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Jailed Anti-Abortion Activist Released after Testifying

March 26, 1996

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) _ An anti-abortion activist who spent nearly a month in jail for refusing to answer a federal grand jury’s questions was freed Monday after telling the panel about a book on clinic violence.

Rae Powell said she told the grand jury that a former local activist gave her a copy of ``The Army of God,″ which describes how to blow up abortion clinics. Mrs. Powell said she returned the manual to Jennifer Sperle after making copies.

Mrs. Sperle, who moved from Norfolk to Wichita, Kan., last year, has said she is a target of the grand jury’s investigation into small fires at clinics in Norfolk and Newport News.

A small but vocal group regularly protests at local clinics, but they have denied using violence. They say the grand jury investigation is an effort to intimidate them.

``I think they’re going to hang somebody,″ Mrs. Powell said. ``I don’t think they care who.″

Mrs. Powell, who has been active in the Life Ministries anti-abortion group for six years, was arrested Feb. 28 after going before the grand jury and refusing to testify.

She said U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar warned her earlier Monday that she could face criminal contempt charges and a lengthy prison stay if she continued to stay silent.

Since investigators already knew the answers to what they were asking her, she said, she decided to go ahead and testify. Prosecutors have refused to comment throughout the investigation.

Mrs. Powell spent about 20 minutes before the grand jury in secret proceedings. In addition to the book, she also was asked about the clinic fires, but said she didn’t know anything about them.

A copy of ``The Army of God″ was found among the possessions of Shelley Shannon, a Grants Pass, Ore., woman who is serving a 10-year sentence in Kansas for attempted murder of an abortion doctor in 1993.

The grand jury is believed to have stemmed from a 16-month investigation into whether a national conspiracy existed to commit violence at abortion clinics. That probe ended in January without indictments.

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