Worcester Telegram & Gazette News Paper
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Judge to decide on 'necessity' of prayer, Group says other anti-war tactics failed
By Lee Hammel TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WORCESTER— Five people arrested after they prayed inside the federal
courthouse for an end to the Iraq war said they had no choice but to
But a federal prosecutor said the fact they tired of other anti-war
methods does not mean they didn't have alternatives.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hillman said he will give a decision
in writing on whether to allow the five defendants to use a defense of
"necessity" during their bench trial scheduled for Sept. 23.
The five Roman Catholics, some of whom are affiliated with the local
Catholic Worker house, are Scott C. Schaeffer-Duffy; Michael
Benedetti, of 4 Englewood Ave. ; Kenneth Hannaford-Ricardi, of 6
Chatman Place; Sandra McSweeney, of 6 Bates St. , Mendon; and Roger
Stanley, of 55 Pleasant St., Berlin . They are charged with the petty
offenses of obstructing the entrance to the Donohue courthouse and
failure to comply with the lawful direction of a U.S. marshal on March
19, the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq .
With eight supporters looking on, Mr. Schaeffer-Duffy acknowledged
that he and his co-defendants violated the law, but said the actions
were necessary to avoid a greater harm — that of the ongoing loss of
life of Americans and Iraqis in that Middle Eastern country. Mr.
Schaeffer-Duffy submitted a motion citing precedents from the Book of
Jonah to 16th-century English jurisprudence to more than a dozen cases
from U.S. state and federal courts — most of which Assistant U.S.
Attorney Karin M. Bell said were improperly cited and she could not
Mr. Schaeffer-Duffy said the five defendants met the elements that the
1st Circuit Court of Appeals said are required for a "necessity"
defense, including that they chose the lesser of two evils, acted to
prevent imminent harm, reasonably anticipated a direct causal
relationship between their acts and the harm to be averted, and had no
legal alternative but to violate the law.
He said they have long tried other methods, including demonstrating
every Tuesday for the past 19 years in Lincoln Square , fasting for 43
days, and seeing U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern file four bills in
Congress to end the war, as they say polls show that the majority of
Americans want — and all failing.
Ms. Bell said the only relevant evidence in the case will be whether
the defendants acted as Supervisory Deputy Marshal Thomas Bezanson
said they did.
She said they failed to show a necessity to violate the law.
"It is not sufficient for the defendants to show impatience with
activities they have engaged in for 19 years," she said. "The fact
that they were ineffective yet and that they may never be effective is
She said the marshals told them they could legally hold their prayer
vigil if they got a permit, but Mr. Schaeffer-Duffy said they were
told that only after they had assembled, and not when they
hand-delivered a message of their intentions five days before the
Judge Hillman asked why the vigil could not have taken place somewhere
other than the courthouse. Mr. Schaeffer-Duffy said prayer for the
sick should take place near the sick, and he noted that courts are
empowered to place checks on executive branch power.