A religious fundamentalist was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for plotting to blow up abortion clinics, churches he disagreed with, and gay bars after a judge ruled he is not a terrorist under federal law. Stephen John Jordi, who was turned in by relatives and church members, received the minimum sentence after U.S. district judge James Cohn decided not to treat him as a terrorist as the prosecutors requested. They had wanted Jordi to receive a sentence of seven to 10 years. Cohn said federal laws require that plots have an international component to be considered terrorism. "This crime was strictly domestic and in no way transcended national boundaries," he said.
Jordi, a former Army Ranger, pleaded guilty in February to attempted arson of an abortion clinic in exchange for prosecutors dropping charges of spreading explosive information and possessing an unregistered firearm. Jordi didn't speak during Thursday's hearing, but he nodded when the judge ruled that he couldn't be defined as a terrorist. Jordi and a government informant bought gasoline cans, flares, starter fluid, and propane tanks on the day he was arrested last November after casing several south Florida abortion clinics and talking about bombing one in Macon, Ga., according to the FBI. "This was all being driven by the confidential informant," said Anne Lyons, Jordi's public defender. "But for the involvement of a very aggressive confidential informant, I don't think anything would have happened."
Prosecutor John Schlesinger said he "respectfully disagreed" with the judge's decision not to treat Jordi as a terrorist. Jordi corresponded with Paul Hill, who was executed last September for murdering a Pensacola, Fla., abortion doctor and his volunteer escort. Jordi protested outside the prison during Hill's execution and gave newspaper interviews in support of Hill. Prosecutors say Jordi wanted to emulate Atlanta Olympic bombing suspect Eric Rudolph by living off the land after the bombings. Jordi told the informant that he planned to carry out the bombings for 30 to 40 years or until he was caught, a comment that left the judge with "grave concerns" that Jordi's "very strong convictions" might make him dangerous after his release. Jordi's wife and pastor attended the hearing but declined comment.
Jordi's arms were almost covered with tattoos, including one depicting a large red-and-black cross with a sun for a backdrop and the words "Ye shall repent." He placed his hands up in prayer when Lyons asked the judge to order that Jordi be sent to a north Florida prison, near his family's current home, and appeared astonished when the request was denied. He will be assigned a prison by the federal corrections department.