By Jack Minor
DENVER – A federal judge in Denver has slapped down 10 motions made by federal prosecutors against a peaceful abortion protester in a case that observers say has far-reaching ramifications for those engaging in demonstrations of just about any type.
The Obama administration had assigned five federal prosecutors to go after Ken Scott, a pro-life advocate who passes out flyers and other information outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Denver.
Ken Scott and his wife, Jo, have a checkered history with the Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains facility in Denver. In 2008, Jo was convicted of violating the state’s first-in-the-nation bubble law after a pair of Planned Parenthood employees, pretending to be patients, recorded Jo Scott moving within eight feet of them.
Last June, Ken Scott was charged by the Department of Justice with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. The law creates an eight-foot floating bubble around anyone within 100 feet of the entrance to an abortion facility.
The facility is enclosed by a fence and Scott was standing outside the gate on a public sidewalk in order to comply with FACE requirements.
Officials claimed Scott blocked vehicles from entering the facility and other vehicles were obstructed from entering the facility when drivers pulled over to talk with and receive literature from him.
The civil complaint alleged that Scott was creating a “physical obstruction and unreasonable hazard” for cars entering the facility.
The Justice Department prosecutors asked the judge for an order preventing Scott from being within 25 feet of the entrance to the parking lot in order to prevent cars from stopping and talking to him.
During the hearing, Planned Parenthood’s security director, Mike Wagner, said he was not aware of any accidents because of Scott or of any allegations of violence against individuals. But Wagner testified that he felt “concerned and frightened” when he was behind a car that was stopped because of Scott, however, he did not bother to talk to the driver about blocking the entrance or get his license plate number.
After a full day of testimony that went into the evening, U.S. District Court Judge Philip Brimmer dismissed all 10 of the Justice Departments motions with a ruling from the bench.
Peter Breen, executive director and general counsel for the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, said the ruling was a huge blow to the prosecution and a victory for the First Amendment and life.
“This was a groundbreaking victory for free speech. The prosecution had asserted 10 different claims against Ken Scott and to be able to have the judge say that not a single one of the claims had any merit is a great vindication of Ken.”
Breen went on to say that he is optimistic about the case. As part of the preparation for the hearing in Denver 17 depositions were taken.
“The majority of the evidence is already out there and the other side is going to be hard pressed to find additional evidence on the 10 incidents,” he said.
Breen said the case has implications far beyond the pro-life movement.
“If the attorney general is successful in Denver against Ken Scott, it will shut down the free flow of information outside of abortion facilities across the country. The information offered is desired, no one is forcing those drivers to pull over and get the information.”
But based on Brimmer’s ruling, Breen said attorneys will be moving to have the charges against Scott dismissed.
The decision by the Obama Justice Department to prosecute Scott is part of an ongoing pattern of actions by the administration against pro-life protesters.
Under Obama’s administration, at least six pro-life supporters have been charged under the law compared to only one under President Bush.
Enforcement of the FACE law was stepped up following the murder of abortionist George Tiller by Scott Roeder.
Talk show entertainer Rachel Maddow claimed that Roeder conspired with Operation Rescue to murder Tiller despite Roeder’s never having been a member of the group. Her claims were based on Roeder calling a representative of Operation Rescue to get Tiller’s address.
Immediately following Tiller’s death, Operation Rescue and other pro-life groups came out in public condemnation of Roeder’s actions. Many abortion rights groups rejected the apology insisting that anyone who believed in the sanctity of life and opposed abortion was responsible for Tiller’s murder.
By contrast, when an elderly pro-life supporter was murdered in public for his beliefs, there was no similar condemnation from the pro-abortion community. James Pouillon was peacefully protesting outside of an abortion clinic when he was gunned down by Harlan Drake. During the trial Drake admitted he shot Pouillon because of his pro-life beliefs.
While a senator in Illinois, Barack Obama opposed a bill that would have given infants born alive after a “botched” abortion the right to life-sustaining medical treatment. Obama said his reason for opposing the bill was that it would “burden the original decision of the woman.”
Obama has received a 100 percent rating from the National Abortion on Rights Action League. NARAL recently opposed granting religious organizations exemptions from providing abortion inducing drugs under Obamacare.
In accordance with NARAL’s wishes, the administration recently announced that religious organizations such as Catholic hospitals would be forced to provide the abortion inducing contraceptives.
The earlier judge’s ruling on the issue of a sidewalk counselor came just days ago. U.S. District Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp of Florida said the case he was presented with by the feds against Mary Susan Pine was suspiciously like persecution.
“It is rather curious that the Department of Justice was able to meet with the [Presidential Women's Center in West Palm Beach, Fla.] staff and police officers the very next day after the alleged violations occurred. It is also curious that the government failed to make any efforts to obtain the identities of the passengers who are the alleged victims in this case – the court finds it hard to believe that the government was completely unaware of the existence of the sign-in sheets and video surveillance system.”
The judge continued, “The court can only wonder whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the government and the PWC, which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities rather than to vindicate the rights of those allegedly aggrieved by Ms. Pine’s conduct.
“If this is the case, the court would be inclined to sanction the government with, at a minimum, an adverse inference. Given the absence of further evidence substantiating the court’s suspicions, the court is not authorized to do so,” the judge wrote.
The judge’s 21-page ruling granting Pine a summary judgment and clearing her of the charges said the entire episode raised questions.