“Rosary” trial verdict: guilty of disobeying orders, not guilty of blocking entrance, $250 fine

posted by Mike on September 23rd, 2008

Five Roman Catholics, arrested March 19 in connection with praying for an end to the Iraq War in the lobby of the Worcester federal building, were today found guilty of one petty offense and not guilty of another.

Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hillman today found all five defendants guilty of failure “to comply with lawful direction of authorized individuals (U.S. Marshals)” and fined them the minimum penalty of $250.

They were not found guilty of the other petty offense, obstructing the entrance and impeding performance of duties by government employees.

Before the pre-trial hearing, Worcester federal court
The defendants in June 2008: Mike, Sandra, Ken, Scott, Roger

Three of the defendants, Michael Benedetti, Sandra McSweeney, and Roger Stanley, plan to pay the fine. Two others, Ken Hannaford-Ricardi and Scott Schaeffer-Duffy, said they could not pay the fine for reasons of conscience. There will be a hearing on their situation November 6.


  • T&G video of people marching to the trial (features the Jagerstatter prayer)
  • Short video recapping the trial

Here are some of my notes about the morning’s activities and the trial itself. Be aware that these notes may contain errors, and that as a defendant in the trial I’m probably very biased.

Today is the feast day of Padre Pio. We all gathered for morning mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral, where the celebrant noted in his homily that “Two of the great opponents of the war [in Iraq] are our two most recent popes.”

We marched from the cathedral to the federal building/courthouse, holding our Franz Jagerstatter banner. Jagerstatter was an Austrian Catholic who refused to fight for the Nazis and was beheaded. He was the inspiration for the Lenten fast and vigil for an end to the war that was observed around the country.

About ten supporters joined us. (Many more drifted into court later.)

Karin Bell was the Assistant US Attorney handling the case. The defendants are representing themselves.

First witness was U.S. Marshal Service Supervising Deputy Tom Bezanson (sp? I have his name written down elsewhere….) He is assigned to the federal courthouse in Boston, and formerly worked at the Worcester court.

He supervised deputy marshals. In the Worcester court, marshals provide security for judges, other employees, witnesses, etc. There are security officers contracted to the court as a supplement to the deputy marshals. All security officers are sworn as US Deputy Marshals.

On March 19, 2008, he was working in Worcester. Called at 8:25am by the court security officers. Went to main entrance and observed people entering the courthouse. Approx 5 or 6 people entered. They went to the right of the lobby area. Didn’t go through the security checkpoint.

(Side note: Here’s a YouTube video I made of the arrest.)

Scott Schaeffer-Duffy went to him and said “we’re here to pray and protest, we’re not going to disrupt the court.” He told Scott he needed a permit, Scott said he was not interested.

On March 14 a letter was delivered to the court security officers telling about the planned protest.

Scott went back to the entrance with the others. Explained to everyone that they had to leave without a permit. Then they dropped to their knees and began to pray. Warned them 3 times to leave, and they did not.

He identifies the defendants.

They knelt just inside the threshold to the right. There is a small barrier in there to move people to the security checkpoint.

“People could get by, but it was difficult.” This was the only entrance for the public.

He asked for assistance from court security officers. Three came. They were initially assigned to security screening. Also called 2 deputy marshals from his office. One was normally to be looking for fugitives, the other helping with court process and civil matters.

Also called Worcester Police Department. By the end there were about 15 officers there. “Assessing the situation initially, I really didn’t know what I was up against.”

They did not go through the magnetometer or any security screening. They may have had weapons.

Were members of the public able to enter? “Yes, they were.” “I wouldn’t say unimpeded, but they could get through.”

“A couple times” he positioned his body between the protesters and people coming in.

He says there were 2 camera crews outside and people filling the sidewalk.

Prayer was approx 25 minutes.

When the prayer was ended, he asked them to get up, they went into the lobby and were put in restraints.

Also called the Federal Protective Services. An officer came from the Boston office to assist. He’d called them on March 14 to notify them.

Do they video monitor the courthouse? Yes, by the Marshal Service.

She gives the witness a DVD he made of the events. She plays some of the DVD. (Fires up a video screen and Windows Media Player.)

Here’s a copy of the video. There’s no action for the first 30 seconds:

On the screen, we see the defendants enter the lobby. Scott goes way to the right of the picture. Marshal says he’s showing him a business card at this point. (It’s impossible to tell what’s going on.)

We watch the video, and he is shown the various scenes mentioned in his testimony.

The lights come up.

Are rules of conduct posted? Yes, in the entrance. The building is federal property under the GSA.

No more questions.

Scott Schaeffer-Duffy cross-examines him. Begins by thanking him for his courtesy and respect.

A number of times in his testimony he called this “a protest.” Is it possible that the defendants, in their letter and otherwise, only called this “a prayer,” not a protest? Possible, he doesn’t recall.

Is is true that many of the defendants had been at the courthouse for a daily demonstration? Not sure.

Were the demonstrators every violent or disruptive? Objection. Overruled.

“Everything was fine as far as I’m concerned.” But not sure.

Would you characterize their behavior? “It was nonviolent.”

Is it true that 26 people are shown entering the building on the video? And that nobody is stopped from entering? Sure, maybe.

You mentioned people were called away from other responsibilities. So why were the people praying not removed immediately? “I didn’t see the need at that time.”

Ken Hannaford-Ricardi asks a question: On 2 occasions you said you were “concerned” for people entering the courthouse, and had to “secure” the courthouse. But you let us pray for 25 minutes.

Objection: mischaracterization of testimony. Sustained: clean up the question, make it direct.

He wanted to wait until he had sufficient manpower.

Could you define “protest”?

Objection. Sustained.

Witness steps down. The government rests.

Any motions or evidence for the defense? Defense has no motions, but does have testimony and witnesses. No opening statement but would like to make a summation.

Roger Stanley calls Kevin Ksen to the stand.

Kevin was outside that day and observed the action. Saw at least 10 officers and 10 civilians enter.

Saw Tom Lewis stopped from entering. (Note: Tom was planning to join in the prayer, but was running late that morning….) Everyone else was able to enter.

Karin Bell: Did you see anyone go through security or present ID? No. You weren’t inside? No.

She asks him about being outside.

Roger calls Sandra McSweeney to the stand. (This is not our planned order of witnesses! I think there is some confusion about whether you have to call everyone you want to question in a row, or whether the defendants can come out of order. I know I was confused about this myself. Turns out not to matter.)

Judge warns her she can’t be compelled to testify.

She’s 65, lives in Mendon, and acupuncturist for 26 years, mother and grandmother.

Entered the building, knelt and prayed. Saw people enter, nobody prevented from entering. Did not intend to block the entrance.

“For as long as I can remember I have been concerned about economic and social justice.” Concerned about our troops in Iraq.

Karin Bell: So you admit this was civil disobedience? Yes. You didn’t go through security or show ID? Correct. Didn’t leave when asked? Yes. Etc. etc.

Ken Hannaford-Ricardi calls Claire Schaeffer-Duffy to the stand. We’re now 50 minutes into the trial.

Claire was at the event.

Claire: “Don’t you want to identify me?”

Ken: “Ms. Schaeffer-Duffy, could you state your name and address?”

Was anyone impeded?

Objection: That’s a legal question. Judge: Say what you observed.

People went in and out.

Three photos she took of the event are entered into evidence. She reads the text of the banners in the photos, including John Paul II’s quote about the Iraq War being “unjust, illegal, and immoral.” She describes a photo of an Iraqi baby somebody is holding.

Objection. Sustained as to her characterization of the photo.

Objection: pix taken outside are irrelevant. Overruled. The photos become, after the DVD, exhibits 2, 3, and 4.

Karin Bell: You are related to Mr. Schaeffer-Duffy? Yes, 24 years of marriage. You weren’t inside the courthouse? No.

Judge asks her to describe #4, a photo of people praying taken through the doorway.

Sandra McSweeney calls Roger Stanley to the stand.

Lives in Berlin (MA). Husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather. Army and Marines veteran.

That morning went to mass at the cathedral, received a blessing, marched to the courthouse/federal building, entered for the prayer service.

A photo Roger carried during the prayer is entered into evidence. (Some confusion here because he was in the middle of describing it before the purpose of the photo was established.)

Anyone prevented from entering? No. Intended to block the door? No.

Why did he do this? “I entered after thinking and praying for several years about the right thing to do to end violence.

Karin Bell: You said this event was “pre-approved”? Well, the marshals had been notified. You never received permission or a permit? No. Didn’t go through the metal detector or show ID? No. Etc. etc.

Mike Benedetti calls Ken Hannaford-Ricardi to the stand. I didn’t take notes while questioning him. I tried to introduce the leaflet we gave the marshals, and a photo Ken was carrying, as evidence. I think the leaflet got in, but not the photo.

Ken: “No kid deserves to die. No kid deserves to be maimed or wounded.” Talks about his experiences visiting Iraq to provide aid. (I think at some point he is cut off. Ken is always eloquent and heartfelt about war. I wish someone had good notes.)

Karin Bell: You’ve been charged three other times for trespassing? And once you received probation? Yes. She goes over the same questions as before.

I am called and cross-examined. I mention that we were trying to hold the prayer behind, not in front of the barrier, as seen in the video. I also mention my thinking there was a small chance which we’d get to finish the whole prayer (which we did) and maybe even not be arrested.

A copy of the prayer we read is entered into evidence. The photo I was carrying, of New England vets killed in Iraq, is not allowed.

Ken calls Scott to the stand. Describes his background. Father, Catholic Worker, etc. Had been to the federal building for the 40-day fast and vigil. Talks about Jagerstatter, the inspiration for the fast.

Delivered a letter to building security a few days before the prayer. Reads part of the letter with details of the plans.

No objections to having this as evidence, tho Karin Bell notes that it was somewhat misaddressed.

Describes being sort of pushed out the doorway, and so at that point we knelt.

Shows the photo he had. Objection. Sustained.

Did he see people enter? Yes. Was it your intent to block the entrance? No.

Why did you do it? I’ve had the privilege to shelter many homeless people, including many vets and have learned from them about their experiences in war and how the nation treats them afterwards. Has had misfortune of seeing many civilian casualties in war zones and having people beg him to help stop the killing. “For me, opposition to war is not theoretical, it is very, very personal.”

“The war went on, even with 70% of the American people saying it was wrong.” “Perhaps divine intervention.”

Karin Bell: Many previous arrests for similar things? Yes. Your letter said you accepted the risk of arrest? Yes. No permit? No. Etc. etc.

“I have been in many thousands of demonstrations without permits and not been arrested.”

“We were told that if we did not leave we may be subject to arrest.”

“We did the entirety of the prayer we intended to do.” By the end of the prayer, he was somewhat surprised at being arrested, it had gone on so long. “We were never stopped from praying . . . we were arrested when we were preparing to leave!”

Defense rests. It’s 10:35am. A quick break.

Government closes: Whatever you call it, the facts in this case are very simple.

Suggests the marshals may have thought the prayer was “a distraction,” part of some more sinister plan.

Two charges here. First is: failure to comply with lawful order from a federal officer.

Every one of the defendants has admitted to this charge.

Second charge: disorderly conduct coming from unreasonable obstruction of the entrance and impeding govt employees. It is sufficient for the govt to prove only one of these.

Impeding employeeds: Court security officers called away, marshals called away, federal protective services officer.

Unreasonable obstruction of entrance: “Unreasonable obstructed the usual use of the entrance.” This doesn’t have to be a total blockage.

Anticipates that the defense will raise 2 issues: “total” blockage of door, and not intending to block door. Argues that this is irrelevant.

Defense closing statement: “This case is an extraordinary case about an extraordinary action inspired by an extraordinary man.” If you look at these defendants’ backgrounds, you will find exemplary citizens.

Talks about Jagerstatter.

“He was told by his local authorities that he had to obey and that others were doing it.” “But he saw a bigger picture.”

Objection. Judge: Confine yourself to the facts.

Impeding: we brought evidence that it was not our intent or action to block the entrance. We believe that during the Lenten vigil we demonstrated over and over that we were people of peaceful intention.

Lawful order: Goes back to a question of conscience. Had we been allowed our defense of necessity we might have explored this in depth. We have all been in situations where people might have been arrested but were not.

Ask to consider actions in context. Out of consideration for our intentions and for Americans and Iraqis in Iraq whose situation has become invisible.

Karin Bell rebuttal: While the defendants have characterized themselves as exemplary citizens, Scott Schaeffer-Duffy has been arrested 22 times! (I had to smile at this.)

Judge: Complements Bezanson for his conduct on the 19th.

Defendants are guilty of not obeying a lawful order.

Not guilty of impeding.

No statements are solicited from the govt or the defense.

Always nice when a judge starts off the sentencing phase with, “The minimum fine for this charge is . . . .”

In this case, it’s a $250 fine and $30 court costs.

How long does Scott Schaeffer-Duffy need to get this $ together?

Scott: I live below the taxable level and don’t pay taxes. I am OK with paying costs but I don’t want to pay a fine to the federal government, both because my money comes from donations that are supposed to go to the homeless, and because the federal govt does some objectionable things.

Roger: No problem with the fine.

Ken: My wife and I have a family of 4 living below poverty income. “I put myself in this room today.” Can’t pay the fine, and won’t.

Sandra and Mike: No problem with the fine.

Judge needs to think about his options in re Scott and Ken. Will come back in a month. The hearing will be Nov 6 at 10am.

Scott mentions that in past cases judges have offered jail sentences when he wouldn’t pay a fine. Another judge waived the fine and donated ten bucks to the Catholic Worker. Extraordinary things do happen.

Judge: In my case, that would be extraordinary!

Scott: Regardless of how you sentence us, thanks for your courtesy and patience.

(I gotta say, everyone was very professional and sharp yet polite. Thanks, folks.)

End of trial.

The defendants and a couple dozen supporters gather outside the fifth floor elevators and say a Hail Mary. No one is arrested.

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6 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On September 23, 2008 at 14:14 Tracy said:

    Great notes, Mike! Very thorough.

  2. On September 23, 2008 at 18:06 Steve said:

    The gentleman you are referring to is named Tom Bezanson. Excellent notes, admirable cause. You make us think.

  3. On September 23, 2008 at 19:17 Mike said:

    Steve: Thanks for the correction!

  4. On September 24, 2008 at 03:08 Adam Villani said:

    Thanks for the details!

  5. On September 24, 2008 at 12:01 Marc Magisana said:

    Inspiring and very interesting with the description of the trial for those of us who’ve never experienced the ordeal. Curious about the history of the photograph of the child.

  6. On September 25, 2008 at 21:29 Police State said:

    Courageous, untroubled, mocking and violent–that is what Wisdom wants us to be. Wisdom is a woman, and loves only a warrior.FriedrichWilhelmNietzscheFriedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

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