Legal Update

Welcome to the Kings Bay Plowshares Legal Collective Page! Here we will provide updates on the legal process, legal documents that may be helpful to fellow travelers, and documents relating to the necessity defense and international law. Thanks for visiting!



9/26/17 Legal UPdate

Attorneys for the seven Kings Bay Plowshares defendants today filed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act Memo in federal court in Brunswick, GA, as their response to the court's request for supplemental briefings that would justify the defendants' use of  the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in their defense. The RFRA requires the government to prove a compelling state interest if it acts to restrict a person's free exercise of his or her religious beliefs. The defendants will also ask the court to hold a hearing to allow them to testify about their faith-based opposition to nuclear weapons.

The Memo points out that “Under RFRA the law is clear, and the relevant facts in this case are also clear. The defendants exercised their sincerely held Catholic beliefs by symbolically disarming nuclear weapons.  The government is substantially burdening the defendants’ exercise of those same beliefs by seeking to enforce, through criminal prosecution, federal statutes that prohibit trespass and protect property ('trespass and property statutes'). Under RFRA, this places a heavy burden of justification on the government, which the government here fails to satisfy.”

 Along with the RFRA Memo, an affidavit from each of the defendants was also filed with the court. In the affidavits, the defendants speak about their sincerely-held religious beliefs and how these beliefs motivated their nonviolent acts of prophetic witness against the government’s possession of nuclear weapons, and the use of such weapons to threaten people, nations and all life.

To quote from the Memo: “The defendants’ symbolic actions of disarmament are within the tradition of a long history of similar actions carried out by Plowshares activists who take their name from the Christian Bible verse, Isaiah 2:4: “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.“

The Kings Bay Naval Station is home to at least six ballistic missile submarines. Each submarine carries 20 Trident II D5 MIRV thermonuclear missiles. Each of these missiles carries four or more individual nuclear warheads ranging in destructive power from 100 kilotons to 475 kilotons. To understand the massive destructive power of these weapons, remember that the nuclear bomb which destroyed the Japanese city of  Hiroshima had an explosive power of only15 kilotons.


Declaration of Mark Colville

Declaration of Clare Grady

Declaration of Martha Hennessy

Declaration of Stephen Kelly SJ

Declaration of Elizabeth McAlister

Declaration of Patrick O’Neill

Declaration of Carmen Trotta




7/2/2018 Legal Update

 Today attorneys filed Motions to Dismiss all criminal charges against the Kings Bay Plowshares in federal court in Brunswick, GA.  The seven Catholic defendants are charged with three federal felonies and one misdemeanor for their actions in going onto the Naval Base at Kings Bay Georgia and symbolically disarming the massive amount of nuclear weapons at that base. 

The request to dismiss ends the supporting memorandum with the following paragraph: “If the defendants took their actions in North Korea or Iran, the US government would hail their actions.  The same US government cannot be allowed to criminally prosecute them at home.  The charges should be dismissed.”

The Motion to Dismiss all charges argues several points.  First,any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction are illegal under US law, thus disarming these illegal weapons of mass destruction cannot be illegal.  Second, international law, a part of US law, also makes any use or threat of use of these weapons of mass destruction illegal.  Third, the actions of the individuals charged were taken due to their belief as Catholics that nuclear weapons are both immoral and illegal and in prosecuting them the government is violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Fourth, the current President of the United States has repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons and his illegal conduct has not been prosecuted, so the decision of the government to only prosecute those who protest against nuclear weapons is illegal selective prosecution.

The Motion to Dismiss is supplemented by four important declarations, available in full below.

Professor Francis Boyle, a renowned Harvard Law graduate and professor of law at the  Illinois College of Law, advised the court that nuclear weapons are flatly illegal and the actions of defendants are in full compliance with the law.

Captain Thomas Rogers, a retired career Navy commander of nuclear armed submarines, told the court that nuclear weapons violate the principles of the laws of war and are both illegal and immoral.

Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton declared that the actions of the Kings Bay Plowshares are totally consistent with and supported by Catholic social teaching that any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is totally immoral.

Jeffery Carter, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, explained to the court the fact that his organization and the American Medical Association condemn any use of nuclear weapons because of the horrific impact upon millions, perhaps even billions, of people. 

The Kings Bay Naval Station is home to at least 6 nuclear ballistic missile submarines.  Each submarine carries 20 Trident II D 5 MIRV thermonuclear weapons.   Each of these individual Trident thermonuclear weapons contains four or more individual nuclear weapons ranging in destructive power from a 100 kilotons to 475 kilotons.  To understand the massive destructive power of these weapons remember that the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima was a 15 kiloton bomb. 



Draft Declaration of Professor Francis Boyle

Declaration of  Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Declaration of  Captain Thomas Rogers

Declaration of Jeffrey Carter


5/25/2018 Legal Update

Thank you for supporting the Kings Bay Plowshares. As many of you know, the trial and jail witness are a powerful and important part of the work for nuclear disarmament. Here is where the Kings Bay Plowshare are now in that process.

In early May, the Kings Bay Plowshares were indicted in the Southern District of Georgia, Brunswick division. The seven were charged with four counts: Conspiracy, Destruction of Property on a Naval Station, Depredation of Government Property, and Trespass. 

Conspiracy, Destruction of Property on a Naval Station, Depredation of Government Property, and Trespass.  On May 17, 2018, the seven were arraigned and pled not guilty. Magistrate R. Stan Baker presided. A motions hearing was set for early August 3rd (tentative).

At the May 17th court date, bond was set for six of the seven. Steve Kelly SJ was not offered bond due to a pending case at the naval submarine base in Washington State. Conditions of release required that each of the six post a $50,000 surety with $5,000 cash paid ($1,000 for Carmen Trotta). As well, the court required that they wear ankle monitors, be subject to home confinement, and surrender their passports. Martha Hennessy, Carmen Trotta, and Patrick O’Neill chose to accept these conditions and bond out in hopes of being able to continue the work of organizing for nuclear disarmament from their home communities as they await trial. Liz McAlister, Clare Grady, and Mark Colville elected to continue writing, praying, and organizing from within the Glynn County Jail in Brunswick, Georgia. On May 24th, Martha, Carmen, and Patrick were released from Glynn County, traveled home, and began their home confinement.

Currently, Liz McAlister is represented by attorneys Bill Quigley and Jason Clark (local sponsor) Martha Hennessy is represented by attorneys Anna Lellelid and Jason Clark (local sponsor), Clare Grady is represented by Stephanie McDonald. Attorney Matt D’Aloisio will be standby counsel for Mark Colville, who will be representing himself. Patrick O’Neill will be representing himself with Darrel Gossett as standby counsel. Steve Kelly and Carmen Trotta are representing themselves. Other attorneys are helping in various capacities as well.

A motions hearing has been set for August 3rd (tentative). At that hearing the seven and their attorneys and, on the opposing side, the prosecution, will argue motions related to the trial.

Around the time of that hearing, the legal team expects that the timing of the trial will become clearer. As soon as a trial date is announced, the legal team will share that news with supporters.


5/4/18 Indictment Filed by Federal Government

In an indictment filed this week in the Southern District of Georgia, Brunswick division, the seven were charged with four counts: Conspiracy, Destruction of Property on a Naval Station, Depredation of Government Property, and Trespass. They will appear before a magistrate in Brunswick on May 10th.  Although currently being held at the Camden County jail in Woodbine, Georgia, they expect to be acquitted of all charges. Attorney William P. Quigley, Professor of Law at Loyola University, New Orleans, LA, noted, “These peace activists acted in accordance with the 1996 declaration of the International Court of Justice that any threat or use of nuclear weapons is illegal.” 

To view the indictment click here: Federal Indictment