Abortion Foe Convicted in Anthrax Hoax

New York Times/December 4, 2003

Philadelphia -- A self-described "terrorist" who told jurors that abortion providers should be shot was convicted of mailing fake anthrax to women's clinics to try to shut them down.

The federal jury found Clayton Waagner guilty on 51 of 53 counts, including the most serious charge, threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Waagner, who was once on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted" list, could face decades in prison when he is sentenced. He is already serving a 49-year term for car theft and weapons violations. No new sentencing date was set.

The jury verdict, reached Wednesday after less than four hours of deliberation, followed a 2 1/2 week trial, during which Waagner represented himself.

Following the verdict, Waagner shook hands with prosecutors and told U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, "It was fun." He also said he intends to appeal.

In a rambling closing argument delivered hours earlier, Waagner argued that the government had not proven its case but stopped short of declaring himself innocent.

He told jurors he was "tickled" that someone had sent letters containing death threats and white powder to hundreds of clinics in 24 states in 2001. He also said only his abhorrence for killing prevented him from doing "what I should have done: shooting them, abortionists and clinic workers, in the head."

Waagner acknowledged he repeatedly confessed to sending the letters, but suggested he may have been taking credit falsely for an act he admired.

"Is my story true? That's for you to decide," he said.

Waagner was acquitted of two counts in which the government claimed that he had posted a threatening message on the Internet, warning that he planned to kill clinic workers.

Prosecutors said there is no question Waagner was behind the letters, which were sent at the same time of the anthrax attacks.

"This defendant threatened bombs, bullets and bioterrorism," said Justice Department attorney Sheila Berman. "When he did that, he violated their sense of security. He violated their peace of mind and he violated federal law."

Waagner, 47, of Kennerdell, was awaiting sentencing on gun charges when he escaped from prison in February 2001. He was on the run for 10 months before he was recaptured near Cincinnati.

Authorities said evidence found in the stolen Mercedes he was driving included copies of the death threats, the addresses of the targeted clinics and a detailed log that included entries like, "mailed anthrax" and "faxed FBI bomb threat."

Waagner told jurors he had dedicated his life to disrupting clinics.

"There is no question that I terrorized these people," Waagner said. "Let there be no question, I was doing stuff out there to shut down clinics."

But as to evidence indicating that he sent the letters, Waagner said jurors should find it hard to believe that a ninth-grade dropout like himself could have written them.

To illustrate his point, he turned to his standby attorney as he read one letter aloud and asked for help pronouncing the word "malaise."

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