WICHITA, Kan. -- Five anti-abortion protesters convicted last year of assaulting a federal marshal during protests at a Wichita abortion clinic were sentenced Friday to terms of up to 10 months in federal halfway houses.
The sentences were handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Patrick Kelly, who was at the center of more than six weeks of protests by the national anti-abortion group 'Operation Rescue' last summer. Those protests eventually resulted in more than 2,700 arrests.
Charles Matson, 48, Philadelphia, received a 10-month sentence.
Robert E. Cooley, 40, of New Hartford, Conn., Gary Leber, 36, of Binghamton, N.Y., and Ronald Taylor of Wake Forest, N.C., were each sentenced to eight months. Merrie Turner, 38, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced to six months.
Their sentences will be served at minimum-security halfway houses, and Kelly ordered that they be considered for work release programs.
In addition to their confinement, the five will all serve one year of federal probation, during which Kelly warned them not to be involved in any abortion clinic blockades.
Kelly also ordered each of the five to pay a $25 assessment to a crime victims' fund.
The five were among a group of 40 who scaled a fence to block access to the Women's Health Care Services clinic on Aug. 20, 1991. The clinic was the focus of the 'Summer of Mercy' protests and was one of two protected by a federal court order issued by Kelly banning clinic blockades.
The 40 were arrested and charged with interfering with a court order by assaulting a federal marshal.
Thirty-five of those arrested accepted a plea bargain and have been placed on probation. The five sentenced Friday would not accept the plea bargain's terms and were convicted after a jury trial last November.
During that trial, deputy U.S. marshals testified that they felt threatened by the aggressive behavior of the protesters.
Before passing sentence, Kelly emphasized that the defendants were not being punished for participating in the clinic blockades.
'You are not here for having 'rescued,'' Kelly said, using Operation Rescue's term for its clinic blockades. 'You are here for having assaulted a federal marshal. There isn't a law enforcement officer out there who need tolerate that.'