Crime & Courts

April 16, 2011

Woman: Letter to doctor did not intend 'true threat'

A Valley Center woman accused of sending a threatening letter to a doctor planning to perform abortions in Wichita said Friday that she never intended to make a "true threat."

A Valley Center woman accused of sending a threatening letter to a doctor planning to perform abortions in Wichita said Friday that she never intended to make a "true threat."

The affidavit filed in federal court by 44-year-old Angel Dillard offers the first glimpse of her defense strategy since the Justice Department filed a civil complaint against her last week. The lawsuit accuses Dillard of violating a law protecting abortion clinics when she mailed a letter to Mila Means after learning the physician was training to offer abortion services at her Wichita practice.

Dillard's affidavit was in a motion filed Friday by her attorney, Donald McKinney, seeking a one-day delay of next week's hearing on the government's request for a temporary restraining order to keep Dillard away from the doctor and her clinic. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten set a new hearing for Wednesday.

Dillard said in her affidavit that she has never been to Means' clinic or home and has never met the doctor and would not know her if she saw her. She said she had no contact with Means either before or after she sent the letter, has not publicly protested against her and had no intention of doing so. She said she has not protested at an abortion clinic for about 20 years.

"I do not personally believe in acts of violence against anyone, including abortion providers, and have never had any intent or desire to personally perform such acts," Dillard wrote in her affidavit.

She added, "I have never intended to make a true threat of force against Dr. Means and have never done so."

The civil lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, also seeks a court order permanently prohibiting Dillard from contacting the doctor or coming within 250 feet of the doctor, her home, car or business. It also seeks damages of $5,000 for the doctor and a civil penalty of $15,000.

The reassuring tone of Dillard's affidavit differs from the tone in her January letter, which claimed thousands of people from across the United States were looking into Means' background.

"They will know your habits and routines. They know where you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live," the letter said. "You will be checking under your car everyday — because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it."

Dillard's attorney's motion argued that "a person who informs someone that he or she is in danger from a third party has not made a threat."

Abortions have not been performed in Wichita since George Tiller, one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers, was fatally shot in May 2009 in his Wichita church by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder.

Dillard, a Christian songwriter, told the Associated Press in July 2009 that she developed a friendship with Roeder when he was imprisoned awaiting trial.

"With one move, (Roeder) was able... to accomplish what we had not been able to do," Dillard said. "So he followed his convictions, and I admire that."

Her attorney told the court in his filing that the government's action would unfairly affect Dillard's husband, Rob Dillard, who works as a physician in the emergency room at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita. He said the restraining order the government is seeking under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act would not only apply to Dillard — who has no criminal record — but anyone who may be her representative or acting in concert with her. He contended such a vague request implicated her husband and members of her church.

Related content