Taneytown's 'Site R 3' Appeal Their Pa. Conviction

Protesters Argue State Has No Jurisdiction Over Trespass Site

June 12, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

HARRISBURG, PA — An attorney for three Taneytown residents found guilty of trespassing at a secret military command center told the Pennsylvania Superior Court yesterday those convictions should be thrown out.

Peter Goldberger of Philadelphia told the three Superior Court judges that the state has no jurisdiction over the military compound because it is federal property.

Taneytown residents Yvonne Small, 46, her husband, James Small, 50, and Wayne Cogswell, 58, were among seven arrested at a peace vigilin August 1989 at Site R, an alternate military command center nestled in Raven Rock Mountain near the Mason-Dixon line.

In a nuclear war, Site R would direct military forces and house the joint chiefs of staff.

The group, dubbed the "Site R Seven," was protesting the existence of the compound, calling it illegal and immoral. They also were marking the 44th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshimaand Nagasaki.

The group was found guilty of defiant trespass after a trial in Adams CountyCourt of Common Pleas in April 1990.

LastSeptember, Adams County Judge Oscar F. Spicer sentenced the Smalls and Cogswell to one year of probation, 40 hours of community service and a $700 fine. The other protesters received $400 fines, 40 hours ofcommunity service and one year of probation.

Spicer said he finedthe three from Taneytown more because they failed to give financial information to the presentence investigator.

Small said she declined to give the information because she did not want the group to be split along economic lines.

In court yesterday, Goldberger told thejudges the state of Pennsylvania does not have jurisdiction over Site R because it was deeded to the federal government by Gov. Richard Thornburg in 1985.

Adams County District Attorney Roy Keefer disputed that claim, saying the deed is vague as to who is responsible for the land.

"It's not the most artfully drafted document," said Keefer. "But it is clear that we have jurisdiction."

Keefer also challenged Goldberger's claim that it was never proven that theprotesters knew they were on private property.

Goldberger said that to be convicted under the Pennsylvania trespass law, a person must have known he or she was not allowed on the land.

He said group members believed they had a First Amendment right to protest there.

Keefer saidthe group knew Site R was private property because one of the protesters talked to a Pennsylvania state police trooper about it before the demonstration.

"No matter how sincere their actions were, they knew it was trespassing," Keefer said.

Goldberger also told the judges that Spicer's sentencing of the Smalls was unfair.

Spicer had ruled that the Smalls are responsible for their own fines as well as each other's because they are married.

Goldberger said that kind of sentencing was "unheard of."

Keefer said Spicer "invented a new way of collecting a fine" when he handed down the ruling.

He said it was intended to make sure Yvonne Small paid the fine, because she had made it clear in court that she didn't intend to.

By making the husband and wife jointly responsible for the fine, a lien could be placed against their home if they don't pay it.

The three judges seemed concerned about the sentencing practice.

Goldberger ended his appeal by asking the judges to throw out the convictions of the seven, grant them a new trial, or order new sentencing for the Smalls.

Yvonne Small, who was arrested last August for again protesting at Site R, spent 30 days in jail late last year for refusing to pay a fine in that case.

She and the other members of the Peace Resource Center in Frederick are planning their eighth annual protest at Site RAug. 3 and 4.

Small said she does not know if she will block the entrance to the gate and risk arrest again.

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