A Butte woman was charged Tuesday with making telephone bomb threats to five clinics in Montana where doctors perform abortions, U.S. Attorney Sherry Scheel Matteucci announced.
Amy Cheryl Blackburn, 29, was charged in a 12-count indictment, returned last Friday but unsealed on Tuesday. Six counts fall under a year-old federal law designed to protect access to abortion clinics.
Matteucci said Blackburn would not enter a plea before U.S. Magistrate Leif B. Erickson in Missoula, so Erickson entered an innocent plea for her.
If convicted, Blackburn could face a year in prison and a $10,000 fine under the clinic access law, and five years in prison and $250,000 fines on each charge of threatening destruction by fire or explosives.
Blackburn allegedly phoned the five clinics within a half-hour period on April 21, two days after the federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed.
The threats were made to the Family Practice Clinic in Kalispell, the Mountain Country Women’s Clinic in Bozeman, Planned Parenthood of Helena, Planned Parenthood of Billings, and the Blue Mountain Clinic in Missoula.
There were no bombs, and no one was injured.
Dr. James Armstrong’s clinic in Kalispell received two calls that day, he said.
“She used obscene language and said we’d get bombed. She gave us a date, the fifth of May, I think she said,” Armstrong said.
He said his office, along with three or four other offices in his building closed May 5, on the recommendation of law enforcement officials. Armstrong said his building sustained $200,000 damage after an arson attack in October 1994.
Joan McCracken, the executive director of Intermountain Planned Parenthood, said the Billings clinic was given a specific date, although she did not recall what it was.
“I think there’s a group out there that tries to intimidate,” she said. “In order to protect our staff and patients we do take them seriously.”
The person who answered the phone at the Bozeman clinic said a general bomb threat was phoned in, but no specific date was given.
Devon Hartman of the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Helena said her clinic was not given a specific date either, but that the caller used very threatening language.
“We are thrilled that this woman has been apprehended and hope that this is a deterrent to other terrorists that use the same tactic,” Hartman said.
Blackburn’s trial is set for July before U.S. District Judge Charles C. Lovell in Helena. She is free on her own recognizance.
Her attorney, Bob Kelleher of Butte, has filed for a change of venue, Matteucci said.