Peace activist sentenced to 24 days for protest

June 17, 1992

A Howard County District Court judge yesterday sentenced a 37-year-old Baltimore peace activist to 24 days in the county detention center for climbing a 100-foot water tower at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Columbia.

Judge Louis A. Becker imposed the sentence on Gregory Boertje of Park Avenue. The maximum penalty for trespassing is three months and/or a $500 fine.

Prosecutor Gregory Smouse had asked for the maximum penalty, saying Boertje "is here to give a circus" for the media. Smouse added that Boertje has a history of civil disobedience and no respect for law.

Early Dec. 5, 1991, Boertje and seven other peace activists were charged with trespassing when they entered APL property, climbed a building and the water tower, and displayed two anti-APL banners. They were there to protest the plant's development of nuclear weapons.

At his non-jury trial yesterday, when asked what his plea was, Boertje said: "I plead that the APL is committing serious and unconscionable war crimes which require us to speak out. I plead that they are the ones who are guilty."

He served as his own attorney.

Boertje's defense was that he had a "duty" to go to APL since the lab makes weapons for war. He claimed the laboratory's work violates international law.

However, the judge told Boertje international law and military policies were irrelevant.

After the sentencing outside the courtroom, Boertje's supporters said they were proud of him but disappointed with the sentence.

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