Judge correct to throw the book at ‘Bangor 5’

Thanks and congratulations to U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle for reminding the world that our legal system exists to establish innocence and punish guilt, not as a megaphone through which to shriek half-baked political philosophy.

Settle on Monday sentenced five people — including two priests and a nun — to actual jail time for a 2009 protest at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

Or, to be more precise, for their criminal activity under the guise of legitimate protest.

Like all citizens, the “Bangor 5,” as they have been dubbed by a captivated media, have every right under the Constitution to express their objections to whatever they like — in this case the nuclear weapons stored at the Kitsap facility.

But the laws of society proscribe limits within which our protests must voiced, no matter how passionately one believes in his or her cause.

For the Bangor protesters — who ranged in age from 61 to 84 — these little excursions onto federal property either seemed like great sport or a way to focus more media scrutiny on their efforts than marching up and down the sidewalk with a sign could.

Hopefully, Judge Settle’s ruling this week disabused them of both notions.

As we’ve noted before, when the protesters aren’t causing a problem or breaking laws, they should be ignored so law enforcement and the judicial system deal with more dangerous criminals.

But if they’re more than a nuisance — when they’re breaking laws deliberately and habitually — any sentence that doesn’t discourage similar behavior is inadequate.

We pay local police, county deputies and state troopers to enforce the laws that keep us safe, not to provide photo ops for  a motley collection of geriatric deliquents who think they’re either too old or too well-connected to be held accountable when they break laws the rest of us are obliged to obey.

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