By Jane Stoever
Jordan Schiele walked out of the Kansas City, Mo., Municipal Court on July 26 free from the probation he’d been under since November 2019. He’d crossed the property line at KC’s Nuclear Security Campus, where parts for nuclear weapons are made, on Memorial Day, May 27, 2019. Since then, he had 10 -11 conversations with Judge Martina Peterson or a probation officer, and he refused to fulfill the sentence of 10 community service hours. On July 26, the judge finally saw her way clear to release him.
“My refusal to do community service is not because I feel I’m above the law,” Schiele told Peterson July 26. He said his stance was “not out of disrespect for you or any kind of special privilege. But I’m pressing the point of the evil of nuclear weapon production.”
In March 2021, Peterson had told Schiele he faced up to 6 months in jail if he did not comply with the community service. On July 26, however, Probation Manager Tierney Clement encouraged Peterson to discharge Schiele from the sentence, saying he had written statements about articles on resistance that Peterson gave him to read and that he’d reported to probation.
Peterson allowed Henry Stoever to speak on behalf of Schiele as a “character witness,” not a lawyer—Stoever, now with inactive status in the Missouri bar, was Schiele’s lawyer in 2019. Stoever said Schiele did the line-crossing and was avoiding fulfilling his sentence “out of conscience, overwhelmed by the justice issue—the nuclear weapons continue to be made. The staff at the weapons plant has expanded from 2,500 to about 5,000, and they are looking to expand. The plant has an annual budget of over $1.2 billion. This affects his conscience.”
Schiele and about 25 supporters prayed together before the hearing. Stoever told the judge, “Our prayer service this morning was a form of community service in itself,” praying for all persons in authority to use funds now spent on nuclear weapons to instead feed people, shelter people, meet the needs of the underserved. Schiele knows these needs: he and his wife, Jessie, in 2012 established Jerusalem Farm, a Christian intentional community offering assistance in a low-income KC neighborhood, and they continue there.
Peterson acknowledged, “I recognize there is a social cause he’s concerned about. It is encouraged for people to get out their ideas. But there is a difference between people trespassing and protesting.” Peterson listed reasons Schiele must do the community service. She could not treat him differently from other trespassers. It would “send a wrong message to the community” if he avoids his sentence. It would “send a message to your children that you don’t have to take the consequences” of an action. Furthermore, the other November defendants had done their community service. Peterson added, “I know you do give back to the community.”
Then Peterson said, “I don’t have a bed to waste on you” in jail; also, “I’ve gotten about 10 hours out of you” through Schiele’s writings about articles on resistance that Peterson had him review and through his meetings with probation and the judge. She concluded, “I’m going to discharge you at this time.”
In the prayer circle outside after the hearing, one supporter told Schiele, “You won!” Schiele replied, “I don’t want to look on this as a victory,” given the nation’s ongoing commitment to nuclear weapons. He added that he was grateful for the judge’s kindness to people.
—Jane Stoever is a PeaceWorks-KC member.