Respect for our legal system


Six women stood trial earlier this week, accused of trespassing at an area business to the point they were forcibly removed by local police. They were tried and convicted by a jury of their peers. And, after being fined by the judge, the group remained unrepentant, refused to pay any fine and promised to return to the scene of their crime.

This is not about how you may feel about nuclear power.

This is not about how you may feel about an individual or group’s right to protest.

This is not about Entergy or Vermont Yankee.

This is about a group of people -- people who do not live in Vermont -- people who choose to regularly and repeatedly break the laws our of state -- and people who, when forced to be held accountable for their actions in a court of law, flaunted their indifference publicly, in the face of Vermonters and our state’s legal system.

Some things to consider:

-- While the women represented themselves, prosecutors and the judge spent a day in court at taxpayers’ expense. And, before you argue that they would have been working regardless, perhaps there could have been a more suitable use of their time (perhaps on more serious cases).

-- Twelve jurors (along with two alternates) spent the day in court, listening to this case. If they had no reimbursement via their jobs, they were paid a stipend by the court for their time served. And, even if you consider that money minimal, remember that this was 14 members of the community who gave up time at work, or perhaps at home tending to family. They gave up a day of their lives to serve the community, and these women’s reactions are an offense to the importance of these jurors’ time and effort.

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-- Each woman on trial was fined $350 for the single charge of criminal trespassing. Perhaps you don’t care if these fines are paid. But that amount does not tell a complete story. For each charge, an additional 15 percent surcharge goes toward the Vermont State Restitution Unit (in this case, $53); an additional $100 charge goes toward SUI, the state sex offender enforcement unit; as well as (in this case) an additional $41 which is automatically assessed for other fees. That totals an additional $194 which is legislatively mandated to help fund state groups, groups which rely on these fees to continue serving the people of Vermont.

-- What about the cost of the response by Vernon police and the Vermont State Police to the initial protest? Again, while these are people already on duty and performing typical tasks, consider the lost moments that could mean the difference between life and death if, while dealing with elderly women chained to a fence, a more serious emergency arises. Not to mention the fact that the protest in question took place just days after most of the state was ravaged by flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene.

Perhaps most importantly, think of what type of message this sends to the community. This is a group of people who, justified or not, chose to break the law. They were tried and convicted. And their reactions, despite the rhetoric they choose to hide behind, presents one simple statement: What we stand for is more important than your laws and we need not follow them.

What a slippery slope this creates.

If more people choose to take that stance, that viewpoint, that belief ... where, then, will that leave us?

Remember, this is not about nuclear power.

This is not about someone’s right to protest.

This is about someone’s choice to break the law, and their reaction to doing so.

We believe the reaction following Tuesday’s case is an affront to all of us living and working in Vermont. We are offended, and hope you are too.


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