Seven Harrisburg Defendants Refuse to Plea at Arraignment
U. S. District Judge Dixon Herman entered a plea of "not guilty" on behalf of Father Philip Berrigan and six of the seven other persons indicted with him on conspiracy charges when the defendants refused to enter pleas at their arraignment in Harrisburg yesterday.
The one other defendant, Father Neil McLaughlin, was absent due to the death of his father. He will be arraigned next Wednesday.
Instead of pleading on their own behalf yesterday, the defendants attempted to read statements condemning the war and the indictments against them. Judge Herman refused to allow them to complete their statements.
When the judge asked Berrigan whether he should enter a "not guilty" plea for him. Berrigan commented, "I can't relate to that indictment."
After the arraignment, the defendants released a statement containing "a plea for the lives of the Indochinese and Americans being killed and brutalized by the war the U. S. government wages against Indochina."
Six of the eight defendants were arraigned in February on the charges contained in the original conspiracy indictment issued by the Harrisburg Grand Jury on January 12. The Grand Jury issued new, "superseding" indictments against them and two other defendants on April 30.
The eight defendants are now charged - in one count of conspiracy-with plotting to destroy Selective Service files, blow up heating tunnels in Washington, D. C., and kidnap Henry Kissinger '50, special assistant to President Nixon.
The charge that they conspired to destroy Selective Service files did not appear in the first indictment.
In their statement, the defendants compared the broadening of the conspiracy charges to the government's repeated escalations of the war which, they said, it has lost many times over.
They repeated the claim they made after their first arraignment that, "Unlike the government, we are neither bombers, kidnappers, nor conspirators."