Kan. prison officials charge doctor's killer

Associated Press

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The man convicted of killing one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers is now accused of trying to intimidate the woman who reopened his shuttered clinic, prison officials said.

The Kansas Department of Corrections said Tuesday it filed an administrative charge against inmate Scott Roeder under a prison regulation which prohibits threatening or intimidating anyone. The 55-year-old abortion opponent is serving a life sentence at the state prison in Lansing for gunning down George Tiller in May 2009 at the physician's Wichita church.

The administrative charge stems from a recorded jailhouse phone call that Dave Leach, an abortion opponent from Des Moines, Iowa, posted on YouTube last month that as of Wednesday had gotten 629 views. In it, Leach is heard saying that if someone shot the new abortion provider like Roeder shot Tiller it would be "a blessing to the babies." He called reopening the clinic where Tiller practiced "a gauntlet thrown down, by someone who wants a fight."

Roeder laughed and agree with Leach, saying on the recording that it was "death-defying" for someone to walk back into that clinic.

"To walk in there and reopen a clinic, a murder mill where a man was stopped, it's almost like putting a target on your back — saying, "Well, let's see if you can shoot me," Roeder said.

Julie Burkhart, executive director of the abortion rights group Trust Women, opened in April Wichita's first abortion clinic since Tiller's slaying nearly four years earlier. The South Wind Women's Center provides abortions and other medical services in the old building that once housed Tiller's clinic.

Burkhart did not immediately respond to a voice message left Wednesday on her cell phone.

DOC spokesman Jeremy Barclay said an administrative hearing will be scheduled to determine whether Roeder is guilty of the Class I offense. Such offenses are considered among the prison's most serious violations and can result in disciplinary segregation, loss of privileges and extra uncompensated work, according to the agency's website.

Barclay stressed Roeder is presumed innocent of the charge and the agency is seeking the administrative hearing because there "might be reason to believe" he violated the rule prohibiting intimidation. No date has apparently been set for the hearing, which is closed to the public, he said.

Roeder did not immediately respond to an email sent Wednesday to him at the prison by The Associated Press seeking comment.

Leach has been writing legal arguments which Roeder is filing in the appeal of his murder conviction, arguing the "necessity defense" which contends unborn human life is precious and defending it from abortion is not murder. He hopes to use Roeder's case to put that argument before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tiller, whose Wichita clinic closed after his death, championed abortion rights even after being shot in both arms by an anti-abortion activist in 1993. The clinic, heavily fortified after a bombing in 1986, was the target of both peaceful and violent protests spanning three decades.

Leach denied in a phone interview Tuesday from Des Moines that his intention in posting the video was to provoke people to violence. Opening an abortion clinic in another building in Wichita would not have enraged people as much as opening one in Tiller's former clinic, Leach said.

"Here we are talking about saying something that everybody already knows is already true," Leach said. "It is not a matter of saying something that you want to be true and that you are willing to participate in making true."

"If any district judge thought I could be prosecuted for a threat for saying what I did —which would be the same as he said — I would already be arrested," Leach said. "But with Scott they have a lot more wiggle room to accuse him of things which they couldn't get away with in a district court under criminal laws. That is tragic. I am sorry it is happening."

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