Prosecution rests on first day of Y-12 trespassing trial

Prosecution rests on first day of Y-12 trespassing trial

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Clockwise from top left: Michael Walli, Greg Boertje-Obed and Sister Megan Rice. Clockwise from top left: Michael Walli, Greg Boertje-Obed and Sister Megan Rice.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday, the government rested its case in the federal trial against three people admitting to trespassing and vandalism at the Y-12 National Security Complex. 

The trial got underway Tuesday morning with opening statements from attorneys.

Michael Walli, Sister Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed are members of Transform Now Plowshares and are on trial for trespassing on Y-12 property last summer.

The three defendants have freely and repeatedly admitted breaking into the government installation in Oak Ridge in the pre-dawn hours of July 28 and ultimately penetrating the high-security core known as the Protected Area.

The government plans to try the defendants on two felony counts. One is willingly destroying government property under what's known as the sabotage act.

The other remaining charge against the three is a felony count for "depredation against property of the United States" with damages exceeding $1,000.

If convicted on both counts, the three face up to 30 years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Kirby began by describing the crime and what happened the night of the incident.
The first witness to take the stand was Steven Erhart, a witness for the prosecution who works as a manager for the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) production office.

Erhart spoke about Y-12's role and security operations at the complex. He says nuclear operations were haulted for 15 days following the July intrusion to provide more training for all employees, especially security workers.

He also said a convoy of specially secured trucks carrying nuclear weapons parts or materials was due to arrive at Y-12 and had to be put on hold.

Erhart talked about the specific area where the trespassers were discovered and showed a map of the entire reservation and noted the most restricted areas.

He said the guards on site have authorization to provide lethal force and said that he believes that Y-12 is a very secure facility.

Prosecutors showed jurors nine minutes of surveillance video from the day of the incident. In it, you could see Walli, Rice and Boertje-Obed entering the complex, spraypaint a building and eventually get confronted by security.

Prosecutors then called Sgt. Chad Riggs with the Y-12 security force at the time of the incident. At the time, Riggs had been working at Y-12 for eight years.

Riggs said on the stand that he didn't think Officer Kirk Garland, the first on the scene, handled the situation properly. Riggs claimed that Garland was more relaxed than he should have been.

Garland also took stand and gave a description of what happened when he first confronted the protestors. 

Garland told jurors he saw the protesters and asked them to make a physical statement.

He testified that he listened to them, never drew his weapon and called for backup after four minutes. Riggs responded.

Garland said he identified the trespassers as peace protesters and didn't see a need to draw his gun, saying he had dealt with those kinds of protests before during his nearly 30-year long police career.

Garland was terminated on August 10, 2012, shortly after the intrusion.

In the surveillance video, one of the protesters lit a candle on the surveillance video.

Riggs came in and told the three to get on the ground, where they were handcuffed. They remained in cuffs for several hours.

Rodney Johnson, Deputy General Manager of Security at Y-12 testified on the expenses associated with fixing the northeast side of the Highly Enriched Urnanium Materials Facility.

Jurors were presented evidence, which included receipts of the paint, supplies and labor costs associated with the fix.

According to the receipts, the facility spent $8,531.67 on the repair.

Johnson said the work took 10 hours on a Saturday afternoon shortly after the intrustion occured.

Special Agent Ryan Baker of the Department of Energy's Office of Inspector General was also called as a government witness.

Defense Attorney Francis Lloyd, who represents Sister Megan Rice, talked about how his client and the group went about their task of going through the fences, hanging banners, and putting blood on the wall. 

Lloyd also said his client offered bread to the guards.

He said the trio drew up a manifesto beforehand and were surprised that they got as far as they did. 

He also spoke about the background of Megan Rice.

Rice also took the stand later in the day to answer questions from Lloyd. She was the only protestor to take the stand Tuesday.

Rice is expected to testify again on Wednesday to prosecutors.

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