PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — A homeless man was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on Thursday for the New Year’s Day firebombing of a violence-plagued abortion clinic in the Florida Panhandle.
Bobby Joe Rogers, 41, pleaded guilty in July to charges of arson and damaging a reproductive health facility.
The fire gutted Pensacola’s American Family Planning Clinic. The building’s charred shell has since been razed.
Rogers, a transient with a lengthy criminal history, told detectives he had been living in a parking lot near the clinic and decided to set the fire because he was upset that abortions were performed there.
Rogers had attended some of the near-daily protests that had previously taken place outside of the clinic and said he believed in the anti-abortion cause. He had no record of social or political activism before the firebombing.
The building was the site of previous anti-abortion violence, including a double-murder in 1994 when an anti-abortion activist killed a doctor and the doctor’s security escort. The building was bombed in 1984.
U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers said she handed Rogers a lengthy sentence because of his long history of drug and alcohol-related arrests and other criminal problems in numerous states.
U.S. Attorney Pamela C. Marsh said the sentence shows that the government takes abortion-related violence seriously.
“We will continue to enforce laws protect all the rights guaranteed our citizens under the United States Constitution and federal laws, including access to reproductive healthcare clinics” in north Florida, she said in a statement.