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Wis. defense seeks charge dropped in clinic plot

By Associated Press

Defense attorneys for a Wisconsin man accused of planning to open fire at an abortion clinic in 2010 are hoping to have the charge dismissed on a legal technicality.

Ralph Lang, 65, of Marshfield, is accused of plotting to kill abortion doctors at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Madison. He has been charged in federal court with attempting to injure people participating in a federally funded program.

His attorneys argue the count should be tossed because even though Planned Parenthood receives federal funds, that money can’t be used to provide abortions, the Marshfield News-Herald reported.

The court must dismiss the indictment because it doesn’t allege an offense that’s prohibited by federal law, Lang’s attorneys wrote in a court filing this week.

“As a matter of law, Lang’s actions cannot violate the statute,” attorneys Michael Lieberman and Joseph Bugni wrote.

Lang was arrested in May 2010 after his gun accidentally fired in a Madison motel room. No one was hurt. Lang told investigators he planned to go to the Planned Parenthood clinic and “lay out abortionists because they are killing babies.”

“What was I going to do? Take a gun, drop the abortionist” with a shot to the head, court documents say he told police. When asked if he meant he was going to kill the abortion provider, Lang said, “Yeah, stop them from killing other people and other babies.”

Since 1976, federal law has precluded funds for abortion through Medicaid except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger, according to the American Civil Liberties Union’s website.

Planned Parenthood does receive federal funding for family-planning services – including birth control and testing for sexually transmitted diseases – but abortion cannot be a method of family planning, according to the Public Health Service Act.

Planned Parenthood complies with federal law by keeping those funds in separate accounts, the defense motion said, which means the indictment should be dismissed because there is no case for the government to prove.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil has until April 22 to respond to the dismissal request. He said he’s confident the government can prove Lang broke the law by intending to interfere with clinic staff members who perform other federally funded services besides abortion.

Lang also faces a state charge of attempted first-degree intentional homicide in Dane County for the same alleged incident. His trial in that case is set for May 29.

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