A 61-year-old peace activist was sentenced to 51 months in prison Wednesday for threatening federal officials and pouring red paint and cranberry juice on a federal courthouse security station.
Helen Woodson previously served 20 years in federal prison for a 1984 incident in which she and three others used a jackhammer to chip the concrete cover of a nuclear missile silo near Whiteman Air Force Base near Knob Noster.
Before hearing her new sentence, Woodson told Chief U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple that she would stage another symbolic protest immediately after serving whatever term he imposed.
“What you will be doing today is setting the date for my next action, and I invite you to be there that day,” Woodson said.
Whipple responded by calling her a “freeloader” who had depended on her friends and taxpayers to care for children that she adopted before going to prison after the Whiteman protest.
“You have taken a whole life from the seven children you adopted and abandoned,” Whipple said, referring to her pre-sentence report. “You abandoned three developmentally disabled children to be cared for by other persons and public institutions. … You’re a very selfish, self-centered person. That’s a disgrace.”
After the hearing, Carl Kabat, a Catholic priest and co-defendant in the Whiteman case, defended Woodson, saying the children had been well-cared for by friends after she went to prison.
Woodson was detained by deputy U.S. marshals on March 10 after she threw a mixture of red paint and cranberry juice, which resembled blood, on a security desk and screening device at the U.S. District Courthouse.
The day before, she had mailed threatening letters to judges and the commander at Whiteman. She followed those the next morning with similar letters titled “Second Warning.” And before coming to the courthouse on March 10, she made a threatening phone call to a courthouse employee, saying there was a weapon of mass destruction in the building.
Three days after her 1993 release from prison in the Whiteman silo protest, Woodson walked into an Illinois bank and used an unloaded starter pistol to get $25,000 from a teller.
According to press reports, she piled the money on the floor, burned it and told witnesses: “Money is evil. You don’t believe in God; you only worship money.”
Whipple will decide later how much time Woodson still must serve for violating the probation she received in the Illinois bank case. In either case, her latest 51-month sentence must be served consecutively to the remaining time from Illinois because of her unwillingness to abide by the terms of probation, Whipple ruled.
Addressing Whipple before sentencing, Woodson explained her protest in March. She contended that much evil in society — including nuclear weapons, toxic chemicals, abortion and capital punishment — is legal.
“The laws of the United States, upheld by the federal courts, are thus themselves weapons of mass destruction,” Woodson said. “And so my warning was, and is, the truth.”
Kansas City Star