BUFFALO, N.Y. – An anti-abortion extremist was indicted on a new murder charge Tuesday, almost a month after he admitted in a jail interview that he killed a doctor who provided abortions.
James Kopp, already charged with intentional second-degree murder, pleaded innocent to the new charge of reckless murder with depraved indifference to human life. If convicted, he could get 25 years to life in prison.
"There was new evidence that was brought to our attention that warranted the second count," prosecutor Joe Marusak said.
He would not elaborate, citing a gag order, but the indictment was clearly linked to Kopp's admissions in The Buffalo News interview last month.
Kopp, 47, who was captured in France after nearly three years on the run, told the newspaper he carried out the October 1998 sniper attack that killed Dr. Barnett Slepian, 52, in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst. Kopp said he meant only to wound the doctor, but "the bullet took a crazy ricochet."
Kopp, a militant known as "Atomic Dog" in anti-abortion circles, said he shot Slepian because of his outrage over abortions. He and his lawyer, Bruce Barket, intend to turn his trial into a forum for the abortion debate.
The new charge suggests prosecutors are questioning "whether or not Jim intended the death of Dr. Slepian," Barket told reporters after the arraignment. "There's not a mystery as to who shot Dr. Slepian any longer. The only interesting question in this is the morality of abortion."
The prosecutor countered that personal opinions about abortion are "irrelevant to what's going to happen in the court."
Kopp is scheduled to go on trial in February.