“Priest Sentenced in Domenici Protest”
Albuquerque Journal, Friday, January 25, 2008
(By Albq. Journal Staff, and Wire Report)
Rev. John Dear was sentenced to 40 hours of community service and $510 in fines and fees for actions during an anti-war protest at the Santa Fe office of Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.
“I’m not interested in making a martyr out of you,” U.S. Magistrate Don Svet said Thursday before sentencing Dear.
But Dear said after the hearing that he won’t cooperate by paying the fine or meeting other conditions set by Svet. He said he will ignore an order to not leave New Mexico during a probationary period set by the court.
“I’m just not getting involved with a system which supports war,” Dear told the Journal Thursday afternoon.
“So the story continues. I fully expect at some point I’ll end up in jail,” he said.
Dear was the last of six peace activists to be sentenced for the September 2006 incident. Dear and the group stayed in an elevator for more than four hours after security guards prevented them from going to Domenici’s third-floor office. Svet ruled earlier that the group had the right to petition their representatives, but they could have delivered the petition in the lobby. Instead, the activists read aloud the names of thousands of Americans and Iraqis killed in the war. Svet found Dear and the others guilty of failing to comply with signs and regulations in a federal building.
Dear’s attorney, Penni Adrian, asked the court for mercy, saying that Dear had a “lifelong commitment to peace and human decency” and that his actions that day were a legal misstep.
However, Dear asked for no mercy. He used his time before the court to condemn the Iraq war.
“This war is unjust, mortally sinful and just downright impractical,” he said.
Svet had none of it, calling Dear a “renegade priest” and “a coward.”
Five of Dear’s co-defendants received varying sentences in October, including suspended prison time, fines and community service.
All five— Philip Balcombe, Sansi Coonan, Michella Marusa, Martin Bud Ryan and Eleanore Vouselas— are appealing their sentences, Adrian said. Dear, who received the highest fine and most hours of community service, will not appeal, Adrian said.
The activists had been fined $75 by the Department of Homeland Security for their actions outside Domenici’s office at the Joseph M. Montoya Federal Building, for failure to comply with signs and directions. Their refusal to pay the fines led to the court dates.
Thursday afternoon, Dear said he had received support before the sentencing from peace advocates worldwide, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said he would pray for the New Mexico Jesuit.
“I consider it a great blessing to be in trouble with the U.S. government for speaking out against this evil war,” Dear told the Journal. “I will continue to call for an end to this evil war in Iraq and continue to advocate for the gospel of peace.”
Dear said that as part of his probation, he has been directed not to leave New Mexico for the next six months. But he said he has already made plans to give over 100 lectures around the country in 2008.
Dear said he also received news this week that he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the nonprofit International Association of Educators for World Peace and other individuals. He has also been nominated for India’s Gandhi Peace Prize, he said.