Survivalist gets probation for 8 Molotov cocktails

Molotov

Molotov Cocktail

A Collier man claiming to be part of a New York survivalist group pleaded guilty Wednesday to possessing eight Molotov cocktails in his home last December.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Edward J. Borkowski sentenced Jacob Leo Phillips IV, 24, to five months of probation.

Collier police joined agents from the ATF and FBI in serving a search warrant Dec. 8 on Phillips’ home, where they found the eight homemade fire bombs, according to the criminal complaint against Phillips.

The complaint said Phillips and his landlord said they were both members of the New York-based Minutemen Militia, though criminal defense attorney Steven Townsend said it was actually the “Watchmen,” which was more of a survivalist group than a militia.

“It’s not a proactive organization, more of a reactive one … He was in the infancy stages, just getting his feet wet with this group,” Townsend said. “He’s now severed all ties.”

The only training Phillips had with the Watchmen, Townsend said, was in CPR and first aid.

Phillips told police he’d only used one of the Molotov cocktails and that was in a backyard fire pit the year before. But police said he had no license to make or possess them, and keeping them in a residential neighborhood was reckless.

Police charged Phillips with eight felony counts of unlawfully possessing or manufacturing a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) as well as a risking a catastrophe charge and eight misdemeanor counts of making an offensive weapon.

As part of his plea, prosecutors reduced the weapons of mass destruction charges to misdemeanor possession of incendiary devices, to which Phillips pleaded guilty. The other charges were withdrawn.

Townsend said the case was “overcharged” as WMD, since the law for incendiary devices specifically covers Molotov cocktails.

Phillips also had legally-owned firearms, ammunition, body armor and a cache of food and water in the home. Townsend said that under federal law, Phillips is now barred from possessing the guns and is in the process of determining how he will sell or transfer them. The items remain in the custody of police until such arrangements are made.

BY MATTHEW SANTONI

Supreme Court Strikes Down Strict Texas Abortion Law

Supreme Court
Supreme Court Abortion Decision

Strict Abortion Law Stricken

By: Pete Williams

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down one of the nation’s toughest restrictions on abortion, a Texas law that women’s groups said would have forced more than three-quarters of the state’s clinics to shut down.

The decision was 5-3.

Passed in 2013, the law said clinics providing abortion services must meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers. And it required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Since the law was passed, the number of clinics providing abortion services in Texas dropped to 19 from 42. Opponents said that number would fall to ten if the Supreme Court upheld the law.

The Center for Reproductive Rights called the law “an absolute sham,” arguing that abortion patients rarely require hospitalization and that many patients simply take two pills.

  • Abortion Rights Advocate: ‘Women Across America Constitutional Rights Vindicated’ 

Justice Stephen G. Breyer in writing the majority opinion said “neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a pre-viability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.”

Breyer was joined in the majority by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Anthony M. Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Clarence Thomas dissented.

In writing his dissent, Alito said “The Court favors petitioners with a victory that they did not have the audacity to seek.”

“If anything, when a case involves a controversial issue, we should be especially careful to be scrupulously neutral in applying such rules,” Alito wrote. “The Court has not done so here. On the contrary, de­termined to strike down two provisions of a new Texas abortion statute in all of their applications, the Court simply disregards basic rules that apply in all other cases.”

Thomas in his own strident dissent criticized what he sees as “the Court’s troubling tendency ‘to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue’.”

Pro-choice advocates dance outside the Supreme Court where justices are weighing a case that imposes heavy restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas on June 26. JIM LO SCALZO / EPA

Surgical patients undergo a ten-minute procedure without general anesthesia in the outpatient setting of a doctor’s office or clinic, the group said, and complications from abortion are extremely rare.

Texas defended the restrictions, saying that states have wide discretion to pass laws in areas where there is medical and scientific uncertainty. The state said the law was passed “to ensure patient safety and raise standards of care.”

The court’s decision will affect similar laws in twelve other states, some now on hold because of court challenges. The restrictions in Texas represented a new front in efforts to restrict abortion by focusing on protecting the health and safety of the mother rather than the life of the fetus.

Wide-shot of courtroom on last day of opinions, 2015-16 Term. Art Lien

At the heart of the case was the standard for assessing abortion limits first announced by the Supreme Court in 1992. State laws cannot create an “undue burden” on a woman’s constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy before the fetus attains viability, it said then.

A law imposes such a burden, the court said in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, if its “purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path” of a woman seeking to exercise that right.

Planned Parenthood celebrated the ruling.

“We are thrilled that these dangerous provisions have been struck down,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement. “This is a win for women. Every person must have the right to make their own personal decisions about abortion, and we will fight like hell to ensure they do.”

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton weighed in on the ruling via Twitter saying the decision “is a victory for women in Texas and across America. Safe abortion should be a right—not just on paper, but in reality.”