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Post date: July 20 2001

Statement Regarding Contempt Conviction In Clinic Access Case

Attorney General Spitzer, reacting to the conviction of Father Norman Weslin on criminal contempt charges arising out of his repeated violations of a federal court order to stay away from a reproductive health facility in Buffalo, today said:

"The conviction of Father Norman Weslin for repeatedly violating the court-ordered buffer zone that protects reproductive health facilities in Western New York is a welcome vindication of the rule of law. While we respect an individual's right to advocate his views, we must protect the safety and welfare of employees and those seeking services at health clinics."

The Attorney General won the creation of the buffer zone in a civil case, People of the State of New York v. Operation Rescue National, which was brought in early 1999 to address ongoing interference with access to reproductive health services in the Western District of New York, including Buffalo and Rochester.

The United States Attorney for the Western District, then Denise O'Donnell, filed contempt charges against Weslin earlier this year under a federal law that makes it a crime to violate a federal judicial order. U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara rendered a guilty verdict following a bench trial on charges that Weslin violated the court order on four occasions: September 9, 16, 23 and October 21, 2000. On each of those dates, Weslin intentionally entered and remained within a judicially-created "buffer zone" outside Buffalo GYN Womenservices, Inc., a facility that provides abortions in Buffalo.