A federal judge today ordered convicted abortion clinic bomber Michael Donald Bray to serve 10 years in prison and to pay $43,782 in restitution, charging that "many innocent persons suffered substantial trauma and psychological damage" in the series of bombings.
The judge called the 10 bombings in the Washington area and elsewhere "among the most cowardly and despicable of all criminal acts."
Bray family members and supporters in the crowded courtroom shook their heads and looked aghast as U.S. District Judge Alexander Harvey II lashed out at what he called growing violence by religious "extremists . . . throughout the world."
"You do not serve God by injuring innocent people," said the judge, noting that Bray, leader of a splinter Lutheran church group in Bowie, was convicted of conspiracy in the nighttime bombings of 10 abortion clinics and related facilities that left more than $1 million in damage not only to the facilities but also to numerous unrelated businesses and homes nearby.
No one was physically injured by the blasts, most of them triggered near dawn, police have reported, but at least three persons were in buildings where the blasts occurred. Several unrelated businesses adjacent to the clinics were disrupted, some for months.
A sentencing memorandum filed in the case by the prosecution said the physical damage from the bombings, still not fully tabulated, "far exceeds $1 million," including at least $657,975 to abortion clinics and related facilities, $252,000 to "innocent third parties such as building owners" and $89,800 to "neighbors in the vicinities of the various bomb sites."
Court officials said Bray's restitution, although far less than the estimated damage, is a figure he could reasonably be expected to repay. The restitution will be apportioned among numerous claimants, including insurance companies, officials said.
Bray's attorney, Robert Muse of Washington, urged Judge Harvey to weigh the bombing conviction against Bray's long-established reputation as devoted father and community worker. "He's more than a good family man," said Muse. "He's a man who has helped the poor, the aged . . . the lowly and the destitute . . . . In his whole life, he has shown mercy for others."
Prosecutor Robert B. Green countered that Bray had caused "literally thousands of people to live in fear of their lives." He acted out of an "irreconcilable conflict of the law of God and the law of the United States," Green said.
Bray, acknowledging that the judge has "authority over my body," said, "If I've done wrong, I'm sorry for the wrong I have done . . . . I ask for your mercy."
Longtime courtroom observers said Harvey's remarks to Bray were unusually strong, and his comments about growing religious violence "throughout the world" appeared to refer not only to increasing incidents of abortion clinic bombings in the United States but also to sectarian strife in the Middle East where Shiite Moslems held 39 Americans hostage in Lebanon until last weekend.
Appearing calm, Bray, 33, left the courthouse with his wife, parents, two brothers and other family members, including his 6-month-old daughter, Epiphany, one of his three children. Bray remains free on bond, pending a hearing Tuesday to determine whether he should be jailed if he appeals his conviction. Defense attorney Muse said an appeal is still being considered.
Under the 10-year prison sentence, Bray could be eligible for parole consideration in about 3 1/2 years.
Bray was convicted May 21 of two counts of conspiracy and one count of possessing unregistered explosive devices, but was acquitted of two other counts of possession. Two other men, Thomas Eugene Spinks, 37, of Bowie, and Kenneth William Shields, 34, of Laurel, pleaded guilty in the bombing conspiracy and did not go to trial. Both are scheduled to be sentenced later.
Bray, a house painter and lay copastor of the Reformation Lutheran Church in Bowie, proclaimed his innocence and adherence to nonviolence in press interviews before his trial. But at the trial, Spinks testified against him, placing him at two of the bombings and saying he helped plan the other eight.
At today's sentencing, both Judge Harvey and prosecutor Green repeatedly returned to the subject of property damage and psychological disruption caused by the bombings, especially to unrelated businesses and homes adjacent to the targeted clinics.
In interviews with The Washington Post, owners of several business firms said they suffered losses not only in damaged equipment but in disrupted business schedules. Sanford R. Cohen, an optometrist adjacent to the former Metropolitan Women's Clinic at 3937 Ferrara Dr. in Wheaton, which was hit by a large pipe bomb last Nov. 19, said he lost $30,000 in damage to optical equipment and another $8,000 in "business disruption."
"Our hours were cut 60 to 70 percent," he said. He and his wife, Jacalyn R. Ely, also an optometrist, moved to temporary quarters in a colleague's office in Silver Spring during the 11 weeks it took to rebuild their shattered office, Cohen said. "People with appointments kept them," Cohen said, " . . . but we were generating virtually no new patients."
A Jan. 1, 1985, blast that rocked the Hillcrest Women's Surgi-Center at 3233 Pennsylvania Ave. SE in Washington, also shattered 302 windows in a 31-unit apartment building 75 yards away across Pennsylvania Avenue, according to apartment property manager Lawrence Willoughby. Scores of people, including children, were asleep at the time of the blast a few minutes after midnight, "but luckily no one was hurt," Willoughby said.
In Suitland, Valerie Williams had just opened Hair Success, a beauty parlor at 5408 Silver Hill Rd., when a pipe bomb intended for the Metropolitan Family Planning Institute in the same building ripped through the beauty parlor last Dec. 24, doing $30,000 to $40,000 worth of damage. "I was out of business for four months," said Williams. "It was a nightmare." The abortion clinic was not damaged.