After Luke Wiersma threatened to kill people who worked at an abortion clinic in Chicago, employees there began to wonder, “Would my work be worth my life?”
One thought, “Was that random man across the street going to kill me?” Another decided, “I love my son too much to risk my life on Saturday mornings.”
Wiersma, 35, sent anonymous online threats to the clinic late in 2017.
Nearly two years later, he faced a federal judge Tuesday and said he didn’t realize how much fear he’d caused the clinic workers. But U.S. District Judge Manish Shah said too many people think lashing out with online threats of violence is an “available tool.”
So the judge sentenced Wiersma to 18 months in federal prison, labeling his threats an act of “terrorism” that “have no place here.”
“Other people need to know that the easy threat comes with a high price tag,” Shah said.
Wiersma pleaded guilty last fall. He sent his threats in October and November 2017 to clinics in Chicago and Hammond, vowing to “burn the clinic down” and “blow up the clinic with you and the staff in it,” and insisting, “I’m gonna kill you all.”
“You will all f—ing pay for what you do,” Wiersma wrote in an Oct. 10, 2017, threat to the Chicago clinic. “If not by my hand it will be by somebody else’s. I want you to burn, I want you all to Die. You are pieces of f—ing sh– shut [sic] and deserve everything you got coming. You and your clinic will be going down soon. Watch your back.”
Wiersma used an anonymous email address that used the letters “aog” in a reference to the “Army of God,” an extremist anti-abortion group, court records show.
After Wiersma sent three threats to the clinic in Hammond, staff arrived one morning to find a bullet had been fired through a back office window. It entered a room where two staff members normally sat. Then, when Wiersma threatened the clinic again a few days later, prosecutors said “hysteria” erupted. The clinic closed and moved to a temporary location, spending more than $17,000 for security personnel.
Wiersma has not been accused of firing the bullet. The clinic was located in an area prone to gunfire, prosecutors say.
Still, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Greening said in court papers Wiersma has a history of associating with the Army of God and the Ku Klux Klan. She said he owned three guns and an Illinois Firearm Owners ID card. She also said he admitted having “mental arguments” with himself about whether it is right to hurt others to stop abortion.
Wiersma wrote in one threat, “I ain’t afraid of the feds and will taunt them just to prove it.” Roughly a week later, the FBI got an online tip that, “Luke Wiersma is a danger to society. He plans on committing crimes against abortion clinics.”
“The defendant was taunting the FBI with that tip on himself,” Greening argued Tuesday.
Amanda Penabad, Wiersma’s attorney, described Wiersma as “vulnerable,” “impressionable” and “prone to peer pressure.” She said he’d been bullied when he was younger and joined groups he didn’t agree with because he wanted to belong.
When it was his turn, Wiersma told the judge his prosecution “really opened my eyes and my mind.” He said, “I had no right to push my beliefs on these people,” and “this isn’t worth it to me.”
He also said, “I have to grow up.”
Note from WSOE.Org : This content has been auto-generated from a syndicated feed.