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California man pleads guilty after threats to Planned Parenthood

Prosecutors say the threatening calls escalated last year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the right to have an abortion.

(CN) — A California man on Monday pleaded guilty to multiple federal charges after authorities accused him of making bomb and death threats to reproductive heath and family planning groups throughout Southern California.

The threats escalated last year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the national right to have an abortion, according to a news release Monday from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.

Nishith Tharaka Vandebona, 34, was first charged in March after authorities said he used anonymized online phone numbers to call in threats to Planned Parenthood clinics and other organizations in the Los Angeles area and beyond.

On Monday, Vandebona pleaded guilty to two charges: one felony count for transmitting threatening communications in interstate commerce and another misdemeanor count for "threatened forcible intimidation regarding the obtaining and provision of reproductive health services." Under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in 1994, it is a federal crime for a person to impede access to reproductive health clinics using violence and threats.

Authorities say Vandebona made the threatening calls in February and June of last year.

In February 2022, they say Vandebona called Californians for Population Stabilization, a Ventura-based "zero population growth" and anti-immigration group.

Vandebona told the group he would "come in there and kill all of you." He also threatened to "plant a bomb" at the group's offices, according to the news release.

The threats stopped for several months. Then, on June 24 of last year, the U.S. Supreme Court published its opinion in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.

That ruling overturned the court's landmark precedent from Roe v. Wade in 1973, which had enshrined the right to abortion for all Americans, and opened the door for individual states to ban abortion within their borders.

That same day, authorities say Vandebona started making threats again.

On June 24, Vandebona left a voicemail "containing death threats" with Planned Parenthood California Central Coast, a Santa Barbara-based Planned Parenthood clinic, authorities stated. At press time, the contents of that voicemail were not clear.

The next day, he told a receptionist for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles that the organization was "overdue for an attack" and that he was going to "kill all of you, including your staff and your security." In a later call to the same clinic, he further threatened to "murder your staff," authorities stated.

Vandebona faces a maximum of six years in prison for the threats, including five years for the threats themselves and one year for violating the FACE Act. He is scheduled to be sentenced in October.

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner, a George W. Bush appointee, is overseeing the case. At Vandebona's hearing on Monday, Klausner ordered him returned to federal custody. Records from the Federal Bureau of Prisons show Vandebona was previously released last month.

While Vandebona is currently a resident of Oxnard, he was living in Camarillo at the time of the offenses, authorities stated.

Vandebona's threats prompted a swift response from law enforcement. The FBI investigated the case, as did local authorities in Santa Barbara, Santa Monica and Ventura County, according to the news release. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California is prosecuting the case.

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Categories / Civil Rights, Criminal, Politics

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