The National Organization for Women (NOW) is releasing this statement to help clarify reports made by national news sources such as the Associated Press and our own newspaper, the National NOW Times, regarding the search for the person who murdered Dr. Barnett Slepian in New York last October.
In its Winter 1999 issue, the National NOW Times printed an article entitled "Doctor Murdered as Anti-Abortion Violence and Terrorism Continue." That article covered both the shooting death of Dr. Slepian and NOW's call for an end to anti-abortion violence and terrorism nationwide. The National NOW Times reported that James Charles Kopp, an anti-abortion protestor who had previously been arrested outside of clinics, was wanted as a material witness in the shooting. We also reported that "Ronald Stauber and Michael Gingrich were also wanted for questioning in connection with the slaying, and one of the men has already been interviewed and released."
The National NOW Times obtained this information from published reports by the Associated Press (AP), as released by the FBI. Since the Winter 1999 issue went to press, however, NOW has discovered new details that our members and the public should know.
First, AP reports that NOW used as our sources contained errors in the two men's names, and they are, in fact, Robert Stauber and Michael (Malikee) Gingerich from Cleveland, Ohio. Secondly, these two men have released statements declaring that they are pro-choice, proclaiming their innocence and denouncing the FBI for what they believe to be intentional harassment. A number of pro-choice and social justice groups have also stepped forward to support Stauber and Gingerich.
A statement issued by Deb Petten, founding member of the Cleveland Pro-Choice Action League, maintained that "... it appears that two activists in the pro-choice community, Michael Gingerich and Robert Stauber, are being targeted by the FBI as a result of accidentally appearing at Dr. Barnett Slepian's house, shortly after his murder, while on their way to a candlelight vigil [in Slepian's honor] in Buffalo, NY."
In their first statement, Stauber and Gingerich wrote, "We are known activists on the left, active in the struggle for women's rights, against police brutality, and more generally against the politics of poverty, punishment, and patriarchy . . . The FBI clearly knew who we were before they began pursuing us . . . They knew that we considered Barnett Slepian a brave doctor and a hero. They knew we were not associated with the likes of James Charles Kopp . . . Whatever their motives are, they published only our names 'out of the hundreds of leads being followed up.'"
In their most recent statement, Stauber and Gingerich demand an apology from the FBI and request that the FBI issue a written statement that:
"1) it is no longer seeking us for questioning in connection with the heinous murder of Dr. Slepian; 2) that it has withdrawn the all points bulletin previously issued on us; 3) that there never was any connection between Charles Kopp and us; 4) that all law enforcement agencies that the FBI has contacted in relation to the murder investigation be informed that we are no longer being sought for any reason in relation to Dr. Slepian's murder."
NOW and the National NOW Times regret that we did not have this information when we went to press last November, as these details were not available through the reputable sources we frequently use for research.