Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Imprisoned SOA Protesters Get Early Release

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Imprisoned SOA Protesters Get Early Release

Article excerpt

Four activists serving prison time gained early releases in September when a federal appeals court ruled that their sentences for convictions stemming from two 1997 protests at the School of the Americas should be served concurrently.

The four were serving sentences ranging from eight to 12 months for their roles at a Sept. 29, 1997, demonstration at Fort Benning, Ga. They were convicted of destruction of property with malicious intent after they vandalized a sign at the School of the Americas. They also received sentences of six months for trespassing during the annual protest at the school in November 1997.

They were ordered to serve the sentences consecutively.

The Sept. 2 decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that the defendants be resentenced to concurrent sentences because the two actions were "part of a common scheme."

"They occurred during the same autumn," the court wrote. "They both consisted of nonviolent but intentionally disruptive and destructive protest against the School of the Americas. The offenses likewise shared a common purpose, which was to express, in a format appetizing to a sensationalist press, the defendants' displeasure at the existence of the school."

At the time of the appeals court ruling, the four had served nearly 12 months in prison. Mary Trotochaud, 49, wits released Sept. 10. Ed Kinane, 55, and Sister of St. Francis Marge Eilerman, 62, were released Sept. 13. Jesuit Fr. Bill Bichsel, 71, is expected to be released Sept. …

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