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SOCIAL ISSUES : Couple's Brush With the Law Called Orwellian Intrusion


SEATTLE — Americans are always on the lookout for that old political bogyman, Big Brother. But citizens in Washington state may have special cause to wonder if the Orwellian vision of someone eternally butting in has come to pass.

After all, just last week Washington started enforcing its stringent statewide ban on smoking in all workplace offices--public and private. And in a celebrated case several years ago, two Seattle area restaurant workers repeatedly tried to persuade a pregnant patron to order something more healthful than a daiquiri. They were fired, but the public debate reverberated for weeks.

Now come allegations from a young couple with an unusual story.

Lost and a little late for a pre-abortion procedure at a clinic last summer, Justin Cooper, 20, and Deanna Thomas, 18, say they were pulled over by a state patrolman while admittedly doing 75 m.p.h. on the freeway. After telling him where they were headed and why, they say, Patrolman Lane W. Jackstadt, 34, kept them on the shoulder of the road for 45 minutes, holding onto Cooper's license while encouraging them to forgo the abortion and consider the alternatives.

Then, they say, Jackstadt led them 20 miles to a house and a dimly lit basement, where a counselor appeared with literature and more talk about abortion alternatives. Convinced the patrolman was no longer around to follow them, they finally left for the appointment, hours late. Thomas had the abortion the next day.

During a press conference here Tuesday where the couple nervously read prepared statements, their lawyer, Franklin W. Shoichet, said the pair was intimidated and went along with Jackstadt because of his "abuse of power" and his "jackboot tactics." While the anti-abortion counselor did not mistreat them, Shoichet said, they didn't want to leave the house--which is actually a counseling center run by a local church--because "they feared (Jackstadt) was still on the grounds."

The state attorney general's office will review the case starting as early as this week and would not comment on possible charges, which Shoichet thinks should include felony unlawful imprisonment. Jackstadt has not spoken publicly and has been reassigned to desk duty while the investigation continues. His lawyer said Tuesday that there are "two sides to every story and the only side being aired now is the other side." He said Jackstadt was "not able to make a comment at this time."

The case has drawn attention from both sides of the abortion debate. Chris Charbonneau, president of Planned Parenthood of Seattle/King County, said that the incident is "a warning to law enforcement officers that a certain code of conduct is expected. Their private opinions don't pertain. . . . For officials all across the country, this is a heads-up to stick to your business."

But Don Treshman, national director of the anti-abortion group Rescue America, said that the patrolman's actions were understandable. "I think it's a novel way for a police officer to uphold his oath of office. I mean, to serve and protect is for the born and the unborn as well." Treshman claimed not to know details of the case but said, "If he (Jackstadt) did it properly, it could be done legally."

The house where Jackstadt allegedly led the couple is called Special Delivery, an off-site ministry run by Overlake Christian Church in suburban Kirkland. Associate Pastor Tim Avery said that Jackstadt attends Overlake, which claims to be the largest church in the Northwest. Avery said that anyone who ever comes to Special Delivery for abortion counseling does so freely and is not forced to stay. He said Thomas and Cooper were free to leave at any time.

Meanwhile, Washingtonians wonder who the next tap on the shoulder will come from. The generally conservative Bellevue Journal American editorialized that the implications of police wielding their morality like a baton were "frightening. . . . If police can detain you on behalf of their personal beliefs," the paper wrote, "what's next? A vegetarian cop ticketing people on the way to McDonald's?"

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