A longtime anti-war activist from New Haven was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison Friday for his part in vandalizing property at the Kings Bay submarine base three years ago in Georgia.
Mark Colville was the last of seven defendants who admitted to illegally entering the naval installation by cutting the padlock and damaging property, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia.
“Mark Colville’s sentence brings closure to a prosecution that represents the triumph of the rule of law over misguided principles,” Acting U.S. Attorney David H. Estes for the Southern District of Georgia said in a statement.
Given the 15 months he already has served in federal prison and time off for good behavior, Colville estimates he will go back to prison for about 125 days to complete the sentence.
Colville said they used hammers and containers of their own blood to mark several areas of the base, which is home to six Trident nuclear submarines, before surrendering to naval personnel.
He has been participating in civil disobedience actions against nuclear weapons since 1997 as part of the U.S. Plowshares movement, which takes its direction from the Biblical quote in Isaiah 2:3-4.
“… Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord … and he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
Colville, 59, was found guilty after a four-day jury trial in October 2019 on charges of conspiracy, destruction of property on a Naval installation, depredation of government property, and trespass.
On Friday he was ordered to pay $33,503.51 in restitution and serve three years of supervised release after completion of his prison sentence.
Colville said he would not make such a payment and pledged not to cooperate with the probation office.
He said he expects to go before the court again on these issues.
On probation, Colville said, “I will not allow them in anyway to supervise my conscience. What I did was responsible. I was being a responsible citizen in the face of a government that has obviously thrown its lot in with criminality.”
“You are going to supervise my conscience and you have no conscience?” Colville said.
He said he did not request special consideration, but when Judge Lisa Godbey Woods asked, Colville said he would prefer to serve out his sentence at Danbury federal prison to be close to his family.
Colville said ultimately it is up to the Bureau of Prisons. He said he will report in 60 days on June 8.
Estes issued a statement after the sentencing.
“Colville and his attention-seeking cohorts attempted to make a grand statement by breaking into and vandalizing a secure government facility, but in the end succeeded only in adding felony convictions to their criminal records,” Estes wrote.
Colville and the six other members of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 had cut through fences at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Mary’s, Ga., and symbolically disarmed the nuclear weapons by beating on storage bunkers and monuments to the Trident sub with hammers made from firearms and pouring their own blood on the property.
“We went as far as we could nonviolently to get to the weapons and where we were stopped is where we did the action,” Colville said in 2019 when he was freed from detention in Brunswick, Ga. “Marines descended on us with their guns drawn and we knelt down and prayed.”
It was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the seven carried a banner with a quote from King: “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide.”
Colville has long protested the presence of nuclear weapons. The federal court said he has eight previous convictions related to trespassing and damaging federal property. Colville also is a longtime activist in the city to protect the rights of people experiencing homelessness. Colville founded Amistad Catholic Worker House with his wife, Luz Catarineau-Colville.
In a statement before the sentencing, Colville thanked all those who have followed the case and who sent letters of support to the court.
“I’m asking her (the judge) to consider them as expressions of the conscience of the community regarding the criminal enterprise of nuclearism, as it continues to scourge humanity and creation beyond reason or accountability,” Colville wrote.
“My family, my neighborhood and I have a right to live without a nuclear gun on hair-trigger alert held perpetually to our heads, and this court’s failure to recognize that right has made it an accessory to crimes against humanity. This is the reality that I plan to confront as clearly and simply as possible on Friday … and the rest, as an old friend used to remind me, is God’s problem,” Colville wrote.
The sentencing was held virtually, Colville said, given dangers of gathering in person during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Contacted at home, he did not have a reaction to the sentencing itself as he and his family were prepared for the consequences of the activist path he has taken.
Colville said it will take other families, like his own, to assume a similar stand against nuclear weapons.
“It is obvious that governments are not going to disarm on their own,” he said.
He said the goal is for people “to free themselves and the institutions that govern us, and in so many ways confine us, and start thinking about the future of life on the planet.”
Colville in the beginning refused bail, but eventually did get pretrial release a few weeks before the October court session to take care of a cancerous growth.
He was later allowed to attend his daughter’s wedding and he has been out since then.
His 15 months in detention were spent at the Glynn County Detention Center l in Brunswick, Ga., which he said was mainly occupied by individuals who could not afford bail as they awaited trial because of probation violations.
He said some were incarcerated longer than he was.
The statement from the U.S. attorney’s office said the seven trespassers, once through the security fence, “split into two groups and then damaged and vandalized property inside the facility before being taken into custody by naval security personnel.”
The six other defendants, previously sentenced in the case, include: Stephen Michael Kelly, 72, of Massachusetts; Patrick O’Neill, 65, of Garner, N.C.; Elizabeth McAlister, 81, of New London, Conn.; Clare Therese Grady, 62, of Ithaca, N.Y.; Martha Hennessy, 65, of Perkinsville, Vt.; and Carmen Trotta, 58, of New York, N.Y.
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