Five people cited at Beale Air Force Base while protesting the U.S. military's use of drones were arraigned Tuesday in Sacramento federal court on charges of unlawfully entering military property.
Through their attorneys, they pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanors and asked for a trial.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn K. Delaney set April 15 for a non-jury trial before her. If convicted, each faces a fine of not more than $5,000 and/or a prison term of not more than six months.
The defendants are Sharon Delgado, David Hartsough, Janet Hartsough, Jane Kesselman and Shirley Osgood.
Prosecutor Nicholas Fogg moved to dismiss four others who received citations for blocking two of the base's gates at the Oct. 30 protest but were not named in the charging document filed Tuesday by Fogg.
Delaney granted the motion.
According to Lauren Horwood, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, there was a group of protesters at each gate and the evidence against those cited at one of the gates was not strong enough to satisfy prosecutors.
Tuesday's hearing was preceded by a drone protest on the plaza and sidewalk outside the federal courthouse at Fifth and I streets. The defendants were among the 30 to 40 protesters. Some displayed banners and signs with messages such as "Do the Drones Hear the Cries of the Children Dying On the Ground?"
Armed with a loudspeaker, Kevin Baker was blaring out the group's message to pedestrians and motorists.
"When that bomb is released, it has no conscience," he announced. "When we get to this point, it is an unjust military."
Michael Hansen, one of the criminal defense lawyers who will represent the defendants, commented at the protest that people speaking out against drones "is just another step in the examination of our military."
Lawyer Mark Reichel said after the hearing that it is likely he and other defense attorneys will argue their clients are entitled to a jury trial.
"This is a political issue," he said, "and these people should have a right to present their case to a jury of their peers, not a judge."
Beale has been a target of anti-drone protests for years. It is home to the U2, the venerable 1950s spy plane, and the Global Hawk, an unmanned drone that is an "accomplice" in strikes carried out by other drones.
The Global Hawk is not armed and, instead, gives a theater commander a broad overview and pinpoint target surveillance.