'Taneytown 3' To Appeal Conviction To Pa. Court

September 18, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

TANEYTOWN — Three city peace activists convicted of trespassing at a secret military command center near the Mason-Dixon line will appeal their case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The group's decision to appeal comes after an Aug. 22 Pennsylvania Superior Court decision that upheld the convictions.

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 Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

In a nuclearwar, Site R would direct military operations and house the joint chiefs of staff.

The group, dubbed the "Site R Seven," protested the existence of the compound, calling it illegal and immoral. The protest also marked the anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima andNagasaki.

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

The group appealed that verdict to the state Superior Court, claiming that Pennsylvania does not have jurisdiction over Site R because it was deeded to the federal government by then-Gov. Richard Thornburg in 1985.

The court rejected that argument, saying it was "totally lacking in merit."

"Pennsylvania simply did not relinquish criminal jurisdiction over events occurring in Site R," the court's opinion states.

Peter Goldberger, the group's Philadelphia attorney, also argued at a June hearing on the appeal that the seven were not guilty of trespassing at the center because they believed they had a right to be there under the First Amendment.

Citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld trespass convictions where protesters blocked the public entrance to a jail, the court said, "There is not a First Amendmentright to prevent public access to a limited-access government facility by blocking the public roadway to the facility."

Finally, the group challenged Adams County Judge Oscar F. Spicer's sentencing in the case.

In September 1990, Spicer sentenced the Smalls and Cogswell to one year of probation, 40 hours of community service and a $700 fine. The other protesters received one year of probation, 40 hours of community service and $400 fines.

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

Goldberger told the judges that kind of sentencing was "unheard of."

While the majority of the Superior Court judges rejected that contention, Judge Zoran Popovich agreed with Goldberger.

In a dissenting opinion, he wrote that the Smalls' sentences were illegal because they forced each Small to "atone not onlyfor his or her own crimes, but also those of another."

Yvonne Small said that if the state's highest court agreed that the group had a"privilege" to stand in front of the entrance to the site, it would set a precedent for activists who protest on government property.

Small, the director of the Peace Resource Center in Frederick, was arrested in August 1990 for again protesting at Site R. She spent 30 days in jail late last year for refusing to pay a fine in that case.

At a peace vigil and protest at Site R on Aug. 4, James Small was again arrested for trespassing and ordered to pay a $150 fine.

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