Judge Charles E. Foos III didn't pipe in Beatles tunes or burn incense yesterday, but the trial of several peace activists was close to a love-in anyway.
Saying that "war is senseless," the judge placed on the inactive docket criminal trespassing charges against members of the "Middle River Nine," who spattered the entrance of Martin Marietta Corp.'s Middle River plant with blood in May.
"I've been arrested 25, 30 times in protests around the country, and never have I been treated so fairly and courageously by one judge," said Max Obuszewski, a longtime peace worker from Baltimore and one of those who appeared in Essex District Court.
As Judge Foos correctly pronounced the defendant's name, Mr. Obuszewski began a brief but cordial conversation with him in Polish.
"He was definitely not locked into decorum of the courtroom," Mr. Obuszewski said.
Judge Foos even let one of the protesters, Kim Williams of Norfolk, Va., make a public statement about the protest against Martin Marietta, which she said was "deeply tied to the arms race. . . . It is wrong to build weapons that kill people."
Judge Foos also allowed two defendants to wear signs around their necks that read: "Hungry for Housing."
Unlike other defendants, who appeared on drunken-driving or minor criminal charges, the "Middle River Nine" were thanked by Judge Foos for coming to the trial.
The judge's secretary said he would not comment on the trial. Al Kamhi, spokesman for Martin Marietta in Orlando, Fla., said the company had no comment.
Assistant State's Attorney Linda Fox and Martin Marietta's attorney, Valarie French, arranged the deal in which the state agreed to a stet, meaning the trespassing charges were put on the inactive docket for a year. The defendants will have the charges expunged from their records if they are not arrested during that time.
The others charged were Lynn Fredrickson, Maurice Morales and Lin Romano of Baltimore and Mary Franke of Norfolk. John Bell and Stephanie Haskins of Washington, D.C., did not appear for trial. Judge Foos allowed the group's attorney to notify them of his decision by mail.
Another member of the group received a citation, similar to a traffic ticket, the day of the protest and was not arrested.
On May 24, the group gathered at Martin Marietta's Naval and Aero Systems division building in Middle River, knocked on a door and read aloud a letter addressed to Martin Marietta's chairman, Norman R. Augustine.
The protest was timed as a 25th anniversary observation of the "Catonsville Nine" draft board raid, when blood was poured over Selective Service records on Frederick Road.
"We call on you to stop the war-making," Mr. Bell read at the protest. "It is not enough to say that all of this weapons work makes jobs. . . . The Catonsville Nine protest raised a voice against the Vietnam War, but it was also a voice raised against militarism. . . . the policies that line the pockets of war-makers like yourselves at a terrible cost." The company makes Patriot missiles and launchers, and night-vision systems for F-16 fighters. About 70 percent of its work is defense-related.
Last month, Martin Marietta decided to close 10 plants nationwide and eliminate 2,000 jobs as part of a companywide consolidation related to its $3 billion purchase of General Electric Co.'s aerospace division.
The future of the Middle River plant and its 1,600 workers remains in doubt, federal, state and county officials say.
Mr. Obuszewski said yesterday that peace activists were aware of recent combat in Somalia that killed 12 Americans, wounded 78 others and resulted in the reported capture of at least eight by forces loyal to warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.
"U.S. troops are dying again," Mr. Obuszewski said as he left the courtroom. "I'll see you again."