More than 100 local ''pro-life'' activists arrested two years ago will have to pay fines and spend time in jail following a decision by the Florida 5thDistrict Court of Appeal.
By Kathy Reakes
More than 100 local "pro-life" activists arrested two years
ago will have to pay fines and spend time in jail following
a decision by the Florida 5thDistrict Court of Appeal.
In a unanimous ruling, the judges said the activists should pay
their fines and serve their sentences, Assistant State Attorney
Michelle Jackson said Wednesday.
Jackson said the decision leaves the activists with little
chance to appeal to a higher court because all three of the
Daytona Beach-based judges felt the demonstrators should face
"I don't see any basis for an appeal on this decision," Jackson
said. "I think they may have reached the end of the road. It
would be almost unheard of for a court to allow an appeal after
such a decision."
Melbourne resident Meredith Raney, who was sentenced to six
months in jail after her arrest, said she was shocked by the
"My lawyer has not called me yet," Raney said. "I don't have a
clue to what is going on with my case."
The judges took up the case after the activists were arrested in
April1993 for entering a court-ordered buffer zone around the
Aware Woman Center for Choice clinic in Melbourne.
The injunction that established the 36-foot buffer zone was the
first of its kind in the nation.
It was enacted by Circuit Judge Robert McGregor after clinic
employees told him they were threatened and harassed by pro-life
activists. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld McGregor's ruling in
The original court order was directed against the pro- life
group Operation Rescue and its members, who where among those
arrested in April1993 during several days of large-scale
Three months later, 115 of 136 people charged with violating the
injunction were found guilty by visiting Circuit Court Judge
The group appealed Rudd's decision, claiming the buffer zone was
unconstitutional and violated their First Amendment right to
They also said they should not have been arrested because they
were not named specifically in the injunction, and it could not
be proved they were acting in concert with Operation Rescue.
All those convicted were ordered to pay $238 in court costs, a
$100 fine and a portion of the costs incurred by Melbourne and
Brevard County to enforce the court order.
Melbourne police submitted a bill for $25,000, and the Brevard
County Sheriff's Office filed another for $10,000.
In addition to the fines, five other activists were sentenced to
as much as six months in jail, including the Rev. Keith Tucci,
the leader of Operation Rescue who has since stepped down.
Tucci was sentenced to 30days in jail and five months of
supervised probation. He also was ordered to obey the buffer
zone around the clinic - and any similar zones around the
country - or face a longer jail sentence.
Tucci could not be reached for comment Wednesday about the
appellate court ruling.
Jackson said the group has about 15 to 20 days to file an appeal.