Nuclear Protesters Michael Sprong and Bonnie Urfer Sentenced to Prison

May 4, 2001
MADISON, WISCONSIN--This afternoon, Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker of the Western District of Wisconsin sentenced nuclear protesters Michael Sprong and Bonnie Urfer to prison for sawing down three transmission poles at the Navy's ELF facility in Clam Lake, Wisconsin, on June 24, 2000. ELF stands for Extremely Low Frequency, and the ELF towers send one-way messages to the U.S. fleet of Trident submarines loaded with nuclear warheads. Sprong, 38, of Marion, S.D., received a sentence of two months, with one year of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $7,492.44 in restitution.

Urfer, 49, of Luck, Wis., received a sentence of six months, with one year of supervised release, and was also ordered to pay $7,492.44 in restitution. "When the prosecutor said no one has the right to act above the law, that includes the U.S. government and the Pentagon," said Sprong in his statement to the court. U.S. readiness to wage nuclear war is against international law and constitutes "a war crime and a crime against humanity," he argued.

Bonnie Urfer, at the Dairyland/Private Fuel Storage
action in LaCrosse Apr 23 01
- photo by Spark Burmaster

Before her statement, Urfer showed a film of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, followed by a tape of a 1999 talk by Dr. Steven Younger of the Los Alamos Labs entitled, "Why Are Nuclear Weapons Important: The Los Alamos Perspective." In that tape, Younger told the staff of the labs, "You get people's attention when you threaten the existence of their country." "Project ELF is part of a system ready and waiting to unleash the equivalent of 85,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs," said Urfer. "I withdrew my consent a long time ago to this mad acceptance of mass extermination. It doesn't matter that U.S. courts legitimize our genocidal weapons of total destruction, I must and I will continue to work for complete nuclear disarmament in the spirit of nonviolence no matter the consequence because it is, for me, the decent and humane thing to do."

Urfer is co-director of Nukewatch, a nonprofit organization based in Luck, Wisconsin, that is opposed to nuclear power and nuclear weapons. The maximum sentence that Judge Crocker could have imposed on each defendant was one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

After hearing the sentence, Sprong said: "I'm surprised. The term of imprisonment is less than I expected. I'm really perplexed by this judge. He's obviously a thoughtful man, and he went up to the edge of the abyss but then concluded that, 'I have to do my job.' We're all looking into the abyss. And either we just say we've got to do our jobs, or we resist these weapons of mass destruction."

Bonnie is currently at the Dane County Jail (address below) but may be moved soon to a federal facility. Michael is free until May 25th when he will report to an as-yet unknown federal prison. We'll let you know his address as soon as it is available.

Bonnie Urfer
Dane County Jail
115 W. Doty St.
Madison, WI 53703

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