Suspect in anthrax hoaxes against abortion clinics takes relaxed view of most-wanted status

Friday, December 7th 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

CINCINNATI (AP) _ A man accused of mailing hundreds of anthrax hoax letters to abortion clinics across the country was surprised to find himself on the FBI's list of 10 most wanted fugitives.

He said he doesn't hold it against U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft: ``I understand he's anti-abortion also. He's a good man,'' Clayton Lee Waagner, 45, told reporters in court Thursday.

Waagner was charged with a firearms violation and ordered held without bond at a short hearing in U.S. Magistrate Court. He was arrested Wednesday in suburban Springdale, Ohio, after using a rented computer at a copy shop.

Waagner, who escaped from an Illinois jail earlier this year, had $8,986 cash in his pocket and a loaded .40-caliber handgun tucked into his waistband when he was arrested.

The FBI said Waagner had claimed responsibility for sending more than 550 anthrax threat letters to women's reproductive health clinics in the past two months. The clinics received envelopes containing white powder and letters signed, ``Army of God.'' The powder was not anthrax.

In June, abortion clinics were warned to be on alert after someone purporting to be Waagner posted an Internet message vowing to kill employees of abortion providers. Waagner has previously testified that God told him to kill doctors who perform abortions.

Springdale Police Capt. Bill Hafer and two other officers arrested Waagner after a store clerk who recognized him from a flier called police. Police arrested him there.

Hafer said he told them about a pistol in his waistband and later admitted who he was. He also had false identification, a badge, a bail bondsman's badge, Hafer said.

``He said, 'Hey, I guess this is it,''' Hafer said. ``He said, 'Don't worry about it. I don't have a problem with you. I have a problem with the abortion people.'''

Waagner is wanted in several other states, but was ordered held in Cincinnati until a grand jury can meet next week. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Behlen said the Justice Department would decide where Waagner would first be prosecuted.

Waagner had been on the run since February, when he escaped from a jail in Clinton, Ill., while awaiting sentencing for weapons offenses and auto theft.

He was arrested in September 1999 after he entered Illinois with his wife and eight children in a stolen Winnebago, which had four stolen handguns under the driver's seat, authorities said.

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