“We are addicted to war and, with nuclear weapons, we are on the verge of omnicide. It is necessary to do an intervention. Our tool is the courage of nonviolence.” Henry Stoever, in his trial brief  

By Mary Hladky

Henry Stoever was arrested with four other line-crossers at last year’s Memorial Day demonstration at the Honeywell nuclear weapon parts plant in Kansas City, Mo. At the initial arraignment, the prosecutor insisted that Henry’s case be separated from the other four defendants, as he was a retired lawyer. Henry was tried on Feb. 23, and the other four on Feb. 18.

About 20 supporters met in the lobby of Municipal Courthouse Feb. 23 right before the trial. Henry told the gathering that in the spring of 2021, he felt called by faith to do more about the threat of nuclear weapons. So, for the fourth time, he crossed the property line at the National Security Campus, the nuclear weapons plant. After Henry’s spring announcement, he was joined by four others, Jim Hannah, Tom Mountenay, Brother Louis Rodemann and Brian Terrell. On Feb. 23, Henry thanked the group for coming out on a very cold day to show solidarity with his conviction “to do the right thing” no matter the cost. Henry said we are on a beautiful journey together to build a better world for all people.

Fist bump among friends before trial, from left: Henry Stoever, Daniel Karam, and Ron Faust.

Henry’s comments were followed by the song “Be Not Afraid,” led by Ann Suellentrop, and by Ron Faust’s reading of his poem https://peaceworkskc.org/nuclear-weapons/different-vibes  “Different Vibes,” supporting Henry and all who demand nuclear disarmament.

Judge Katherine Emke presided over the trial, and Jesse Sendejas was the prosecutor. It was announced at the beginning of the trial that the City had amended the language of the charge, replacing the National Nuclear Security Administration with the Department of Energy. It was stated that CounterPoint Zimmer owns the property and leases it to the Department of Energy, which has awarded Honeywell the contract to manage the facility.

Henry gave his testimony and went through questioning. Then he asked that he be found not guilty.

Henry requested that his 36-page Legal Brief https://peaceworkskc.org/nuclear-weapons/trial-brief-of-henry-stoever-concerning-civil-resistance-to-nuclear-weapons be submitted into the record, detailing his rights and defenses under the US Constitution, First Amendment, and the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. The prosecutor objected to the brief being part of the case, and the judge agreed.

The judge told Henry that his brief was irrelevant; the case was simply to prove that Henry willingly crossed the line, fully understanding the consequences of his actions. Henry objected, saying violations of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Declaration of Human Rights were never irrelevant, and it is important that we honor those basic, fundamental rights.  Henry stated, “I find it amusing that here we have officers of the court, and they choose to ignore the Bill of Rights, the Constitution.”

Judge Emke then provided her judgment: “Based on the evidence submitted, I find you guilty.”  Judge Emke asked Prosecutor Sendejas for her sentencing recommendation, which was that Henry receive the same sentence issued by Judge Bland (who ruled on the other line-crossers’ trial 2/18/22), which was a 180-day sentence, suspended, with 1 year of probation.

The judge did not take the prosecutor’s recommendation, instead giving Henry 2 years’ probation, 180 days’ jail time with suspended execution of sentence (SES), and conditions in the probation letter. He is not to enter the NSC property in that time frame, and he must pay court and probation costs.

The judge asked Henry if he would appeal this ruling. Henry stated he was not sure but that he had 10 days to consider. The judge said that was correct and she would have papers to give Henry.

After the trial, in the lobby before departing, Henry said, “Officials have blinders on to what this plant is doing to the poor and to the Earth.”

Details of the trial of the other four defendants on Feb. 18 can be read here and by watching this uplifting video of the remarkable comments made by an extraordinary judge.

—Mary Hladky, the mother of a veteran from the war on Afghanistan, is vice chair of PeaceWorks Kansas City.