COLUMBUS, GA -- Long-time Vermont peace activist Robin Lloyd is going to jail. The filmmaker and publisher of progressive website Toward Freedom was sentenced Monday afternoon to three months in a federal prison for trespassing at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in Fort Benning, Georgia, during a protest there last November. U.S. District Court Judge G. Mallon Faircloth also ordered Lloyd to pay a $500 fine.
WHINSEC -- formerly known as the School of the Americas -- is a U.S. military school used primarily for soldiers from Central and South America. Peace activists charge that WHINSEC trains and harbors known human-rights abusers; SOA/WHINSEC graduates have been linked to torture, drug trafficking, assassinations and massacres.
Protestors have organized demonstrations at the facility since 1990, after SOA graduates murdered six Jesuit priests, a co-worker and her teenage daughter in El Salvador. Since then, more than 180 people have been arrested and served jail time for nonviolent actions against the school, according to activist group SOA Watch.
Lloyd, 67, was one of 32 defendants on trial for trespassing during the November action; they range in age from 19 to 81. She said the Abu Ghraib photos were part of the motivation.
This isn't the first time Lloyd has been arrested for civil disobedience, but it's the first time she's been sentenced to prison. She was one of the famed Winooski 44, arrested in 1984 for occupying the office of Vermont Senator Robert Stafford while protesting U.S. involvement in Central America.
But the judge in that trial, the late Frank Mahady, allowed Lloyd and her co-defendants to use the necessity defense -- they broke the law to draw attention to a larger crime -- and he acquitted them. Lloyd says she tried to use a similar strategy on Judge Faircloth, but he wouldn't allow it. That "really cut us off at the knees," she said, speaking on the phone from Georgia after the trial.
Lloyd expects to receive a letter telling her to report sometime this spring to the minimum-security federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. She said her ordeal has been "worth it." And she added that, from what she's heard, prison probably won't be too bad. "They have a salad bar, aerobics classes, some email access," she pointed out cheerfully. "I'm looking forward to taking a vacation in an unusual place with very cheap accommodations."
Coincidentally, Martha Stewart wanted to do her time in Danbury, but ended up West Virginia.