Equating the bombing of abortion clinics to terrorism, a federal judge sentenced a 34-year-old Laurel man to two years in prison today for his part in a conspiracy with two other men convicted in a rash of clinic bombings centered in the Washington area last year.
"One has to understand that there are ways of changing the rules and regulations other than terrorist activities," Judge Joseph H. Young told Kenneth William Shields, a comptroller for a business firm and a self-professed religious opponent of abortion.
"Terrorism is a much-bandied-about word today," said Young, adding that bombings of abortion clinics fit the definition. ". . . There's got to come a stop to it."
While prosecutors asked for a "significant period" of imprisonment to deter other bombings that have continued unabated throughout the country, they acknowledged Shields played a secondary role in the conspiracy here. His two-year sentence compares with a 10-year term given early this month to codefendant Michael Donald Bray, 32, of Bowie. Bray was convicted in May of both conspiracy and possession of unregistered explosives.
Another defendant, Thomas Eugene Spinks, 37, also of Bowie, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and malicious destruction. Prosecutors have characterized Spinks as the principal conspirator and recommended that he be imprisoned for 15 years. He is expected to be sentenced in a few weeks.
Shields, a large, bespectacled man who pleaded guilty last May to one count of conspiracy to obtain destructive devices, acknowledged he used "poor judgment" in providing manuals on bomb construction -- including one called "The Poor Man's James Bond" -- and in helping buy ingredients for bombs.
Shields, who is free on a $25,000 bond, was ordered by Young to report to prison no later than July 29.
Prosecutor Robert J. Mathias described Shields as the "least culpable" of the three men in the case, noting that Spinks carried out the actual bombings and Bray accompanied Spinks on two of the bombings and helped plan eight others.
Court officials estimated the nighttime bombings did more than $1 million in damage to the 10 clinics and related facilities, as well as to numerous unrelated businesses and residences nearby. No one was physically injured.
"The property damage, while immense, pales in comparison to the personal trauma suffered by many of the victims," said prosecutors in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court. "Staff members of the clinics needed counseling and therapy in order to assuage their fears . . . . Neighboring businesses were put out of operation and suffered losses that will never be recovered."