UPDATE: A federal judge refused to grant a preliminary injunction yesterday that would have banned anti-abortion activist Angel Dillard from coming near a doctor training to perform abortions in Wichita, the Associated Press reported. Dillard is accused of sending a threatening letter to Dr. Mila Means that referred to explosives being placed under Means' car and that talked about anti-abortion activists stalking Means.
However, Judge J. Thomas Marten didn't see the letter as a threat but did believe it was meant to intimidate Means. Really, judge? The letter in question was allegedly sent by a woman who said she admired the man who assassinated abortion provider George Tiller. Read the rest of the update after the jump ...
Original Story (April 18): Angel Dillard, the Kansas woman accused of sending a threatening letter to a
doctor training to perform abortions in Wichita, claims she never intended to make a "true threat," according to the Associated Press.
"I do not personally believe in acts of violence against anyone,
including abortion providers, and have never had any intent or desire to
personally perform such acts," Dillard wrote in an affidavit filed in
federal court. "I have never intended to
make a true threat of force against Dr. Means and have never done so."
U.S. Justice Department filed a civil complaint against Dillard for
violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act),
which outlaws intimidation and threats of force against abortion
providers and those seeking reproductive health services.
On about January 15, Dillard mailed a letter to Dr. Mila Means, in
which she allegedly makes references to explosives being placed under
"Thousands of people are already looking into your background,
in Wichita, but from all over the U.S." Dillard wrote in the
letter. "They will know your habits and
routines. They will know where
you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live. You
will be checking under your car everyday-because maybe today is the day
someone places an explosive under it."
In her affidavit, the 44-year-old Valley Center
woman claims she's never been to Means' clinic or home and wouldn't
recognize her if she saw her. She also denies contacting Means before or
after sending the letter. And she claims she hasn't picketed an abortion clinic in 20 years.
The Justice Department is seeking an order permanently barring Dillard
contacting Means and coming within 250 feet of Means, her home, her car
or her place of business. The government is also seeking damages of
$5,000 for the doctor and a civil penalty of $15,000.
In a declaration, Means wrote that she intends to
perform abortions in Wichita. She also wrote that she knew that Dillard
had corresponded with Scott Roeder, the man who assassinated
Wichita's last abortion provider, George Tiller, during his incarceration.
The AP reported on Dillard's friendship with Roeder in a July 2009
"With one move, (Roeder) was able ... to accomplish what we had not been
able to do," Dillard told the AP. "So he followed his convictions, and I
Dillard's attorney reportedly argued in a motion that "a person who
informs someone that he or she is in danger from a third party has not
made a threat."
The AP reports that a hearing on the government's request for a temporary restraining order to keep Dillard away from Means and her clinic is scheduled for Wednesday.
Dillard was featured in the 2009 documentary film What's the Matter with Kansas? See her introduction below.
The Associated Press reported that Judge J. Thomas Marten issued this ruling from the bench:
"The First Amendment is the absolute bedrock of this country's freedom, and I think the ability to express an opinion on a topic that is important to one -- even if it is controversial -- has to be protected so long as the line is not crossed and becomes a true threat. I don't think this letter constitutes a true threat," Marten said in his ruling from the bench.The judge went so far as to say that it's "pretty questionable" that the government's case will be successful.
"The association with Scott Roeder magnifies the concern of the threat. But because of the words she used, I think the letter is threatening even without that," Means said.She also reportedly said she's still planning to offer abortion services in Wichita and has set up a nonprofit to raise money to buy a building.