Sister Megan Rice, an 84-year-old Catholic nun, was sentenced to 35 months in prison for the damage she caused after breaking into a US nuclear defense site.
Rice, together with two other protesters, Michael Walli, 64, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 58, cut fences and entered the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, facility, a plant which processes and stores uranium.
The trio were also found guilty of causing more than $1,000 worth of damage to government property.
Walli and Boertje-Obed were sentenced to more than five years in prison. They received these tougher sentences because they had longer criminal histories. The sentencing hearing was held in Knoxville on Tuesday.
Sister Megan told the court before being sentenced:
“Please have no leniency with me.
To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest gift you could give me.”
The nun, who is based in Washington DC, said during the trial that her only regret was waiting so long to take action.
These “peace activists,” are members of a group named “Transform Now Plowshares,” and could have received maximum sentences of up to 20 years in prison following their conviction last May.
The court heard that, after cutting a fence to enter the site, the trio walked around for two hours spray-painting graffiti, stringing out crime-scene tape, and attacking a wall with hammers. In addition, they sprayed the exterior of the complex with baby bottles containing human blood – which was intended as a “symbolic”gesture.
Following the break-in, US lawmakers and the Department of Energy carried out an investigation and discovered “troubling displays of ineptitude” at the facility.
Changes in security procedures were then implemented. Top officials were assigned to other posts, including personnel within the National Nuclear Security Administration itself.
WSI, the company responsible for providing security at the site, was dismissed, and a number of other officers were sacked, demoted or suspended.
The fact that an 84-year-old nun was sentenced to almost three in prison was presumably intended to send a message that would deter others from following in her footsteps.
And, just maybe, her request to die in prison will be granted by a “higher power.”