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Kan. woman denies threats against abortion doctor

Posted by on May. 17, 2011 at 3:36 PM
  • 8 Replies

By ROXANA HEGEMAN

An anti-abortion activist accused of sending a threatening letter to a Kansas doctor filed a counterclaim Tuesday against the Justice Department, contending that the government's lawsuit against her has had "an unlawful chilling effect" on her free speech and religious rights.

The claims were made in the Angel Dillard's formal response to the complaint filed last month by the Justice Department under a federal law aimed at protecting access to abortion services. The government contends the 44-year-old Valley Center woman sent a threatening letter to Dr. Mila Means, a Wichita doctor who was training at the time to offer abortion services at her practice.

In a rambling letter she sent Means in January, Dillard wrote that thousands of people from across the United States were looking into Means' background.

Story: Kansas tightens abortion clinic regulations

"They will know your habits and routines. They know where you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live," the letter said. "You will be checking under your car everyday — because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it."

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division sued Dillard under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. The government's lawsuit seeks a court order permanently prohibiting Dillard from contacting Means or coming within 250 feet of the doctor, her home, car or business. It also seeks damages of $5,000 for the doctor and a penalty of $15,000.

In her counterclaim, Dillard claims the government's conduct has intimidated and interfered with her First Amendment right to worship where she chooses because her church is located less than 250 feet from Means' office.

Dillard is seeking attorney fees, court costs, statutory damages of $5,000 per violation, as well as punitive damages to deter the government and its agents from further alleged violations of constitutional rights.

The government's "actions have had, and continue to have an unlawful chilling effect on Defendant's and others' right to free speech and free exercise of religion," according to the defense filing.

The Justice Department declined comment Tuesday on Dillard's filing.

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten ruled last month that while Dillard's letter was clearly meant to intimidate Means, it wasn't a threat. The judge denied the government's request for a preliminary injunction at that time, calling the First Amendment the "absolute bedrock of this country's freedom" and ruling the letter was not a true threat.

Marten ordered both sides to present written briefings before he sets a hearing on an earlier defense request to dismiss the lawsuit. A hearing date has not been set.

The Justice Department has not yet responded specifically in a court filing to the defense request to dismiss the lawsuit.

No abortions have been openly performed in Wichita since an anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder executed Dr. George Tiller, one of the nation's few remaining late-term abortion providers, during Sunday morning services at Tiller's church in May 2009.

Last week, the government filed an amended complaint against Dillard that added quotes from an Associated Press story which had quoted Dillard during a 2009 interview talking about her friendship with Roeder and her admiration that he had followed his convictions.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43064742/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/

Do you think there was a violation of free speech?

by on May. 17, 2011 at 3:36 PM
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Replies (1-8):
Veni.Vidi.Vici
by on May. 17, 2011 at 3:40 PM

You might be able to say whatever you wish, but that is never a guarantee that you will never have to answer for it. I find it unfortunate that she didn't anticipate that kind of reaction. I say, if that's the case, she isn't too bright.

Jenniejen77
by on May. 17, 2011 at 3:45 PM

ITA. In my opinion, if you are going to tell someone they need to check their car every day for bombs, then your freedom of speech ends because you are infringing on somebody else's rights. 

Quoting Veni.Vidi.Vici:

You might be able to say whatever you wish, but that is never a guarantee that you will never have to answer for it. I find it unfortunate that she didn't anticipate that kind of reaction. I say, if that's the case, she isn't too bright.


Arroree
by Ruby Member on May. 17, 2011 at 11:35 PM

We may have the right to free speech but its also illegal to threaten someones life. She lost her right to say what she wanted the minute she started threating the doctors life, period.

Kaelansmom
by on May. 17, 2011 at 11:37 PM

I agree with the others..

Freedom of speech does not mean you get to run around, threatening people.. kind of like, you can't yell (or say) bomb in an airport or FIRE in a theater

mom_of_3_angels
by Member on May. 17, 2011 at 11:40 PM
She hasn't lost her right to free speech. She can say whatever she wants. She doesn't, however, have the right to be free from consequences.
Jenniejen77
by on May. 18, 2011 at 1:58 AM

BUMP!

V.Dubbya
by Valley on May. 18, 2011 at 2:31 AM
Agree with all the above.

I'll add she's a class A idiot for sending threatening letters to someone in her proverbial back yard (or at least her church's). She had to know her action would warrant a strong response and possible restraining order.
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tharealty2
by on May. 18, 2011 at 3:59 AM

no,. terroristic threatening is not covered under free speech.

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