First defendent takes the stand in Y-12 activists' trial

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- As the trial of three activists accused of breaking into and defacing Y-12 gets underway Tuesday morning, lawyers for both sides began laying the foundations of their cases.

Greg Boertje-Obed, Meagan Rice, and Michael Walli are accused of cutting through multiple fences and made their way to a weapons-grade storage facility. Once inside, they allegedly spent several minutes putting up banners and splashing blood onto the building before getting caught.

Sister Meagan Rice took the stand giving a background into her long education and year's spent teaching in Africa.

She said she had no worries trespassing onto Y-12 property.

"I kept my mind clear. Clearly we were led by the spirit of God," said Rice.

Rice went on to explain the items the trio brought along to present to guards. The three prayed for months before to prepare. They carried "truth symbols" with them including a candle, white rose, Bible, an indictment for Y-12 and bread.

Rice said she's spent years trying to beat the "culture of silence and culture of secrecy."

The three don't deny breaking in to the facility. In the defense's opening statements, in fact, their lawyers pointed out that they were able to do with household items. The defense emphasized that they must not have been much of a threat because the security guard who stopped them was authorized to use lethal force, but did not.

Prosecutors, though, asserted that not only did they break in and cause damage in excess of a $1,000, they also intended to interfere or obstruct national defense.

They tried driving that point home to jurors with their first witness Stephen Erhart, who works for Y-12. He testified that the facility's primary focus is nuclear determent, saying that without Y-12 we don't have a nuclear weapon.

The prosecution also showed surveillance videos from the morning of July 28th. They depict the trio entering the three chain link fences surrounding the uranium storage facility. It also shows all three bowing and lighting candles when the first guard arrives on scene.

Each is charged with intent to injure, interfere and obstruct national defense, as well as, depredation exceeding $1000 in damages to U.S. property. They each face 25 years in prison.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story identified the blood as pig's blood. It was, in fact, human blood.

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