Waagner convicted of firearms, theft charges

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Associated Press WriterCINCINNATI (AP) -- A man suspected of allegedly mailing fake anthrax letters to abortion clinics nationwide was convicted Thursday on separate firearms and car theft charges.

A U.S. District Court jury deliberated just 40 minutes before finding Clayton Lee Waagner of Kennerdell, Pa., guilty of all six charges. He faces 15 years to life in prison and fines of up to $250,000 on each count.

Waagner, who is not an attorney, defended himself in the case. He said he will appeal, although he admitted in his closing argument that he stole a handgun and wasn't surprised by the verdict.

"I expected it," he said. A sentencing date was not scheduled.

Waagner told jurors the government prosecuted him to cover up its opposition of what he has called his war on the abortion industry.

Waagner has not been charged with sending at least 550 threatening letters to abortion clinics last fall. But on FBI tapes played at the trial here -- at Waagner's request -- he said he sent the letters in an attempt to shut down the clinics. He also threatened to kill abortion providers.

Waagner was one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives when he was arrested in suburban Springdale on Dec. 5, about 10 months after he escaped from a jail in Illinois.

When he was captured at a copy shop, marshals said he was driving a stolen Mercedes-Benz. He had almost $9,000 in his pocket, a loaded .40-caliber handgun tucked into his waistband and several fake IDs. Waagner tried to pass himself off as a bail bondsman before admitting who he was.

The federal government also has charged Waagner with bank robberies in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, a car theft in Mississippi and possession of a pipe bomb in Tennessee.

Before the trial here, Waagner was sentenced in Urbana, Ill., to 30 years in prison for interstate transport of a stolen vehicle, illegal possession of a firearm and the jail escape.

On Thursday, he was convicted of illegally possessing a handgun and a rifle as a fugitive and as a convicted felon; possessing a stolen handgun; and possessing a stolen car.

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