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June 01, 2009

Tiller's Death Recalls VT ties to Anti-Abortion Violence

More than 10 years ago, when the last abortion provider was murdered, Vermont was at the center of the national media storm.

That's when upstate New York doctor Barnett Slepian was shot in his home by James C. Kopp, a man with ties to Vermont. He resided for a time in the St. Albans area, and was driving a car with Vermont plates at the time of the shooting.

Kopp hid out in the woods behind Slepian's house and fired at him through his window.

He fled after the shooting and wasn't arrested until 2001. After being convicted in 2003, he was sentenced to life in prison. Two months ago that sentence was upheld by the  2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Click to read a PDF of the decision (Download 072797p). And, no, Supreme Court Justice nominee and 2nd Circuit Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor was not on the three-judge panel that upheld Kopp's conviction.

Kopp was connected to the group Army of God, and even had the nickname "Atomic Dog."

He claimed he never had intended to kill Slepian, only wound him.

“The truth is not that I regret shooting Dr. Slepian, I regret that he died. I aimed at his shoulder, the bullet took a crazy ricochet, and that’s what killed him," Kopp told reporters after he was arrested. "One of my goals was to keep Dr. Slepian alive and I failed at that goal.”

Kansas doctor Dr. George Tiller was shot to death Sunday while he attended services at his Wichita church. Police later arrested Scott Roeder and are holding him for questioning as a "person of interest" in the shooting.

Tiller was a health-care provider at the center of the abortion controversy due to the fact that he is one of few who performed late-term abortions. His clinic has been the focus of anti-abortion activists for years, as well as that of FOX blowhard, er, TV show host Bill O'Reilly. He dubbed the doc "Tiller the baby killer."

O'Reilly is scheduled to issue a statement on his show tonight. Think he'll apologize for inciting terrorism? Or, once again, just say he can't be held accountable for his rhetoric?

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