Thursday, April 18, 2002

Waagner claims divine direction

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Clayton Lee Waagner says his one-man crusade against abortion began in 1999 with a message from God.

        Within a year, he was criss-crossing the country in a stolen Mercedes Benz. He says he gathered weapons, mailed fake anthrax letters and vowed to kill any doctor who set foot in an abortion clinic.

        He became a terrorist, he says, because that's what the Lord wanted him to do.

        “I am more than willing to die,” Mr. Waagner said in a taped interview that was played Wednesday at his trial in Cincinnati.

        “God has anointed me.”

        More than three hours of Mr. Waagner's comments were played Wednesday for the U.S. District Court jury that will decide whether he is guilty of federal firearms charges.

        Mr. Waagner, who faces a possible life sentence, successfully argued that the two taped interviews with law enforcement and an anti-abortion activist were relevant to his case.

        The tapes, he said, prove that his opposition to abortion drove him to commit the crimes.

        In the interviews, Mr. Waagner describes in detail his long, strange journey from being a religious family man to a self-proclaimed “terrorist.”

        Mr. Waagner, who is acting as his own attorney, said his transformation began three years ago when his oldest daughter had a miscarriage. As he comforted his family, he said, he heard the voice of God:

        “How can you grieve over one, while you allow millions to be slaughtered?”

        That day he declared “war on the abortion industry.”

        He said he started his campaign with letters and bomb threats to clinics.

        In an interview after his Dec. 5 arrest in Cincinnati, Mr. Waagner admitted he built a powerful pipe bomb. “Did you have a plan to use it?” one investigator asked.

        “Yeah,” Mr. Waagner said. “I was going to blow up an abortion clinic.”

        He also boasted that he had practiced with a .22-caliber rifle until he “could have popped one of these people from a quarter-mile away.”

        Mr. Waagner said he hoped to use the gun on an abortion doctor.

        “You know I don't like these people at all,” he told investigators. “I hate what they do.”

        Before his arrest, he had claimed through an Internet site that he had the names and addresses of 42 doctors and nurses who perform abortions. He said he prepared the list by following them to their homes.

        He said in one interview that he was prepared to kill them unless they stopped working at the clinics. “I haven't actually taken a life,” he told an anti-abortion activist in an interview before his arrest. “But I'm going to.”

        But after his arrest, he told authorities he never would have carried out the threat.

        “I can't hurt anybody,” he said. “I wish to God I could.”

        Instead of killing them, Mr. Waagner said, he chose to terrorize them with death threats and with letters laced with fake anthrax powder.

        He said he mailed two sets of letters to hundreds of abortion clinics and family planning clinics. One set contained flour and another a harmless substance that often tests positive for the anthrax toxin.

        Mr. Waagner said he got the idea after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the anthrax scare that followed.

        “My goal was to close abortion clinics for a day, an hour, a week. Whatever I could,” he said.

        He bragged in one interview about being on the FBI's Most Wanted list, and about being “the most dangerous man in America.”

        “No one can stop me,” he said.

        He said he supported himself by robbing banks. He described traveling cross-country, avoiding police and shoplifting guns.

        To keep the world updated on his exploits, Mr. Waagner said he often sent e-mails and surfed Web sites on the computers at Kinko's stores.

        That proved his downfall. On Dec. 5, a clerk at a Springdale Kinko's recognized him from the FBI's wanted poster. He gave his taped interview to authorities later that night.

        Judge Susan Dlott said she expects the jury to begin deliberations this afternoon.


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