US authorities have arrested a third man for his alleged involvement in the firebombing of a Planned Parenthood clinic in southern California last year.
Xavier Batten, 21, was arrested on federal charges on Friday in Florida, the US attorney’s office in Los Angeles said. Officials allege that Batten, along with two other men, including a US marine, conspired to attack a women’s health clinic because it had provided reproductive health services.
The other suspected perpetrators in the attack – Tibet Ergul, 21, of Irvine, and Chance Brannon, 23, of San Juan Capistrano, a marine stationed at Camp Pendleton – are expected to be arraigned in federal court in Santa Ana on Monday, prosecutors said in a statement.
Authorities have charged all three men with conspiracy and malicious destruction of property by fire and explosion, the statement said. Ergul and Brannon also face additional charges.
“The violent and reckless attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic alleged in the indictment is intolerable,” said US attorney Martin Estrada. “This indictment shows that federal law enforcement will work diligently to uncover and hold accountable those who plan and carry out violent extremist acts against others.”
Brannon will plead not guilty, said Kate Corrigan, his attorney. Sheila Mojtehedi, Ergul’s attorney, declined to comment.
The charges are tied to an attack at the Costa Mesa Planned Parenthood clinic, authorities said. At around 1am on 13 March 2022, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the front of the building and fire spread up a wall and across a ceiling.
Security video recorded two people in hooded sweatshirts and face masks carrying out the attack. No one was hurt but the clinic had to cancel about 30 appointments, authorities said.
“Those who deliberately put lives at risk and damage property by launching improvised explosive devices into public facilities will be sought and will be held accountable, as this case makes clear,” said Donald Alway, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.
The men face up to 20 years in federal prison for the charges of conspiracy and malicious destruction, as well as up to a year in federal prison for the charge of intentional damage to a reproductive health facility. The count of possession of an unregistered destructive device carries a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison, authorities said in a statement.
Abortion providers have faced increasing attacks in recent years. A report from the National Abortion Federation found that assaults against abortion clinic patients and staff increased by 128% in 2021.
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