A jury found a North Carolina preacher guilty of stalking a Charlotte abortion doctor after passing out hundreds of "wanted" posters with the physician's name and photo on it.
Jurors deliberated about 90 minutes Friday before finding Rev. Phillip "Flip" Benham, director of Concord-based Operation Save America, guilty of misdemeanor stalking, The Charlotte Observer reported.
Benham, 62, was sentenced to 18 months of probation and ordered to stop any intimidating behaviors.
"I can't speak. I can't get within 500 feet," Benham said outside court, holding his Bible. "They've stolen from innocent babies a voice that has spoken for them."
Prosecutors said Benham distributed photos with the names and photos of several Charlotte doctors who perform abortions and the words "Wanted ... By Christ, to Stop Killing Babies."
Benham knew that doctors in other places had been killed after similar posters were made, Assistant District Attorney Kristen Northrup said.
"What would a reasonable person think if they saw `Wanted' on a poster with their picture on it?" Northrup said.
The doctor, who wasn't named by the newspaper, was so afraid that anti-abortion activists might attack him that he has tinted his car windows, drives several different routes to work and doesn't park in his designated space at the three clinics where he works, Northrup said.
Benham's attorney filed a notice to appeal immediately after the verdict, saying his client shouldn't be associated with activists who have turned to violence.
"This case is not about the flashpoint of abortion, it's about what Mr. Benham did or did not do," Toussaint Romain said.
Benham had never even met the doctor in person until they saw each other in court, Romain said.
Benham said he will respect the verdict, but won't stop protesting at other abortion clinics. And he expects the protests outside the doctor's clinics to continue too.
"There will be other people who will come and stand up for what's right," Benham said.
Information from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com
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