Kopp sentenced to 25 years to life

By SYLVIA CUKAN, United Press International  |  May 9, 2003 at 3:48 PM
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BUFFALO, N.Y., May 9 (UPI) -- James Charles Kopp, convicted of the murder of abortion doctor Dr. Barnett Slepian, was sentenced Friday to the maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

"We have no reaction to the sentence, the sentence is exactly what we thought it was going to be," said Kopp's attorney Bruce A. Barket.

Kopp, 48, received the maximum sentence for shooting Slepian in front of his wife and four sons with a single bullet through a kitchen window in 1998.

Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark said he advocated that Kopp's action deserved nothing less than the maximum term under the law -- 25 years to life.

No witnesses testified during the one-day stipulated bench trial in March when Deputy District Attorney Joseph J. Marusak and Barket submitted into evidence 35 pages of stipulated facts and 45 exhibits that the prosecution and defense had agreed on. The first agreed upon fact was: "That the defendant shot Dr. Slepian with a rifle Oct. 23, 1998."

Kopp did not testify at the March hearing, but he spoke for more than an hour at his sentencing.

He admitted he shot Slepian but that he did not intend to kill him, only wound him in his shoulder to keep him from performing more abortions. Kopp said he aimed at Slepian's shoulder but the bullet took a crazy ricochet, but that his goal was to keep Slepian alive.

Kopp also said at the sentencing that the Town of Amherst, the Buffalo suburb where Slepian lived, "cooperated with evil the day they permitted him to live there."

Kopp pleaded innocent to both the state charge of intentional murder and the federal charge of interfering with the right to an abortion. If convicted of the federal charge he faces 25 years to life in prison.

An anti-abortion activist, Kopp had been arrested several times for attempting to block abortions at clinics.

A jury trial had been expected to begin in March, but it was unexpectedly canceled when it was announced that Kopp had chosen to waive his right to a jury.

Kopp was arrested in Dinan, France, on March 29, 2001, after an extensive manhunt that had him on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.

The federal charges against Kopp had carried the death penalty. However, his extradition requested by the U.S. government included assurances to France, which abolished capital punishment in 1981, that prosecutors would not seek the death penalty.

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