Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kurt Linnemann Found Not Guilty of Baseless Charges

Pro-Life Witness Found Not Guilty of Baseless Charges

Wilmington, DE, November 12, 2011. On November 10, 2011 pro-life sidewalk counselor Kurt Linnemann was exonerated of the charge of causing a public disturbance by making a false 911 call outside the Planned Parenthood of Delaware abortion clinic at 7th and Shipley Sts in Wilmington.  The prosecution tried to paint peaceful pro-life vigilers as dangerous disrupters of social order. Instead, this misdemeanor trial, which ran for three hours in the New Castle County Court of Common Pleas wasting taxpayer money, completely vindicated long-time pro-life activist Linnemann. The case painted a picture for the public of the peaceful demeanor and non-threatening deportment of the ordinary men, women and children who gather regularly to witness to the value of unborn human life and to offer women alternatives to abortion.  

Kurt chose to be tried by a judge, not by a jury. Both sides presented their case, and the judge rendered his verdict.

The Case.
On Friday, June 10, Kurt Linnemann, Sean Kovalevich, and Susan Andrews arrived early at Planned Parenthood for the pro-life vigil that takes place each Friday morning (surgical abortion day). They noticed a box sitting in front of Planned Parenthood’s door. They had never seen a box before in that position – deliveries are always received during the day. Was the box dangerous?  They discussed the matter and decided that since there is heightened alert these days, they should notify the police and let them decide. They could not step on to Planned Parenthood property themselves.  Kurt made the phone call to 911.

Upon arrival, the police cordoned off the area, examined the box and found it empty. Planned Parenthood told the police that they had not made the phone call, as officers believed, but that the call had come from Kurt and Sean -- known to them as “regulars”. The police swiftly put Kurt and Sean in handcuffs and took them away.  Later, they released Sean but arrested Kurt and charged him with making a false 911 call.

The state presented a very weak case. The police report stated that Lori Magno, a Planned Parenthood employee, told the arresting officer that Kurt had seen her come out of the building, examine the box, and go back inside. Since Kurt had witnessed her doing this, the report reasoned, he knew that the box was harmless. He had concocted the 911 story to disrupt business on an abortion day.

The state showed the surveillance video for that morning. The video showed Ms. Magno examining the box at 7:09, long before Kurt pulled up in his van at 7:16. The video showed clearly that the police report was wrong – Kurt could not possibly have seen Ms. Magno examine the box.

Upon questioning, Ms. Magno denied that she had made the statement attributed to her in the police report. Upon questioning, the police officer stated that he had written his report the day of the arrest, and that if he had written that Ms. Magno had said this to him, he must have believed it to be true, but in the confusion, who knows if he made an error in what he thought she had said.

The state then played the audio of the 911 call.  We all heard a very calm Kurt say that there was a strange box outside PP and that it might be nothing but they might want to take a look at it just to make sure. He identified himself, spelled his name, described the box, all the time maintaining a calm voice, not once urging them to get down there, or asking that the building be evacuated. He simply reported that someone might want to take a look at it.

After the state presented their case, Kurt's lawyer asked for a dismissal of charges. He noted that the case had originally been built on the arresting officer's report of Kurt's knowledge that the box was harmless, but that the video clearly showed Kurt was not on the scene to see Ms. Magno examine the box.  The video from the previous night, played earlier to both counsels, clearly showed the box blowing up onto the property by the wind, thereby dismissing the suspicion voiced by police on the day of the arrest that Kurt had planted the box on purpose.

The judge did not agree to the dismissal, saying that the errors in the police report did not matter. He still had some questions in his mind as to why Kurt had made the call. If he arrived at 7:16, why did he not make the call until 7:33 if he thought the box suspicious? He wanted to hear Kurt's witnesses.

Ms. Andrews and Mr. Kovalevich, who had been sequestered and not seen the video, then testified. Their testimony agreed with Kurt's. The reason for the lapse in time of 16 minutes was because Kurt and Sean first greeted each other and kibbitzed in friendly conversation, before Kurt noticed the box. They then discussed it -- did it seem odd or suspicious? They were still uncertain, and when Susan arrived with three children, they asked her if she thought the box seemed out of place and odd. Susan agreed it was an anomaly, and although it was probably nothing, it was best to be safe. Susan and the children backed away from the front of the building. Kurt made the call.

The prosecutor tried hard to make the case that Kurt called 911 in order to evacuate the building and cause a disruption. She spoke more than once of how the phone call was all part of Kurt’s “agenda”. The judge questioned her as to what exactly the evidence showed of Kurt’s agenda. She admitted that the evidence showed that his agenda was to offer options counseling to women going in for abortions, and apologized if the state had suggested otherwise. The judge asked the prosecutor why, if Kurt’s intention was to disrupt business, he had made the phone call a half hour before the business even opened.  “Was he just incompetent?, the judge asked.

The judge ruled in favor of Kurt: Not Guilty. He saw no evidence that Kurt had done anything other than be particularly vigilant about a suspicious looking box at an abortion clinic, knowing that (as Kurt himself testified) some people did bomb abortion clinics. The judge made reference to how unfortunately we live at a time where not only do terrorists threaten, but also some protesters "who are not as responsible" as Kurt, Sean and Susan, behave badly.

Of course, it's great that Kurt was exonerated.  To this writer, the most troubling aspect of the trial was how much money the state spent on an essentially trivial matter, how willing the judge was to view the pro-lifers suspiciously but discount the contradictions in the police report and the Planned Parenthood testimony.

On the other hand, the judge was obviously impressed by the demeanor and testimony of our three witnesses. They testified clearly and with no hesitation. The 911 call was innocuous. The video tape revealed a bunch of people setting up signs and talking to each other. The judge saw clearly that there was no case, no intent to disrupt, just ordinary people going about their business when confronted by an anomaly.

However, in his closing statements he praised the Wilmington Police Dept., he praised the Planned Parenthood folks, and he showed that he thought they showed remarkable efficiency. He did not think they had done anything wrong in arresting Kurt, he dismissed the discrepancies between the video and the police report by saying "we're all human, we make mistakes", and he obviously thought that although the state had a weak case, their point of view was understandable.

Even though most of you reading this believe that abortion is an injustice, many of you would never come to an abortion clinic to pray and vigil. I suspect that many of you too have some of the same ideas that the judge had -- that “abortion protestors" are a threat.

I would like you to re-think your prejudices against sidewalk vigiling, in light of this trial. Kurt was brought to trial not because of his actions, but because of a prejudice against pro-life witness and a pre-disposition to believe that pro-lifers are extremists.

The culture at large still views pro-life witness as a radical political activity.  But this is not what we do each Friday at Planned Parenthood. We pray. We counsel. We offer literature. And people in the community respond. They can see that we care about the community itself, about the men and women of Wilmington and not just the babies who are at risk. The unborn need the protection of the law. We fight for this in the political arena -- elect officials who will extend protection of the law to every human being, born and unborn, healthy and ill, young and old.

But on Fridays at Planned Parenthood, we witness to the value of the lives of the unborn children being killed that day, we pray for them and for their parents, we pray for the abortionist and the PP staff, we offer resources, we talk to clients, we sometimes take them to A Door of Hope or Birthright for real health care for both mother and baby.

And even Kurt's judge - pre-disposed to view the state's case in the most benign light -- saw clearly that we do not engage in disruption. We're just ordinary folks trying to convey an ordinary Christian thought --- that all human lives are valuable.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

40 Days for Life Fall 2011 comes to an end: Stories from the Sidewalk + more

Stories from the Sidewalk

Dear Friends,

We had a few days of bitter cold this Fall during 40 Days for Life. Putting the best spin on it, we decided that the Holy Spirit could blow powerfully even when the temperatures drop. So those fierce winds did not deter the prayer we offered. Who knows, they might've spurred us to more fervor, if only to warm ourselves by proximity to Christ's own fiery Heart. We prayed and offered information and kind words to the young women who sought relief from the burden of a crisis pregnancy by choosing to destroy rather than nurture the growing lives within. We know that the promised relief is temporary, that abortion as a solution to problems is an illusion. Without real hope and support in their lives, without real love, the burden will not lift for those who are ensnared in our bleak culture of death.

Pray for the mothers who have aborted their children during these 40 days of vigil. Pray that they receive the graces they need to turn towards life. Pray that the Lord take the souls of the innocent, unwanted and unborn children to Himself, that they are consoled in His love for their aborted experience of life and love on this earth.

We've heard many stories during these 40 Days of prayer and vigil. Just this week, we heard a father justify the killing of his unborn child inside Planned Parenthood: "I'm a Christian too, I go to church three times a week, I'm on the parish board of my Greek Orthodox church. I'm 58 years old, I can't be a father. My pastor told me it was my choice to make. I go to church three times a week. I've researched it all on the Internet, it's not a human being yet. I appreciate what you're trying to do, but I don't need your information. I'm a member of my parish board. I go to church three times a week."

Three times he felt he needed to repeat his church affiliation. We wonder.... why so many times?

We were praying the rosary, meditating on the mysteries of Christ's Passion, when we were approached by a young woman and her best friend. "I saw you from over there and thought I just needed to talk to you. You're against abortion, right? You don't think it's a good idea, right? I'm pregnant and everybody says I should abort my baby, but I don't want to. The economy is so bad and all. Could I have one of those rosaries? Could my friend? Could you pray with us?" She did not know about Bayard House, or A Door of Hope and Birthright, or Mom's House. We were able to tell her about so many resources that she did not know about. She stopped by two days later, all smiles. She knew what she wanted, and she thought that with her friend's help she would be able to make it. She was just looking for somebody to encourage her in what she knew she wanted to do.

Come Pray With Us This Friday and/or Saturday!

Two days from now, November 4, is the last Friday of this fall's 40 Days campaign. It is also a First Friday. The following day, November 5, is the final Saturday of our campaign. Friday is surgical abortion day at Planned Parenthood. Saturday is "overflow" surgical abortion day, if they get too many clients on Friday.

Come join us on Friday and/or on Saturday. The Knights of Columbus will be there also on Saturday. Let's make a prayerful end of this 40 Days campaign.

Final Benediction at St. Patrick's in Wilmington on Sunday, November 6 at 4:00 pm.

Father Leonard Klein will offer a final benediction on Sunday, November 6 at 4:00 pm at St. Patrick's Church, Fifteenth and King Streets, Wilmington, DE 19801.

40 Days for Life is looking for a non-Catholic to join our coordinating group. Could it be you? Think and pray about it!

40 Days for Life began in a small, evangelical Christian community in Texas. One of the ironies of life is that since it has spread throughout the nation and the world, it is Catholics who tend to come on board in leadership positions. 40 Days for Life Wilmington would like to have a non-Catholic sister or brother join our coordinating team. This is a wonderful opportunity for ecumenical fellowship, as well as a chance to get together with like-minded Christians in service to the Lord. If you feel called, email me at or go to and contact any of the five coordinators listed on our home page.

Blessings on you all!

Rae Stabosz