Peace activist Cindy Sheehan, who emerged as one of the most vocal opponents of the Iraq war after her son was killed in the conflict, left a courthouse convicted of trespassing and redelivered the petitions that originally led to her legal trouble.
Sheehan and three other women were acquitted on Monday of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstructing government administration but were convicted of trespassing for leading a protest across the street from the United Nations. They had faced up to a year in jail if convicted of all counts.
A judge sentenced them to conditional discharge, which means they will not face any punishment as long as they do not get arrested in the next six months. The judge also ordered them to pay $95 (72 euros) in court surcharges.
"We should have just gotten a desk appearance ticket, but they piled on our charges so we had to stay all night in (jail) that night," Sheehan said after the verdict. "Twenty-five soldiers were killed last week while we were in court wasting our time."
Sheehan and about 100 other members of a group called Global Exchange were rebuffed last March when they attempted to take a petition with some 72,000 signatures to the U.S. Mission's headquarters near the United Nations.
Sheehan and the defendants ignored police orders to leave and were reading the petition aloud on the sidewalk when police moved in. The women sat on the sidewalk and were carried to patrol wagons.
Prosecutors said they were arrested after ignoring police orders to disperse.
After the verdict, the women immediately left the courthouse and headed for the U.S. Mission to redeliver the petitions and ask for an apology.
They were met in the lobby of the building by Richard A. Grenell, director of external affairs for the U.S. Mission, and Peggy Kerry, the mission's liaison for non-governmental organizations and sister of Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and former presidential candidate.
Grenell said the document he accepted was 1 1/2 pages, double-spaced and contained 32 names signed with an aqua blue marker. He said they presented this to him after apparently being unable to find the petition that the women had said contained some 72,000 signatures.
In explaining why he accepted a document from the group this time around, Grenell said, "We accept petitions every single day, even without an appointment. What we don't do is accept them in front of a staged media event."
Kerry refused to meet with the women in the presence of Sheehan and the news media during the earlier protest. She testified during the trial that the presentation seemed like a publicity stunt.
Sheehan, 49, of Vacaville, California, lost her 24-year-old son Casey in Iraq in April 2004. She has since drawn international attention after camping outside President Bush's Texas ranch to protest the war, the AP reports.
"Christmas time is hard for me because that's the last time I saw my son," she said Monday. "Could you imagine that a family would have to suffer for the rest of their lives? Christmas is never going to be happy for them. Christmas will never be happy for me again."
The jury trial began Dec. 5 in Manhattan Criminal Court. Sheehan's co-defendants were Melissa Beattie, 57, of New York; Patricia Ackerman, 48, of Nyack, New York, and Susan "Medea" Benjamin, 54, of San Francisco.
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