Anti-abortion activist Angel Dillard will stand trial for allegedly sending threats to an abortion doctor, the Associated Press reports. Dillard had hoped for a bench trial rather than a jury trial, but U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten decided Tuesday that a jury could judge her fairly. The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is suing Dillard for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.
Dillard is accused of sending a threatening letter to Wichita doctor Mila Means. In part, Dillard's missive read: "Thousands of people are already looking into your background, not just in Wichita, but from all over the U.S. They will 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 everyday-because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it."
Since being charged last year, Dillard has tried a couple of creative defenses for her letter to Means.
First, Dillard claimed that she wasn't seriously threatening Means. She filed an affidavit calling the letter not a "true threat." "I do not personally believe in acts of violence against anyone, including abortion providers, and have never had any intent or desire to personally perform such acts," she wrote. "I have never intended to make a true threat of force against Dr. Means and have never done so."
Then she tried claiming that the letter was just an expression of free speech. The judge didn't buy that excuse either.
In June, Dillard trotted out religious freedom as a reason that she shouldn't be prosecuted. She said the letter was "divinely inspired" and is protected by free speech and religious freedom. That defense was rejected as well.
The government wants $20,000 in fines and damages as well as a court order stopping Dillard from contacting Means or coming within 250 feet of Means, her home, car or business.