James Kopp, the convicted murderer of a New York abortion provider, was sentenced today to the maximum allowable under the law, 25 years to life. Kopp, known as "Atomic Dog" within the anti-abortion extremist group Army of God, was convicted by Erie County Judge Michael D'Amico in March of the intentional murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian in 1998. "I don't think 25 to life even marginally reflects the seriousness of the crime, both to the family and the community," said Erie County district attorney Frank Clark, according to The Buffalo News. "If I could ask for 100 to life, I would."
"The Feminist Majority Foundation has long been urging the maximum sentence for Kopp, and we are relived that he will be behind bars for a very long time," said Katherine Spillar, executive vice president of FMF. "However, we believe that evidence suggests a network around Kopp aided and abetted him. It is clear that Kopp did not get Slepian's name from a phone book, as he claimed, and that he has worked with others in his some 15 years of harassing clinics"
"The Army of God terrorist network must be cracked if violence against abortion clinics is ever to stop," said FMF President Eleanor Smeal. "Our national Clinic Violence Survey reveals that violence is still threatening our nation's clinics at an intolerable level, with 23 percent of clinics experiencing severe violence each year."
Two of Kopp's accomplices during the two-and-a-half years he was on the run from law enforcement, Loretta Marra and Dennis Malvasi, accepted a plea deal last month that allowed them to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy in helping Kopp avoid capture. They now face four to five years in prison, but lawyers for the couple argue that they should receive much shorter sentences. Based on the amount of time the couple has already served while awaiting trial, they could be released immediately following sentencing. "Marra and Malvasi should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law to help shut down this terrorist network," said Smeal.
Kopp spoke today in front of the court for the first time, claiming his decision to shoot Dr. Slepian with a high-powered rifle was based on his "pro-life" beliefs. Kopp was on the FBI's Most Wanted List while he was on the run, and he has also been indicted for the 1995 shooting of Ontario abortion provider Dr. Hugh Short. He is the primary suspect in three separate shootings of abortion providers in Canada and New York. Kopp faces trial on federal charges under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act later this year.