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Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2006 07:10 pm

Avoiding jail

Springfield activist won't serve time for Iraq protest

Last month, Diane Lopez Hughes was preparing for the possibility of a prison sentence for protesting at a Chicago-area military installation after she and fellow activists Ceylon Mooney and Jeff Leys were arrested for trespassing when they entered the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command in Evanston and began reading the names of soldiers killed in Iraq.

Last Friday, Hughes learned her fate, but it’s not clear yet what will happen to her compatriots.

At her second hearing, Hughes offered what’s known as an Alford plea, not admitting guilt but agreeing that sufficient evidence exists for prosecutors to obtain a conviction. She was sentenced to court supervision, 30 hours of community service, a $100 fine, and court costs. Under the terms of the plea, reached with the Lake County state’s attorney’s office, once her sentence is completed, the conviction will be expunged from her record.

Hughes, a retired registered nurse, says that her volunteer work as a parish nurse at St. Joseph Church in Springfield will count toward her community-service requirement.

By not dragging her case out, Hughes says, she’ll be able to participate in future civil-disobedience activities. Moving forward with the court case — which, she says could take as long as a year — would prevent her from engaging in such peace-and-justice activities, which she retired to do more of earlier this year.

“This way, I was able to make a statement for the purpose of my action, which conveyed the seriousness of the ongoing war in Iraq, the loss of lives — both U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians — and resources,” Hughes says.

“The decision was a relief to me,” she says.

Hughes plans to travel to Waukegan to support her co-defendants, Leys and Mooney — who, for now, intend to have a jury trial, she says.

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