Anti-Abortion Lawyer Begins Jail Sentence


Anti-abortion lawyer Cyrus Zal reported to jailers Monday to begin serving a 290-day jail term imposed for repeatedly discussing abortion at a February trial.

Zal, 42, a Folsom-based lawyer, originally had surrendered last Friday to begin serving the lengthy contempt-of-court sentence. He appeared Friday night at County Jail but was told to leave because officials did not have the proper paper work to admit him.

So, Zal reported Monday morning to El Cajon Judge Larrie R. Brainard, who imposed the sentence at a February trial at which Zal represented six anti-abortion activists. County marshals took Zal into custody immediately, court administrator Frederick W. Lear said.

Lear said he had no idea what caused the snafu on Friday, since court files indicated that clerks had sent Zal's paper work to the jail July 30.

Zal was transported Monday night to County Jail downtown.

Brainard gave Zal a single day's credit for the hour Zal spent waiting Friday while sheriff's deputies considered the paper work problem, Lear said.

Brainard imposed the 290-day term after citing Zal, a former general counsel to the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, for contempt 20 times during the trial last February.

In ordering Zal not to mention abortion, Brainard said the trial involved a question of trespass, not the morality of abortion. Zal repeatedly ignored that order while questioning witnesses.

All six of the protesters were convicted of trespass.

Zal appealed his sentence to the California Supreme Court, which rejected his appeal July 18.

He resigned as general counsel of Operation Rescue in May, citing the group's--and his--financial troubles.

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