KNOXVILLE, TN (News Sentinel) -- Three protesters are in U.S. District Court today to face charges of trespassing, a misdemeanor, and willful and malicious destruction of property, a felony.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled before Federal Magistrate Judge G. Clifford Shirley.

The three apparently traversed the partially wooded Pine Ridge on the north side of the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in order to enter the plant during the dark, early morning hours of July 28 and ultimately reach the high-security zone known as the Protected Area.

According to the sworn affidavit of Eric Dugger, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Inspector General, the three protesters — Sister Megan Rice, 82; Michael Walli, 63, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57 — were able to cross the plant's initial boundary fence on the ridge near a Y-12 patrol road and then traveled about 600 meters, crossing Bear Creek Road at one point, until they came to a series of 8-foot-high fences loaded with alarms and sensors. Collectively, those fences form the plant's electronic Perimeter Intrusion Detection and Assessment System, which is supposed to alert security personnel to unauthorized entry.

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