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Abortion Foe Gets 25-Year Term in Slaying

Killer of N.Y. doctor says he would accept '10death penalties' to save the unborn.

May 10, 2003|From Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Antiabortion extremist James Kopp was sentenced to 25 years to life Friday for the sniper slaying of a doctor, declaring without a trace of remorse: "I wish I could do 10 life sentences or 10 death penalties" to save the unborn.

Kopp, 48, received the maximum for the 1998 murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian, 52, an obstetrician-gynecologist and father of four who was hit by a bullet that came through his kitchen window.

Kopp, a militant known in antiabortion circles as "Atomic Dog," told the judge he did not intend to kill Slepian, but would do it again.

"Why should the safety of Dr. Slepian be put over the safety of unborn children?" he asked in a packed courtroom that included a few supporters. "I wish I could do 10 life sentences or 10 death penalties to save them."

Kopp lay in wait with a rifle behind Slepian's suburban Amherst home and fired a single shot after the doctor returned from a memorial service for his father. The abortion foe fled the country and became one of the FBI's most-wanted fugitives.

He was captured in France two years ago. France agreed to his extradition after U.S. prosecutors promised not to seek the death penalty.

Kopp was convicted by the judge in March in an unusual one-day trial after waiving his right to a jury trial. At Kopp's request, the judge was presented with a 35-page list of facts agreed to by both sides -- including an admission by Kopp that he fired the deadly shot.

Defense attorneys argued that Kopp meant only to wound the doctor. But prosecutors countered that his choice of weapon -- a Russian-made, scope-equipped assault rifle -- and his use of aliases in buying it pointed to an intent to kill.

"You made an attempt to avoid responsibility for the act," Erie County Judge Michael D'Amico said Friday.

Prosecutor Joseph Marusak called Kopp a "cowardly assassin."

Kopp still faces a federal trial on a charge of interfering with the right to an abortion, which carries a maximum life sentence. He is also a suspect in the wounding of four abortion providers in Canada and in Rochester, N.Y., from 1994 to 1997.

He was captured at a post office as he tried to retrieve money sent by a New York City couple who admitted helping him.

The couple, Loretta Marra and Dennis Malvasi, face up to five years in prison after pleading guilty last month to conspiracy.

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