Abortion Protesters Given Deferred Jail Time
BELLEVUE, Wash. (AP) _ A judge sentencing 48 abortion protesters Friday on trespassing charges deferred jail time for many defendants, even though they did not promise to obey the law in future demonstrations.
Several defendants who had prior convictions for criminal trespass were sentenced to short jail terms while most other protesters had their jail time deferred and their fines reduced to $1,000.
Elsewhere, Minneapolis police arrested 153 protesters who refused to leave the entrance of an abortion clinic and 42 people were arrested in Madison, Wis., during a demonstration at a women’s clinic.
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union in Nashville, Tenn., filed a lawsuit in federal court to block a state law requiring the consent of both parents before a minor can obtain an abortion.
In Bellevue, Rindal handed down the sentences after hearing more than an hour of legal arguments and viewing an anti-abortion videotape.
Fifty-seven people were arrested Nov. 12 at the Bellgrove Ob-Gyn Inc. clinic when they attempted to block the clinic in a ″rescue″ demonstration designed to prevent women from entering to have abortions.
Michael Pickett was sentenced to the maximum penalty, 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, after telling District Court Judge Joel Rindal, ″As long as children are continuing being killed, I will continue rescuing.″
Rindal asked the first to be sentenced, Jerome Zeigler-Buccola, whether he intended to commit more crimes. Defense attorney Thomas Olmstead advised Zeigler-Buccola not to respond, and he didn’t.
Rindal said he took Zeigler-Buccola’s silence to mean he wouldn’t commit more crimes and sentenced him to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine, but deferred the sentence for two years provided Zeigler-Buccola commit no crimes during that time.
Zeigler-Buccola was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine to cover the city’s costs of dealing with the demonstration.
Nearly identical sentences were handed down to other defendants, who also obeyed Olmstead’s instruction not to answer when Rindal asked whether they would commit more crimes.
In April, Rindal stunned his audience at the initial sentencing hearing when he told protesters he would sentence them to $5,000 in fines and a year in jail unless they promised to avoid abortion ″rescue″ attempts for two years.
He then gave them until this month to decide.
At the start of Friday’s hearing, Rindal said he had received 1,026 letters on the case, only 53 supporting his threat to jail the protesters for a full year. He said he stayed up until early Friday morning re-reading the letters.
Police stood at doorways to the courthouse and courtroom observers had to pass through a metal detector. But there were no confrontations, unlike earlier Friday in Seattle, when 53 demonstrators were arrested for blocking the entrance to a women’s health clinic.
In Minneapolis, the protesters went limp when officers tried to arrest them. About 200 additional demonstrators sang outside the Metropolitan Medical Office Building building for two hours before and during the arrests.
Police said 42 people in Madison, Wis., were arrested on misdemeanor counts during the three-hour demonstration at the Bread & Roses Medical Center for Women.
The lawsuit in Tennessee seeks a temporary injunction against enforcement of the law that requires both parents consent for a minor’s abortion until a judge can rule whether it is constitutional.
A hearing before U.S. District Judge John Nixon was scheduled for June 30, one day before the law becomes effective on July 1.
In West Hartford, Conn., state officials warned that anti-abortion activists crowding state jails since last weekend could trigger the automatic release of as many as 800 inmates.
William Flower, a Department of Correction spokesman, said 175 demonstrators who refused to give their names remained jailed Friday. More than 260 were arrested during last Saturday’s protest at the Summit Women’s Center.
State law requires 10 percent of the state’s prison population to be released if prisons reach 110 percent of capacity for 30 consecutive days; 10 percent would be about 800 inmates, Flower said.
In San Francisco, a federal appeals court overturned $59,000 in damages awarded to five anti-abortion protesters from a San Diego abortion clinic, saying citizen’s arrests of the protesters did not violate their civil rights.
Clinic officials were not acting under government authority when they made the arrests and therefore were not liable under federal law forbidding rights violations ″under color of state law,″ said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 3-0 decision.