A Baptist pastor from Berkeley, California has been fined and sentenced to 30 days in jail for violating Oakland’s “bubble law” which restricts pro-life counselors from approaching women who are entering abortion clinics.
In addition to the 30-day sentence delivered on Thursday, Alameda Superior Court Judge Stuart Hing placed Rev. Walter Hoye on probation for three years and fined him $1,130, the California Catholic Daily reports.
The pastor had rejected a plea bargain offered by the district attorney before trial, guaranteeing no jail time in exchange for a guilty plea to one count.
Operation Rescue President Troy Newman criticized the decision, saying "This is an unjust sentence for an unjust conviction that cannot be allowed to stand.
"We stand behind Rev. Hoye one hundred percent and pray for his speedy exoneration on appeal.
“Every American should be alarmed by Rev. Hoye's conviction and this unconstitutional ordinance.”
Rev. Hoye had initially been charged with violating four counts of the “bubble law”: two counts of “unlawful approach” and two counts of using “force, threat of force or physical obstruction” against escorts at the Family Planning Specialists Clinic in Oakland.
The pastor has regularly stationed himself near the clinic and has no prior criminal record.
The charges concerned two separate incidents on April 29, 2008 and May 13, 2008, respectively.
In the May 13 incident, Rev. Hoye was arrested after a clinic staff member called police. He had been attempting to hand out pro-life literature and was carrying a 40-inch sign that read “Jesus Loves You & Your Baby. Let Us Help You.”
Before the trial Judge Hing dismissed one count of using “force, threat of force or physical obstruction,” while the jury found Hoye not guilty on the other count. The jury returned guilty verdicts on the two counts of “unlawful approach.”
Prior to his arrest, Rev. Hoye, an outspoken opponent of the “bubble law,” had filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality.
Concerning his sentence, he questioned whether the jury had been given an adequate definition of what constituted an “approach.”
Video evidence presented by the defense showed that clinic employees approached Howe, the California Catholic Daily says.
Katie Short, an attorney with Life Legal Defense Foundation which represented Rev. Hoye, also questioned the sentence.
“The ordinance prohibits approaching within eight feet of someone entering an abortion clinic, without their consent, for the purpose of... let’s call it ‘communication’,” Short told the California Catholic Daily. “The clinic director and escorts took this to mean that Walter could not approach them without their consent, even though they were not entering the facility and he was not trying to communicate with them.”
Mike Millen, another defense attorney, said the sentencing threat was “potent” but added, “My client is more interested in getting the truth out, both on the sidewalk and in the courtroom.”
Before the sentencing, Attorneys for the Life Legal Defense Foundation asked Judge Hing to grant a motion for a new trial, arguing that the jurors had not been adequately instructed and violated Rev. Hoye’s right to due process. Judge Hing denied the motion.
The judge said Rev. Hoye could serve his sentence “by alternative means.”
Defense attorney Dana Cody said Rev. Hoye has the right to challenge an “onerous condition” of his probation requiring that he stay away from the clinic, arguing this restriction was a violation of his right to free speech.
A hearing next month will consider the probation sentence.