One month after the killing of abortion doctor George Tiller, a Colorado clinic received a chilling phone call, federal officials allege in court documents.
The caller said people from Utah were going to travel to Colorado to kill the family of William Hern, founder of the clinic and one of the few doctors in the country known to perform late-term abortions.
Authorities traced the June 23 phone call to Spokane.
Two days earlier, The Spokesman-Review had published a front-page story about Hern’s practice, Boulder Abortion Clinic, and the increase in business he’d seen since Tiller’s death.
Prosecutors say Donald Hertz, 70, made the threat after reading that story, said Hertz’s lawyer in Spokane, Russell Van Camp.
“We’re going to vigorously defend this,” said Van Camp, who has represented National Right to Life chapters and anti-abortion activists throughout the West. “Mr. Hertz is not the type of person that they allege.”
Hertz opposes abortion, Van Camp said, but he isn’t associated with national groups.
A retired real estate developer and insurance salesman with no criminal record, Hertz was taken into federal custody Wednesday morning and appeared in U.S. District Court in Spokane that afternoon.
He’s was released from custody but is scheduled to appear in federal court in Denver in September. Van Camp said he’ll try to move the case to Spokane.
Hern opened his clinic in 1975. U.S. marshals were assigned to protect him after Tiller was gunned down in his Kansas church May 31, allegedly by an abortion opponent.
Hertz is charged with making an interstate threat and violating a 1994 law that protects access to reproductive health services.
He could face up to six years in prison.