’s most secure and tightly monitored, Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli cut through three more chain-link fences to reach a nuclear weapons storage bunker, on which they hung banners and painted messages.
After nearly three hours, facility security arrested the protesters. At the time, the three were singing.
Prosecutors had been pursuing charges that would have carried prison terms of up to 30 years for Rice and her fellow defendants. Boertje-Obed and Walli both received sentences of 62 months in prison. All three will serve concurrent sentences and will be credited for the nine months they have spent awaiting sentencing.
The break-in, and the embarrassment that ensued, led the government to renew scrutiny on its security measures at nuclear weapons sites. Congress held a series of hearings and issued recommendations to regulatory agencies. At the trial, Rice testified that she had not expected to be able to make it so far into the secure facility. “That stunned me,” she said.
The three activists are members of Transform Now Plowshares, an anti-nuclear group comprised of people of faith.
Rice said in her closing statement that she did not fear jail time. “Please have no leniency with me,” Sister Rice told the judge in her closing statement. “To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest gift you could give me,” she said, according to a report by the Christian Science Monitor.