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Judge Denies Injunction Against Antiabortion Advocate Who Sent Intimidating Letter

Judge Denies Injunction Against Antiabortion Advocate Who Sent Intimidating Letter

April 22, 2011 — U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Wednesday denied the U.S. Department of Justice's request for a preliminary injunction ordering an antiabortion-rights advocate to stay 250 feet away from a physician who plans to offer abortion care in Kansas, the AP/MSNBC reports.

Under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, DOJ's Civil Rights Division filed a civil complaint alleging that Angel Dillard sent a threatening letter to physician Mila Means. Means has said she plans to offer abortion care in Wichita to fill a need left by the 2009 murder of abortion provider George Tiller.

Dillard sent the letter in January. It states that thousands of people across the country are seeking information on Means, adding, "They will know your habits and routines. They 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."

The lawsuit seeks to permanently restrict Dillard from contacting Means or coming within 250 feet of her, her home, business or car. The lawsuit also seeks a penalty of $15,000 and damages of $5,000 for Means.

Details of Ruling, Testimony

In his ruling, Marten said that while the letter clearly was meant to intimidate Means, it does not constitute "a true threat." Marten cited the First Amendment, adding that "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." Marten also suggested that he is leaning toward dismissing the suit, according to the AP/MSNBC.

Means testified that she was more concerned about the letter after reading an article that cited a July 2009 interview with Dillard that said she was developing a relationship with Scott Roeder, the man convicted of shooting Tiller. Means said, "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 told reporters that she is still planning to offer abortion care and is developing a not-for-profit organization to raise funds to purchase a medical office building in which to do so (Hegeman, AP/MSNBC, 4/21).