Longform

The Fight of Their Lives

Page 16 of 23

In November, Congress passed legislation making it a federal crime to assault patients and health workers at abortion clinics. Within a hundred feet of a clinic, protesters were also prohibited from coming within eight feet of patients or employees.

That same month, Hern got a call from a staffer at a Buffalo, New York, clinic. They were worried about a particularly obnoxious group of protesters who'd shown up there in a van with Colorado license plates. A couple of weeks later, a woman from Tiller's Wichita clinic called. What, she asked, did Hern know about a tall, angry man named Ken Scott?

August 1993 was a busy time for Scott. Already in trouble with the police for stalking his ex-wife, on August 10 he was charged with assaulting a woman at a gathering for the Pope. (He was convicted in April 1994.)

The next day he was again arrested, this time at the Planned Parenthood clinic at 20th and Vine. A Denver judge had granted the clinic a temporary restraining order during the Pope's visit; Scott had violated it.

When he refused to pay a $1,000 fine for the violation, Scott was sentenced to ten days in jail. He was out in plenty of time, however, for a jaunt to Kansas and points east.

In January 1994, Scott was convicted of stalking and harassing his ex-wife--"a Jezebel" and his "chattel," who would be committing adultery if she remarried, he told the court. His sentencing was set for May; in the meantime he was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, during which he denied ever hitting his wife.

"Mr. Scott does demonstrate a personality style that makes it difficult for him to recognize any faults in himself," the psychologist reported. "He believes that his problems are unique and can only be understood by himself and other religious people and is preoccupied with finding fault and placing blame on others.

"The examiner remains quite concerned about this defendant's access to weapons," the psychologist concluded, adding that he was "concerned about the possibility that this defendant's anger, combined with his religious beliefs, in respect to his anti-abortion stand, could lead to some extreme lethality on the part of the defendant."

On May 1, Newell delivered his own report on Scott to Planned Parenthood. Scott's actions at the 20th and Vine clinic were becoming increasingly belligerent, and clinic officials wanted to ask the courts for help. Lately, Scott had been directing his rage at a clinic counselor who helped coordinate the volunteer escorts in the parking lot. When the woman signed a trespassing complaint against Scott on behalf of the clinic, he had taken it as a personal affront and began threatening to "get" her and her family. Once he'd even followed her home.

Newell had talked with Denver police officer Alta Metzinger, who'd responded to numerous clinic complaints about Scott. "It is obvious that Mr. Scott is more boisterous and belligerent because the neighbors are signing complaints more than the clinic staff now," she told Newell. "He is really losing it. He may blow up and become more violent any day now."

Newell concluded: "Subject displays Stalker behavior, in that he uses his 'cause' to omnipotently justify his lawlessness. The danger in this pattern...is that religiously motivated fanatics historically evolve from passive lawful behavior to civil disobedience and subsequently to violent assault on property and persons...which has been witnessed throughout this country, i.e., arson, murder."

With Newell's report in hand, Planned Parenthood officials went to court on behalf of the counselor being harassed by Scott. Although Scott's threats had been veiled in his usual Biblical prose, they were enough to convince a judge to issue a permanent restraining order. Scott was to remain at least a hundred feet from the counselor. That meant he could no longer protest in front of the clinic where she worked, so Scott moved two blocks to 18th Avenue and Vine.

Later that month, Scott was sentenced to five and a half months in jail for stalking his ex-wife. He was still behind bars on July 30, 1994, when former minister Paul Hill blasted away at the same Florida clinic where Gunn had been killed. This time, Dr. John Britton and his volunteer escort, Lieutenant Colonel James Barrett, were killed. Barrett's wife was wounded.

At trial, Hill, who represented himself, called the attack "justifiable homicide." The jury convicted him of first-degree murder.

"You have a responsibility to protect your neighbor's life and to use force, if necessary, to do so," Hill said after his conviction. The jury promptly sentenced him to die in the electric chair.

Scott might be in jail, but Newell wasn't through with him. He contacted Tracy and asked to speak with her about her ex-husband. She had already talked to agents of the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and even the IRS about Scott. After discussing it with Bob, she agreed to meet Newell.

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Steve Jackson