Syracuse July 31, 2014 After two hours of deliberation,Vietnam Veteran and Buffalonian Russell Brown, was acquitted tonight by a six person jury in the DeWitt town court, East Syracuse in Upstate New York. Brown faced charges of Obstruction of Governmental Administration (OGA), a misdemeanor carrying up to a year incarceration and up to $1000 fine, as well as Disorderly Conduct charge, a violation. Mr. Brown who went before the court Pro Se (he served as his own counsel) was assisted by Buffalo Attorneys Daire Irwin and Paul Fallon.
Mr. Brown was arrested during a nonviolent protest at Hancock Air National Guard Base, home of the 174th Attack Wing, on April 28, 2013. In a roadway (blocked off by police) across from the base, he lay down to symbolize the death of drone victims. There are twice-monthly demonstrations at Hancock Airbase. On at least six occasions there have been arrests, leading to six trials since 2011. Currently there are 20 activists, working with Upstate Drone Action, facing jury trials in the DeWitt town court.
A U.S. marine from 1965 - 1967, Brown testified that his participation in senseless killing and brutality in Vietnam informed his understanding of the Drone War Program at the 174th Attack Wing.
Laying in the south lane of East Molloy Rd with "blood" spattered clothes lifted a weight of guilt from Russell. Brown’s testimony was closely attended by the jury. Brian Hynes, a fellow anti-drone activist, said, "The jury saw the human power of the message and the public value of the method used to deliver it. Drones kill senselessly and illegally and traumatize our airmen."
Russell said that the wars of the last decade brought back his experiences in Vietnam. “Lying in that road was the most peaceful moment I've experienced since I left Vietnam,” he said. "I was silent then in the face of those atrocities and I can't be silent anymore."
The jury was smiling as they returned to give the verdict. Later one juror asked a supporter to "Thank Russell for us! My brother was in the Vietnam War and lost his leg. We know what the vets went through." The juror also acknowledged the PTSD drone pilots experience. Another juror said, "We did what was needed to be done. It was fair and just.".