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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

February-03-99

Federal Jury Finds "Un-wanted" Posters And "Nuremberg Files" To Be Threats, Not Free Speech

Washington DC -- Today, in Portland Oregon, a jury handed down the precedent-setting decision in the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE ) and RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act) lawsuit, Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/Willamette v. American Coalition of Life Activists et. al. This case originally filed in October, 1995, has resulted in the largest single punitive damage ever awarded by a jury to pro-choice forces, 107.5 million dollars. For the first time in a national case, "Un-Wanted Posters," and the infamous internet hit list "The Nuremberg Files" have been deemed threats under federal law, not protected free speech.
Both Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, and Katherine Spillar, National Coordinator of the Feminist Majority Foundation, have been targeted on the Nuremberg Files.

Smeal commented on the national significance of today's decision saying:

"Finally, common sense prevails - threats are deemed threats. This jury not only left no doubt that these are threats but by assessing a 107 million dollars in punitive damages, they said loud and clear that this is serious and must stop. We hope today's decision will embolden federal law enforcement to take criminal FACE and RICO cases to shut down the anti-abortion reign of terror once and for all.

For years, we have believed "Un-Wanted Posters" and similar materials amount to threats of violence against abortion providers and advocates.

Finally, after years of threats and violence, pro choice forces have succeeded in holding accountable in a federal case, a core of anti-abortion extremists whose actions we believe have endangered the lives of those who work every day in this country to provide women access to reproductive healthcare.

"This jury decision indicates a turning of the anti-abortion violent tide. Today's verdict marks the second time in less than a year a federal jury has found a nationwide network of extremists liable for an orchestrated campaign of terror. In April of 1998 pro-choice forces won the NOW et. al. v. Scheidler et. al. lawsuit, which found a network of extremists liable for over 100 counts of violence and extortion in violation of the federal RICO statute. After that victory, we called for federal law enforcement to take a criminal case to stop the terrorism at clinics. We renew that call today. We urge federal law enforcement authorities to bring this orchestrated campaign of terror and violence to an end through criminal prosecution under FACE and RICO."

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