August 9, 2012 — A jury will decide the case of a Kansas woman accused of sending a threatening letter to a doctor who was training to offer abortion care, U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten ruled Tuesday, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
In the letter, Angel Dillard said that thousands of people in the U.S. were looking into physician Mila Means' background, writing, "They 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 every day -- because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it" (Hegeman, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/7).
Means had planned to offer abortion care in Wichita after the 2009 murder of abortion provider George Tiller.
The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division filed a civil complaint, seeking 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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/18/2011).
Dillard had requested that a judge decide her case because a jury might be influenced by her association with Scott Roeder, who was convicted of murdering Tiller. Means has testified that she was particularly concerned after an Associated Press story quoted Dillard as saying she had developed a friendship with Roeder as he awaited trial.
Jurors will determine whether the letter constitutes a "true threat" intended to intimidate the physician from providing abortion care.
The judge also rejected a countersuit by Dillard alleging that the government violated her First Amendment rights (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/7).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership