Defendants Dennis Apel, Jeff Dietrich, Fr. Louie Vitale, OFM, and Fr. Steve Kelly, SJ, were found guilty of trespass on Thursday, Dec. 4, by Magistrate Rita Coyne-Federman in Santa Barbara Federal Court for their witness on May 19, 2007. Sentencing will be on March 12, 2009 at 1:30 pm. The prosecution made a motion in limine, which the court granted, that prohibited the defendants from making any comment or statement with regard to their religious or political reasons or views for their act of trespass. This ruling essentially gagged the defendants from making any meaningful statement in their defense since the foundation of their action was inspired by their religious and political beliefs. Kate Chatfield, attorney for the defendants, desperately attempted to find a way for the defendants to make their statement, but Prosecutor Sharon McCaslin vigorously objected to nearly every question asked of the defendants, with the Court sustaining each objection. However, enough was said to display the defendants sincerity on that Armed Forces Day 2007.
After a two and one-half hour evidentiary hearing on defendant Mike Wisniewski’s motion to dismiss the trespass charge, Magistrate Rita Coyne-Federman ruled against the motion. However, during the trial, after viewing the government-provided video of the May 19, 2007 witness at Vandenberg AFB, when the prosecution rested its case, Wisniewski’s Public Defender, John Littrell, made a motion to acquit, which Magistrate Coyne-Federman granted. The court ruled that the government failed to prove that defendant Wisniewski was given a warning to move back across the “green line” or face arrest, as issued to the other defendants before arrest and mandated by law. Wisniewski will not face sentencing since he was acquitted of the trespass charge. He will now attempt to have the life-time “ban and bar” letter against him removed.