Randall Terry, the founder of the militant anti-abortion Operation Rescue, and three other leaders of a raucous demonstration at a family planning clinic promised Tuesday to return for trials in Los Angeles as dozens of their cohorts trickled out of jail.
Terry, 29, and the other three men, in jail since they were arrested Saturday with more than 700 other demonstrators, pleaded not guilty at their arraignment, attorney Douglas McMann said.
Terry and Michael J. McMonagle, 36, of Pennsylvania, will face trial April 17 for two counts each of conspiracy and one count each of trespassing and resisting arrest. All the charges are misdemeanors, and the maximum penalty is $10,000 and one year in jail.
Arraigned with Terry and McMonagle in Municipal Court were Donald D. Bennette, 35, of Mission Viejo and Andrew P. Eppink, 41, of Palmdale. Each faces one count of trespassing and one count of resisting arrest.
The four men, who prosecutors said incited the demonstrating crowd on Saturday by instructing them to block access to the clinic, were arrested on felony complaints, but the district attorney’s office on Monday declined to file felony charges, saying that it did not have a case.
Terry, McMonagle, Bennette and Eppink, looking a bit haggard but alert, exchanged glances with the two dozen supporters who filled the courtroom’s benches. All entered not-guilty pleas.
“I want our day in court,” Terry said in promising that he would not flee but would obey an order to appear for trial. He said that, at this point, he would “just as soon” go home to Binghamton, N.Y., to see his wife and four children.
Deputy City Atty. Alice Hand asked the court to set bail at $10,000 for Terry and McMonagle, arguing that both men had already been arrested 20 to 30 times in Operation Rescue activities nationwide and were likely to flee.
“They are here (in Los Angeles) only for the purpose of breaking our laws,” she said. But Commissioner David A. Stephens denied the motion, saying that the overriding considerations were the seriousness of the crimes and whether Terry and McMonagle pose dangers to the public.
“We all know they are going to continue their crimes of conscience,” he said, in setting bail for the two at $250.
The arraignment of Terry and the three others marked the end of a torturous process that had begun the day before as deputy city attorneys put more than 300 cases through the legal process. Most refused to give their real names, identifying themselves only as John Doe or Jane Doe, until they learned that the charges against Terry would be reduced.
All of the arrested protesters had been released from Central Jail by Tuesday night, sheriff’s officials said.
Vow to Continue Sit-Ins
At the jail’s Inmate Reception Center on Tuesday afternoon, a group of about 15 men walked out, their plastic property bags in hand. They embraced waiting relatives, put their names on a list being drawn up by an Operation Rescue organizer and vowed to continue staging sit-ins at abortion clinics.
A national day of Operation Rescue protests is scheduled for April 29.
The group’s organizers labeled their three-day effort in Southern California a success--even though they failed to produce the promised numbers of supporters.
“This has been a launching point in Southern California,” proclaimed spokesman Kenneth Tanner after Terry’s brief court appearance. “We’re here to stay.”