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Abortion clinic arsonist gets seven years

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A Washington state man was sentenced Tuesday to nearly seven years in prison for torching seven abortion clinics in four western states, including three in Montana.

Richard T. Andrews, 60, of Wenatchee, Wash., pleaded guilty on Feb. 10, under a plea agreement.

Andrews admitted to a three-year arson spree targeted at clinics which provide abortions in California, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

The Montana clinic fires were in Helena, Missoula and Kalispell. The California fires were in Chico and twice at a Redding clinic.

Under the sentence announced by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton, Andrews was ordered to prison for 81 months. He will be placed on three years probation upon his release. He must stay at least 150 yards away from any facility where abortions are performed.

Andrews, a retired insurance company executive with a long history of anti-abortion activities, also was ordered to pay $3,600 in restitution and a $400 special assessment.

The total cost of the eight fires at seven abortion clinics was more than $1 million.

In each of the attacks from January 1992 to September 1995, investigators found a red plastic gasoline can wrapped in a dark garbage bag.

When Andrews was stopped in Vancouver, Wash., on June 26, 1996, state troopers found a butane torch, a road flare, plastic pipe, a respirator and a Bible. In the car's trunk, they found red plastic gasoline containers wrapped in dark plastic garbage bags.

Police believe he was en route to a clinic in Portland, Ore.

Prosecutors had also planned to use traffic tickets, mileage records and canceled checks to show that Andrews was responsible for the fires.

Andrews is the former leader of a Wenatchee group called the Christian Coalition for Public Policy that worked successfully to get Wenatchee Valley Clinic doctors to stop performing abortions in 1985.

Andrews was also affiliated with the national anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, which uses civil disobedience and confrontation in an effort to keep women from obtaining abortions.

However, Operation Rescue has disavowed the use of violence in anti-abortion activities.

Andrews apparently led the first Operation Rescue protest in Washington state, in Renton, where he was arrested and convicted on a misdemeanor trespassing charge.

He was also convicted in 1989 for trespassing during a 1988 anti-abortion protest at a Bellevue clinic. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail and fined.

In 1991, a court decision largely ended the use of blockades of abortion clinics. Prosecutors have noted in court papers that ''the arson began a few months later."

He was stopped for speeding on Jan. 18, 1992, in northern Idaho. Several hours later, an arsonist set fire to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Helena.

Prosecutors say the Helena fire marked the beginning of a campaign to destroy abortion clinics in the West.

Five months after the Helena fire, a clinic in Redding, Calif., was set afire. Nine months later, the Blue Mountain Clinic in Missoula burned to the ground. A clinic in Boise, Idaho, followed in May 1993.

The fires stopped for more than a year, but in October 1994, prosecutors say Andrews set three clinic fires in as many days. The same Redding clinic targeted in 1992 was torched again on Oct. 9, as was a clinic in nearby Chico, Calif. That was followed by a fire Oct. 11 at a clinic in Kalispell, Mont.

The last fire was in September 1995, at a clinic in Jackson, Wyo.

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