The Blackwater Protestors appealed their December verdicts and lost. The judge in that case illegally closed his courtroom to the public.
A jury found all seven of the protestors guilty of trespassing and also found six of the protestors guilty of resisting arrest.
They were sentenced today. Judge Duke sentenced five of the seven – who had already served five days in jail after their arrest – to five days with credit for time served. The other two received suspended five-day sentences.
Judge Duke allowed all seven to make statements. According to noted reporter, Bill Sizemore, of the Virginian Pilot:
Duke allowed the defendants to make statements during the hourlong sentencing hearing, and most did. They told the judge that they believe Blackwater enjoys legal impunity for war crimes in Iraq and that by holding an illegal protest they were following a higher law, citing the Bible and the Constitution.
“There may be no court that can prosecute these killers,” defendant Beth Brockman, of Durham, N.C., told the judge. As Christians we have an obligation to stand in solidarity with the Iraqi people.”
Duke responded at length, telling the group, “I’ve always thought that if you’re going to be a follower of Jesus or someone who appreciates the Constitution, you can’t select the portions that you like and disregard the rest.”
In particular, he cited the apostle Paul’s biblical admonition to his fellow Christians to abide by the law of man. As the judge went on, the protesters broke in several times with responses of their own.
“We’re not here about what’s happening in Iraq,” Duke told them. “We’re here about the peace and harmony of this particular community. The rule of law of this state is instituted to protect this peace and harmony. This is a place, a state, a nation, of laws – not of men.”
The judge quoted the noted Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter, who called the rule of law “all we have standing between us and the tyranny of mere will and the cruelty of unbridled, undisciplined feeling.”
“You’re kind and gentle people,” Duke told the protesters. “But the law doesn’t say treat kind and gentle people differently from those who would harm us. You’ve told me you’re not going to abide by the law. You’re not going to respect my judgment. That grieves me.”
Protester Bill Streit, of Louisa County, Va., responded: “I feel sorry that we’re grieving you. You have given us a lot of leeway, and I appreciate that.”
“Good luck,” the judge told the seven as they filed out.