A man was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison Monday for a failed attempt to blow up an abortion clinic with a truck filled with tanks of propane and cans of gasoline.
A small fire started, but there was no explosion and no one was hurt in the incident at the Family Planning Associates clinic in Bakersfield on March 17, 1997.
Peter Howard, 44, had pleaded guilty to one count each of attempted arson and use of an explosive device.
Howard had a written statement that he said would take about 15 minutes to read, but U.S. District Judge Robert Coyle said he would allow the statement only if it was relevant to sentencing.
Howard withdrew the request and thanked everyone involved in his case, even his jailers and prosecutor Karen Kalmanir.
After the hearing, defense attorney Cyrus Zal said Howard had wanted to make an antiabortion statement.
An indictment charged that Howard, wearing a crash helmet and earplugs, drove a pickup truck into the Family Planning Associates office late at night. The government said he then got out of the truck and started a small fire, but was stopped by a security guard before the fire could spread and detonate the fuel in the bed of his pickup.
Howard had picketed the clinic previously with an antiabortion group based in the Bakersfield area. Tim Palmquist, co-chairman of the group, said its volunteers must sign a statement committing themselves to nonviolence.
Family Planning Associates had moved to the site of the attempted bombing after an arson fire gutted its former Bakersfield office in 1993. At that time, a 24-hour security service was hired.