The Golden Girls Go To Jail

Press Release – 19 July, 2015 – The Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones & End the Wars

Four anti-drone resisters were sentenced on July 29 in Judge Joseph J. Zavaglia’s DeWitt (NY) Town Court for alleged trespass at a “die-in” on April 28, 2013 at Hancock Air Base, home to the 174th Attack Wing of the NY National Guard, just north of Syracuse, NY. At their four-day trial this past June trial the six-person jury acquitted the four of disorderly conduct and obstruction of government administration.

All four were identically sentenced to one year’s conditional discharge, $250 fine, $125 court costs and a two-year order of protection. Two of the resisters, Joan Pleune and Bev Rice told Judge Zavaglia, through their attorney Lewis Oliver, that they would not agree to the conditional discharge. This led the judge to sentence the two to 15 days in Jamesville Penitentiary. Joan and Bev were taken from court in handcuffs.

Dear Sisters and Friends,

Final Update—maybe

As most of you know, I had no idea what was going to happen at our sentencing. The only thing I knew for sure was that I couldn’t serve more than 10 days and I thought that to be fairly unlikely. HAH! Was I wrong!

Lew Oliver, our attorney, was thorough and pugnacious in his attempt to have the trespass conviction vacated. It was all to no avail. Judge Zavaglia ruled that the conviction held.

Then the sentencing. I was first. Because I don’t hear very well, Judge Zavaglia invited me to stand in front of the bench for the sentencing. He was clearly pleased that his sentence was a conditional release. Unfortunately, it was chock full of stringent requirements: I couldn’t do this, I couldn’t do that, blah blah blah. They printed it out for me and, standing there in front of Zavaglia, I read it. “I can’t do this,” I said. “Talk to your lawyer,” he replied. And so I did. As I talked with Lew, I considered two things. The first was how really bad the beds are in jail. The second: HOW HARD YOU ALL TRIED TO KEEP BEV AND ME OUT OF THE SLAMMER. But I couldn’t stomach the conditional release. I had to say no. I knew Bev wouldn’t be able to sign it, either. Judge Zavaglia asked me what I thought the sentence should be. I thought that was a little weird. I didn’t really know what the choices were. He called Lew up to the bench and asked if he had advised me not to take the conditional release. “I most certainly did NOT,” said Lew and then asked for a recess to confer with us. Bev said that she, too, would not accept the conditional release. At sentencing, both Zavaglia and the Assistant DA were visibly upset. Even though the DA had asked for 15 days, he didn’t consider us getting it to be a victory. At a certain point he informed Zavaglia that we didn’t have to actually SIGN the conditional release for it to be the sentence. Signing simply meant we had read it. TOO LATE. We were in cuffs.

And so, the GOLDEN GIRLS, as we would be dubbed by our fellow inmates, were off to the Jamesville Correctional Facility, where, in the morning, we would be warmly welcomed. But for the night, Bev and I had very different experiences. Bev was housed in a cell that hadn’t been cleaned after the last prisoner. Our Bev, who hates dirt, had to put up with multiple dust bunnies all night. She nailed them in the morning with kotex and spritzer. As for me, I was thrown into the hole for the night. They only had one empty regular cell, and that one had Bev’s name on it. I heard an officer say to the officer who had escorted us to the cell block, “We’re going to have to put her in THERE.” “Oh!” she said, “you can’t put her in THERE!” Put me in WHERE?” I asked. The officer kindly explained that it was an isolation cell where they house young women who are acting up. They assured me I’d be moved to a regular cell in the morning. A young woman (at least, young by our standards) pressed three books into my hands. “TAKE THESE WITH YOU!.” One turned out to be quite good and it kept me sane.

In the end, we served only 7 days of a 15 day sentence. That’s because you automatically get 1/3 off for good behavior and we had 3 days coming to us because of the three days we spent awaiting bail in 2013 (15-5-3=7). We had really good personal and political conversations with some really smart and talented women, and some not so smart and talented. We could go outside into a small asphalt yard with a chain link fence around it and razors on the top. We sat with other prisoners on that asphalt, as far as we could from the Canadian goose poop, with our backs to the chain link fence which had a sign on it saying:

Do Not Touch Fence
It is a violation to touch fence or lean on any part of it.

We’d have had to pay $25 if they had objected to us leaning on it. I don’t say get caught because with cameras all around, surely they had to know that everyone leaned on the fence. Catching the sun’s rays was almost the sole source of vitamin D.

We’re happy to be home and to be with you, but we left behind some pretty cool women.  In a week or so you can check the GPB blog to find out more about these women and our experiences.

Love to you all,

– Joan Pleune
for the Granny Peace Brigade

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