July/August, 1997 Volume XII Number 7 - DEPARTMENTS

Postcard from the Edge

A toast to the criminally insane
by Michael Bray

Leland Smart was minding his own business in Leavenworth. He had completed five of his 20-year sentence; lots of time to go. One way to pass the time is to make a little hooch. (No crime, Christian friends. He wasn't making a fortune bootlegging like those plutocrat Kennedys who made theirs during prohibition.) It isn't just the drinking of it that makes the heart merry, but the making of it. It requires stealth and skill to produce it in jail. Got to get some yeast from the mess hall, some sugar, a little fruit. Got to hide the whole process. The making of it is a balm for prison life. It is the working with one's hands. Something to do, something to make, to pass the time.
But he got nailed and thrown in the hole (isolation) for five days.
While in the hole, an issue of Dave Leach's Prayer and Action News came in the mail. That is the publication which reproduced the AOG manual and features similar writings unpopular with the Clinton Administration. Prison officials did not release him after the five days, but charged him with "attempted escape" for receiving the publication. He remained in the hole for five months, has not been allowed to have visits, and was shipped to the medical prison for federal prisoners in Springfield, Missouri in April. What happened to him is not clear.
Leland Smart had been residing in the Leavenworth penitentiary since September of 1993. He was jailed and charged in December of 1992 for shooting up the bullet-proof glass of the Grand Rapids Planned Barrenhood. He testifies that his use of "45 caliber, 240 grain hollow points" had rendered the abortuary such that "softball-sized holes were punched through every window at 5 a.m. with no witnesses or evidence." He says, moreover, "They had nothing to go on until Judas, Mr. [William] Diehl, began cooperating, wearing a wire, as we had formulated the planned demolition of every clinic in Grand Rapids by explosive means."
Now that could exasperate a fellow. And Leland has been acting a little funny lately. (Yes, we can imagine how someone with such lofty goals could become downright mentally disabled by having them so devastatingly foiled.) He was fine the first five years of the 20-year sentence, but after he was thrown into the "hole" (isolation) in November of 1996 for a few months, fellow inmates wrote his stepmother, Lucy Chatman in Comstock Park, Michigan, and said that he needed help; viz., that he 1) was "messing on himself" while lying naked in his cell, 2) was not eating, 3) had been sent out for recreation in a hostile situation and was subsequently beat up. Of course, these reports are happily received by NOWists and other sane abortophiles who regard "anti-choice zealots" as loons from the beginning for even doubting the right to choose childslaughter. But a closer look from us open-minded folks is necessary; there is the possibility of foul play on the part of prison officials in this case.
Somehow, his imprisonment escaped the notice of both the good guys and the 'borts. Even the University of West Florida abortophile sociologist, Dallas Blanchard, who wrote that wonderful chronicle of good anti-abortion deeds entitled, Religious Violence and Abortion (University Press of Florida, 1993), recorded nothing of Leland Smart. Mr. Smart has not enjoyed the benefit of an abundance of visits. Early in his imprisonment, he had only one person on his visitors list, a retired Lutheran school teacher named Marjorie Herring. This septuagenarian from Shawnee Mission, Kansas is a veteran of the Summer of Mercy who logged in 21 days in prison. (Like 95% of those who have blockaded abortuaries, she has not personally chosen to employ the use of force to stop childslaughter, but she doesn't condemn those who have made that choice.) Miss Herring first visited Mr. Smart when he was 34 after he had finished two years of his sentence. Neither she nor his stepmother report any bizarre behavior in his life prior to his being put in the hole. There were a few others who corresponded regularly with Leland before he went into the hole. They declare that regular communication ceased once he was put into isolation. Regina Dinwiddie of Kansas City had written and received responses once or twice a month for several months prior to November of 1996. Then there was silence.
Prison officials have denied visits to several people including his stepmother, who attempted to visit him from April 10-13. He was transferred a few days later to the federal medical prison in Springfield, Missouri. The good news is that he called her two weeks later and again the following week. He sounded much better, but he writes from Springfield to Gary Simpson in Kansas, "They transferred me to the psychological unit . . . they are trying to commit me to the psych-ward." Well, let us cut the prison a little slack. We don't know all the facts, and there are prisoner confidentiality rules which prison authorities cannot breech. Leland had an unusually stressful background which may have brought about behavior which somehow justified leaving him in isolation for five months (straining to common sense and credulity as this is).
Actually, Lucy Chatman is not Leland's legal stepmother; he had had lots of legal ones, however. Hailing from what in nineties nomenclature is called a "dysfunctional family," he and his brother were bounced from one foster home to another, including a five year stay in the Boys Town orphanage in Florida from which Leland was sent by his father to the Army at age 17. While imprisoned for some form of thievery, he began to study the Scriptures at age 26. He became a Christian; and when he left prison, he went to live temporarily with the family of a fellow inmate and convert, Jeff Chatman. Jeff's mother Lucy is the only woman Leland calls mom.
Our new ex-con convert moved into an apartment and worked at a book store called Budget Book in Grand Rapids, near an abortuary. And as he grew in the knowledge of the Word of God, he reasonably hated the killing of innocent children. And so he took the merciful and appropriate action.
Leland may well have wondered why other Christians hadn't already destroyed the death camps. And yet he must have pondered his own stability: Why is an ex-con doing this? Aren't there some regular crime-free, upstanding, mature Christians out there doing anything?
But maybe, as a penurious ex-con, happily unencumbered by that wealth and those amenities which seem to have disabled the mature and stable from taking the radical right action, he just did what he had to do.
As I say, we really don't know all the facts concerning Leland's physical or spiritual and mental condition. But let us summarize the relevant factors surrounding alleged mental irregularities: 1) dysfunctional family life; 2) jail life, which consists in a) involuntary association with all manner of derelicts, miscreants, slovens, perverts, drunkards, sodomites, fornicators (in short, post-Christian American decadence magnified tenfold), b) a relentless cacophony of foul language, gameshow-soap-MTV TV noise, and rap music, c) idiot conversation; 3) utter shunning by the Christian world after performing the most Christian deed of one's life; 4) the murder of his beloved step-sister, whose body was found in August of 1996; 5) isolation.
Now what would a professional shrink, to whom folks outside the walls pay big bucks to identify that elusive reason rooted in some quirky childhood life experience for our every deviant inclination, say about the experiences of this man? Would his alleged psychological disorder be explained by his life experiences? (Pipe up, all you Skinnerians! Don't hide now.)
Yes, it is a bit insane: the Behaviorists excuse ax murderers because of a bad childhood; the Freudians excuse sexual deviants because of insurmountable sex drives; but no anti-abortionist is excused for any reason.
Our beef is not with the accusers of the brethren. It is with the brethren who accuse or shun wrongly. Yes, there is actually a more pertinent matter here; it is not Leland's sanity, but our reception of him.
Leland doesn't make a good poster boy. Too much baggage. He harms our prolife image; particularly, he hurts our image as a smaller, fledgling band of apologetes for the use of force. But he is one of our boys. You, whom God has kept on the outside, take up his cause. Plead his case.

Copyright © 1997 AFLM