Peace Activist Sentenced to Five Years for Nazi Reference to Judge
BALTIMORE (AP) _ Peace activist Philip Berrigan has been sentenced to five years in prison for contempt when he accused a judge of Nazi-like court procedures and refused to apologize for the remark.
The former Josephite priest was in court Thursday to support eight activists on trial for trespassing during a Dec. 5 demonstration at a physics laboratory.
Berrigan, 68, spoke out when Howard County District Court Judge James N. Vaughan refused to allow defendants to talk about weapons research they say is carried out at the lab, said Elizabeth McAlister, Berrigan’s wife and one of the defendants.
Berrigan likened the judge’s handling of the cases to those of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and declared the court ″a disgrace,″ she said. He refused Vaughan’s demand to apologize and was sentenced to five years for contempt.
″Have you ever in your life heard of anybody sentenced to five years for contempt in two minutes, with no jury, no defense and no appeal just because this man would not apologize for saying the truth in that courtroom,″ Ms. McAlister said.
Berrigan’s organization, The Baltimore Emergency Response Network, was planning a vigil outside the courthouse today and is asking the public to write letters to the judge to get Berrigan freed, she said.
Contacted at home Thursday night, Vaughan refused to comment, but said he may do so today.
The four defendants who tried to speak about the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Columbia were also found in contempt, but the judge later dismissed that finding.
Some of the eight defendants were found guilty of trespassing and a trial for others will be heard at a later date.
Berrigan and his brother, the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit priest, were in the forefront of the peace movement during the Vietnam war and were arrested many times for their protests.
The Hopkins lab has been the scene of several recent protests.