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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 19:12 GMT 20:12 UK
Killer of abortion doctor jailed
James Kopp (R) with his lawyer
Kopp (right) said during his trial he only meant to wound doctor

An anti-abortion activist found guilty of killing an abortion doctor has been sentenced to 25 years to life behind bars.

James Kopp, 48, was given the maximum prison sentence by a court in Buffalo, New York, for the murder in 1998.

In March, he was convicted of the second-degree murder of father-of-four Dr Barnett Slepian, 52, who was an obstetrician and gynaecologist.

Upon hearing his sentence, Kopp remained unrepentant, according to Associated Press news agency.

He said that although he had not intended to kill Dr Slepian - only wound him to prevent him carrying out abortions - he would do it again.

"Why should the safety of Dr Slepian be put over the safety of unborn children?" he asked the court.

"I wish I could do 10 life sentences or 10 death penalties to save them".

He has 30 days to appeal against his sentence.


Sentencing Kopp, Judge Michael D'Amico at Erie County Court told him: "It's clear the act is premeditated, there is no doubt about it.

"You made an attempt to avoid responsibility for the act. What may appear righteous to you is immoral to someone else."

Dr Slepian was killed by sniper bullet at home

Kopp, a militant anti-abortionist, shot Dr Slepian with a single bullet from a high-powered rifle while the doctor was in his kitchen with his family in October 1998.

He then spent the next two and a half years on the run from police and was one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives until his arrest in France in March 2001.

Members of abortion rights organisations, who had urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence, attended the sentencing.

"As a society we cannot allow people to take the law into their own hands in order to advance their own personal, political agencies," said National Abortion Federation president Vicki Saporta before the hearing.

Kopp still faces a trial on charges of interfering with the right to an abortion.

He is also a suspect in four other abortion-related shootings in Rochester, New York and in Canada between 1994 and 1997.

Anti-abortionist guilty of murder
19 Mar 03  |  Americas
Anti-abortion murder trial opens
04 Mar 03  |  Americas
Anti-abortionist sent for US trial
05 Jun 02  |  Americas

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