In fact, the FBI had investigated Dillard two years previously after she wrote a letter to Scott Roeder, who was imprisoned for the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. The FBI concluded that Dillard was not “involved in violations of criminal law” and that Dillard “felt that Scott Roeder had made a mistake” by using violence. She made it clear that abortion opponents should only “do within the law whatever we can do to stop abortion,” and the judge cited the fact that Dillard had “publicly deplored [Roeder’s] violent actions.”
Although it lost the case, the Justice Department may have partially achieved what it wanted when it filed suit against Dillard. The judge concluded that Dillard’s decision to refrain from vigorous anti-abortion activities after the lawsuit began:
… may be due to a chilling effect of calls and visits from the FBI, and the filing of the present action by the Department of Justice. Almost immediately after the sending [of] the letter, Dillard became the target of investigations by the Wichita police and the F.B.I., followed by the present civil prosecution. Faced with such investigation and litigation, it is utterly unsurprising that Dillard has ceased political activity she might have otherwise undertaken.
The total lack of evidence of any threat or violent action by Dillard was so stark that the Justice Department lawyers tried to bring in an anonymous letter that accused Dillard of having “caches of weapons around her house.” Judge Marten criticized the government for submitting a letter that was “plainly inadmissible” and for introducing “absolutely nothing that would corroborate the allegations.” The government apparently never attempted to obtain a warrant to search Dillard’s home to see if the anonymous claims were even true. Turning up nothing in a search would have interfered with their attempt to use anonymous, Inquisition-type claims.
As Judge Marten concluded, the government’s evidence was “simply inadmissible or based on impermissible speculation.” In fact, the government’s arguments on possible future threats by Dillard were based on “speculation piled on top of speculation.” The claim against Dillard was “fatally flawed because it lacks any proof” of the essential components of proving that Dillard had made any threat of any kind against Means.
Dillard’s attorney Don McKinney rightly characterized the ruling as “a great victory for the First Amendment.” But this lawsuit should never have been filed in the first place. The Civil Rights Division has no business using federal laws to pursue an ideological agenda — in this case, intimidating the pro-life movement.