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Admits Making Phony Bomb Threats : Abortion Activist Gets Suspended Term

February 11, 1988|PATT MORRISON | Times Staff Writer

A pro-choice activist who pleaded guilty to telephoning anonymous phony bomb threats to local abortion clinics and their supporters--including one to himself--to arouse public sympathy for his cause, was handed a one-year suspended jail sentence Wednesday. Frank Mendiola, 30, who had worked with the United Farm Workers and gay rights causes before volunteering with abortion rights groups, was cautioned by Superior Court Judge Judith C. Chirlin about the gravity of the bomb threats. Although it can be "very tempting" for activists to throw themselves into a cause, Chirlin said, "their activity has got to be done in a lawful fashion, and done in a fashion that doesn't create more harm to other people. . . ."

No bombs were ever planted, but law enforcement agencies spent hundreds of hours searching for explosives at targeted offices and homes, including that of Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles).

Deputy Dist. Atty. Sharon Matsumoto, in requesting a one-year jail term, noted that the late-night bomb threats meant "terror-filled" hours for the victims through "the use of an instrument as innocent as the telephone."

Public Defender Marilynn Van Dam, who asked that a jail sentence be stayed, noted that the Silver Lake man now "has the education and insight to know that whatever happened in 1986 is not appropriate."

Judge Chirlin ruled that the sentence be stayed as long as Mendiola's probation reports show good behavior.

In 1986, when he made the calls, Mendiola had been an abortion-rights volunteer for more than a year, winning public notice as he spoke at a Washington rally, wrote to President Reagan and testified at a Sacramento legislative hearing. He personalized his case with the oft-told story of his twin sister--raped, impregnated, then dying at age 14 of an illegal abortion. But that story, like the phone calls, was fake: It had happened, instead, to the sister of a woman he knew, said Mendiola, who added that he became his friend's "voice."

Now working as a data-entry clerk, he has no plans to take up any more causes. "It's time for the younger generation to take over," he said outside the courtroom. And, struggling against an AIDS-positive test result, he said, "I need to take care of myself, health-wise especially."

Mendiola was ordered to pay some form of restitution to the victims of the bomb threats as well as to undertake psychological counseling.

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