By COLLEEN SLEVIN
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A college student who authorities say admitted setting fire to a building slated to become Wyoming’s only full-service abortion clinic pleaded not guilty to an arson charge in federal court on Friday.
Standing next to her lawyer, Lorna Roxanne Green, 22, entered her plea after calmly answering questions from the judge about whether she understood the proceedings and for what charge she was indicted. She answered “no” to whether she had any mental or physical conditions that would make it difficult to understand what was happening as her father watched from the front row of court.
Green told investigators that she opposes abortion and was experiencing anxiety and having nightmares over the Wellspring Health Access clinic that was to open in Casper, Wyoming, last year, so she decided to burn it, according to court documents.
After the court hearing, Green’s lawyer, Ryan Semerad, declined to comment on the confession outlined by investigators. He said he needs to look at the conversation with authorities in detail, along with the rest of the evidence in the case that will now be turned over to him.
Investigators say Green broke a window at the clinic, filled aluminum baking pans with gasoline and set it ablaze on May 25, 2022. The clinic, which had drawn anti-abortion protesters, was scheduled to open a few weeks later but was not able to begin seeing patients until March because of the fire damage.
The facility is Wyoming’s only dedicated clinic in at least a decade to offer surgical abortions. It also offers abortion pills, women’s health care, family planning and gender-affirming health care, the clinic says.
Before Wellspring opened, only one other clinic in Wyoming — a women’s health center in Jackson, some 250 miles (400 kilometers) away — provided medication abortions.
Abortion remains legal in conservative Wyoming although lawmakers passed a law banning abortion except in cases of rape or incest reported to police, or when the mother’s life is in danger. However, a state judge put the ban on hold while an opposing lawsuit proceeds.
Wyoming also became the the first state to pass an explicit ban on abortion pills, which have been legal for decades and become the predominant choice for abortion in the U.S. The ban does not take effect until July 1.
Surveillance video released by police soon after the fire at the Casper facility captured a masked woman in a hooded shirt at the clinic building. But Green was not arrested until March after tipsters named her as a possible suspect when the reward in the case was increased to $15,000.
Chief Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin scheduled Green to go on trial on July 24. She faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.