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Thirty-one drone protesters found guilty in DeWitt Town Court; four jailed


DeWitt, N.Y. — DeWitt Town Justice David Gideon ruled Thursday night that 31 protesters were guilty on two charges of disorderly conduct.

But, Gideon said, he spent “many a sleepless night” before making his decision and that he learned a great deal during the five-day nonjury trial, which ended Nov. 5.

The defendants were among 38 people arrested April 22 after they participated in a “die-in” at the main entrance of the New York Air National Guard Base at Hancock Field to protest the MQ-9 Reaper drones, which the 174th Fighter Wing of the guard has been remotely flying over Afghanistan, from Syracuse, since late 2009.

Fred McRoberts, assigned by the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office to prosecute the case, asked the judge to sentence the defendants to 15 days in jail. Instead, Gideon gave no jail time to most of the defendants along with 20 or 25 hours of community service and $250 fines, plus a $125 state surcharge.

The defendants — with the help of testimony by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark — had argued that they should not be prosecuted for their actions. Instead, they should be applauded for trying to block the use of drones from which the United States fires on sovereign nations and uses to kill innocent civilians, in violation of international law, they said.

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