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Judge Marten Dismissive of Threatening Letter to Dr. Means

By Vickie Stangl
Opinion | April 22, 2011


Dr. George Tiller
WICHITA, Kan. - Apparently anti-abortion fanatic Angel Dillard can intimidate and threaten Dr. Mila Means. A federal judge maintains that Dillard's violent rhetoric is really not all that threatening and thus is political speech to be protected.

History should not repeat itself in Wichita. For too many years public officials allowed threatening mailers, violent rhetoric, confrontational protests and other abuses to be hurled against Dr. George Tiller. This protected speech escalated until Dr. Tiller was murdered. One would hope that those same public officials would have learned how words can be the trigger to physical violence. As Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. stated: "Freedom of speech is not absolute." Dillard's irresponsible speech leaves little doubt that her words were not loaded with bad intentions.

While a two-year old would have no problem understanding the difference between Dillard's threatening speech versus true political speech, a grown judge can't seem to make this distinction. In her letter to Dr. Means, Dillard never specifically states she is going to personally harm Means, but I do think it can be argued beyond any doubt that the threat was more than implied.

Let's examine the free speech the judge believed Dillard was rightfully exercising. Her lovely letter to Dr. Means included the friendly reminder, "They (meaning all those peaceful, culture of life, law abiding citizens like Scott Roeder) will know your habits and routine. They know where you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live". And, to be even further helpful, Dillard adds in the most sweet manner, " You will be checking under your car everyday-because maybe today is the day someone (hmmm, maybe Dillard?) places an explosive under your car."

The judge would have everyone believe that Dr. Means is overreacting to Dillard's opinion and has nothing to fear. At least, that's how the federal judge is leaning at this time and has refused to grant an injunction against this very disturbed individual to stay far away from Dr. Means.

Federal Judge J. Thomas Marten was quoted in the Wichita Eagle as stating "The First Amendment is the absolute bedrock of this country's freedom and I think 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. I don't think this letter constitutes a true threat."

I agree with Judge Marten that the First Amendment is the bedrock of this country's freedom. Nothing is more important in a democracy. Citizens must be able to freely disagree with their government or speak out about something they believe in. However, I vehemently disagree with Judge Martin's logic. He has failed to note that Dillard was not expressing a political opinion in her letter, nor even expressing why she believed abortion was wrong. Her letter was clearly a not so veiled threat against Dr. Means and that Means better watch her step because it might just be her last.

To make this case even more baffling is the judge's own statement that he has also received death threats but never prosecuted anyone. Well, bully for him. I would venture he probably had protection provided when threatened and/or did not feel the threat was credible or he would have most certainly had the right to do exactly what Dr. Means had the right to do; ask the court for protection.

I don't think any medical doctor believes that providing legal medical services to patients means they can expect death threats. Dr. Means is not an "abortion doctor" she is a doctor. Wichita would do well to protect Dr. Means instead of pretending anti-abortion speech is free and harmless when we all know that is a lie.


2 Comments

Vickie--What does a person have to do to get Judge Marten's attention? Even the Justice Department thought Dillard was enough of a threat to bring charges against her. I'm also a strong free speech advocate, but Dillard, in her letter, was definitely yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater. It's amazing how being an anti-choice extremist protects people when it comes to the courts.

I hope someone is keeping a close eye on Dillard, unlike they were Roeder. She's a scary woman.


I don't have much respect for the Kansas court after reading this!


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