By Christopher Overfelt
The trial for four of the five line-crossers from last year’s demonstration at the Honeywell nuclear weapons plant in south KC MO took place on Feb. 18. The four men on trial were Tom Mountenay, Brian Terrell, Louis Rodemann, and Jim Hannah. The fifth line-crosser, Henry Stoever, will be tried separately on Feb. 23.
The four defendants Feb. 18 were voluntarily arrested for trespassing at the National Security Campus, operated by Honeywell for the National Nuclear Security Administration. The Honeywell plant makes or procures 80-85 percent of all the non-nuclear parts needed for America’s nuclear arsenal. The four men were participating in nonviolent, direct action in accordance with their beliefs that nuclear weapons pose a direct threat to the planet and to humanity. As one of the defendants so eloquently stated, “Why are we on trial and not those who make these weapons?”
Around 30 supporters of the defendants joined them in the courtroom in downtown Kansas City. The presiding judge was Ardie A. Bland. After brief testimony from Lt. Michael Clark, the security officer from the Honeywell plant, the defendants stated their pleas of not guilty, and then the sentencing part of the trial began. During this part of the trial, the defendants were allowed 5 minutes each to state their cases to the court.
All of the defendants expressed the deep feeling of a religious duty that compelled them to this action. Brian Terrell, the first testifier, talked about being part of the Catholic Worker movement in his home state of Iowa. He said he had been a part of the Catholic Workers since he was seventeen years old. “I was there practicing my religion,” he said, “and part of my defense is based around the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by Congress in 1993.” He concluded his statement with the idea that the only real enforcement mechanism of foreign policy around the world is us, the people. “People like you and me,” he said. “We had a moral obligation to be at the Honeywell plant that day.”
The second testifier, Tom Mountenay, echoed the sentiment of religious obligation to be at the plant. He referenced Romans 10, which states love does no wrong. “Love is the fulfillment of the law,” he said. “I was taking a step of love towards a future with justice and without war. We can learn together the way towards peace.” He also spoke about his late wife, Lu Mountenay, and the inspiration he draws from her. Lu had herself been arrested at the Honeywell plant in the past, and had in fact been on trial in front of the same judge, Ardie Bland.
The third testifier was Jim Hannah. Jim gave impassioned testimony covering many topics related to nuclear weapons, including their dangers, their illegality, and the immoralities involved in their production. “We must abolish nuclear weapons,” he said, “or they will abolish us.” He also referenced a higher court where we will all be judged. He referred to Deuteronomy 30:19 in his defense. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”
The last testifier was Brother Louis Rodemann, a long-time activist in the Kansas City community. Brother Louis is 82 years old, and as a young man dedicated his life to peace and nonviolence in the Congregation of Christian Brothers. “How are there so many poor among us in a country so rich?” he asked the court. He cited the military budget and the fact that 53 percent of all US discretionary spending goes to war. “We need to wean ourselves from a culture of war to a culture of human need. No more citizens lacking food and healthcare. Our country stands indicted, guilty and immoral. How can I not oppose these weapons?”
Judge Bland, of course, had the final say. He voiced support for the defendants in his sentencing statement. He talked about his own personal hero, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and how non-violent civil disobedience had paved the way for himself to have wider opportunities. “These are the hardest types of cases to judge over,” he said, “because they cover many thoughts and ideas. It is before these cases that I take the time to pray and ask for the right direction.”
The judge mentioned that he agrees with the idea of a court of a higher power. “While in the eyes of the law you are guilty,” he said, “I recognize that there is a higher power compelling you to act. I encourage you to follow that compulsion and continue to fight for what you believe is right.” The judge asked the defendants to pray for him and the rest of the justice system. He handed out a 180-day suspended sentence to defendants, with no jail time to be served. “It has been an honor to have you all in my courtroom,” he said. “I can tell you are the kind of people that actually care about others.”
—Christopher Overfelt (pictured at right) is a leader in the Kansas City chapter of Veterans for Peace and serves on the Board of PeaceWorks Kansas City. © 2022, Christopher Overfelt, Brian Terrell, Jim Hannah, Tom Mountenay, Louis Rodemann, Henry Stoever, Pat Marrin, Jane Stoever, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.