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SCHEIDLER v. NOW
May 18, 1990
JOSEPH SCHEIDLER, Plaintiff,
NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN, INC., et al., Defendants
Paul E. Plunkett, United States District Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: PLUNKETT
PAUL E. PLUNKETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Defendant, the National Organization for Women ("NOW"), along with others, sued plaintiff Joseph Scheidler ("Scheidler") and others in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for violation of the antitrust laws by participating in a conspiracy to close abortion clinics. NOW, through its officers defendants Molly Yard ("Yard"), President of NOW, and Patricia Ireland ("Ireland"), Vice-President of NOW, held a press conference in Washington, D.C. and issued a news release discussing the case and announcing that NOW was amending their complaint to add counts for violations of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO").
Plaintiff Scheidler subsequently brought this suit for defamation in Illinois state court, claiming that statements made at the press conference and in the news release by defendants constituted defamation per se. Plaintiff alleges two counts of defamation per se, one based upon words imputing the commission of the crimes of arson and bombing and aiding and abetting arson and bombing, and one based upon words injuring plaintiff in his profession as a "non-violent crusader on behalf of the rights of unborn persons." Complaint, Counts I and II, paras. 20-21. Defendants removed the case to this court and now seek to dismiss it on numerous grounds. For the reasons described below, we grant defendants' motion to dismiss.
NOW filed a complaint against Scheidler and others for violation of the antitrust laws. We take judicial notice of the contents of NOW's original complaint, in which NOW alleged:
17. Since at least 1984, the defendants have agreed and conspired among themselves and with others to drive every clinic such as DWHO [Delaware Women's Health Organization] and the Ladies Center in the United States out of business.
18. In June 1984, the defendants met in Kansas City, Missouri, to formulate a six-month plan of national activities. The plan, which included "blitzes" of abortion clinics, was designed to close down as many abortion clinics across the country as possible.
19. In April 1985, the Pro-Life Action Network, a nationwide coalition of over 70 "activist" anti-abortion organizations, held its annual meeting in Appleton, Wisconsin, and pledged to create "a year of pain and fear" for anyone receiving or performing an abortion. Both defendants participated in this national meeting.
20. In pursuit of their goal to drive every clinic such as DWHO and the Ladies Center out of business, the defendants have traveled throughout the country engaging in, or encouraging others to engage in, unlawful, concerted action, including repeated acts of trespass and vandalism, directed at women's health centers such as DWHO and the Ladies Center.
21. Defendant Scheidler has distributed a manual, Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion, outlining methods intended to be used to interfere with and stop women's health centers such as DWHO and the Ladies Center from operating.
22. Defendant Scheidler's manual, Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion, encourages the use of unlawful activities and methods to drive women's health centers such as DWHO and the Ladies Center out of business.
23. Defendant Scheidler has traveled throughout the country training other persons to use the methods outlined in Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion and encouraging them to drive women's health centers such as DWHO and the Ladies Center out of business.
24. Defendant Scheidler has traveled throughout the country leading efforts to shut down women's health centers such as DWHO and the Ladies Center and encouraging the use of unlawful methods to do so.
30. On March 26, 1986, defendant Scheidler and others went to the Ladies Center to lead an effort to shut it down. During the course of their efforts, a number of persons, including Joan Andrews and John Burt, stormed the clinic. John Burt injured Linda Taggert, the clinic administrator, and Georgia Wilde, the president of the Escambia County NOW chapter. Ms. Andrews ransacked a medical procedures room destroying surgical supplies. Both Ms. Andrews and Mr. Burt had to be subdued by the police. . . . Both have been convicted on criminal charges as a result of their actions.
32. On April 11, 1986, in furtherance of the nationwide effort to close down women's health centers that perform abortions, defendant Scheidler unlawfully entered DWHO. Defendant Scheidler told the clinic administrator, Cathy Conner, that he had come to "case the place" because he and his followers intended to force DWHO to close. He stated that he and others intended to make Delaware the first abortion free state in the nation. He threatened Ms. Conner with reprisals should she refuse to quit her job.
34. Defendant Scheidler was arrested and charged with criminal trespass and harassment on April 12, 1986, as a result of his actions at DWHO the previous day. He was subsequently convicted and fined.
NOW and its coplaintiffs subsequently amended the complaint to add RICO counts in addition to the antitrust claims, based upon the same factual premises. Just prior to amending the complaint they held a press conference in Washington, D.C. and issued a news release concerning the lawsuit. Statements contained in the news release and made at the press conference are the subject of this lawsuit.
NOW issued a news release on November 28, 1988, which said,
The National Organization for Women today demanded that President Reagan, President-elect Bush and Attorney General Thornburgh prosecute anti-abortion extremists for their escalating violations of federal statutes, including racketeering, anti-trust and anti-Klan laws.
"President Reagan has refused to allow Yasser Arafat into this country, calling him a terrorist. But he ignores the terrorists already operating in this country, the anti-abortion extremists operating through a pattern of violence, threats and intimidation to close family planning facilities and clinics which offer abortion," said NOW President Molly Yard.
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