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Anti-Abortion Extremist Who Shot Doctor And Bombed Clinics Is Freed From Prison

Pro-choice groups fear that Shelley Shannon, who never apologized for her crimes, could incite more violence.

By Eric Shorey

Anti-abortion extremist Shelley Johnson, who never apologized for shooting a doctor and fireboming several abortion clinics, has been released from federal prison, sparking fears from pro-choice groups that she could continue promoting violence.

Rachelle "Shelley" Shannon left the Waseca Federal Correctional Facility in Minnesota on Monday. She was transported to a halfway house in Portland, Oregon, where she will reside for several months before a final release, according to The Kansas City Star in Missouri.

Shannon had been sentenced to 11 years in prison after shooting and wounding George Tiller, an abortion doctor and outspoken pro-choice advocate, in 1993. She was arrested several hours after the shooting. After being booked, police discovered a letter written to her daughter that detailed the crime.

"I'm not denying I shot Tiller," she wrote. "But I deny that it was wrong. It was the most holy, most righteous thing I've ever done. I have no regrets."

She received an additional 20-year sentence in 1995 after pleading guilty to a series of bombings, arson, and vandalism in California, Oregon and Nevada.

Tiller would later be killed by another anti-abortion extremist, Scott P. Roeder, in 2009. Roeder was friends with Shannon and had visited her in jail numerous times. In 2010, Roeder was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years.

Activists fear that Shannon has not changed her views and may inspire or execute more violence.

"The conditions of her probation must be the most stringent possible," Katherine Spillar, executive director of the Feminist Majority Foundation, told the Kansas City Star. "She has never renounced murder as a legitimate strategy. Never ... So to have her out and having ongoing communications with extremists from across the country who promote the use of violence, this is a dangerous situation waiting to explode again."

Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, echoed Spillar's fears.

"This is someone who not only committed multiple acts of violence herself, but also encouraged others to murder abortion providers," Saporta said, according to The Associated Press. "She has shown zero remorse."

Spillar said she is working to alert abortion clinics and other medical facilities that may be targeted in the wake of Shannon's release.

The Rev. Donald Spitz, leader of Pro-Life Virginia and sponsor of the extremist Army of God website, said he is pleased with the news of Shannon's freedom.

"We commiserated quite often about how unjust the whole thing was with the judge and the sentencing ... I know she's extremely well-respected, and she has an enormous number of friends who communicate with her," Spitz told the Star.

Shannon's final release date from the halfway house is scheduled for November 7.

[Photo: Wichita Eagle / Getty]

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