In September 1999 Clayton Waagner was arrested after crossing into Illinois with his wife and children in a stolen Winnebago. Police found four stolen handguns under the driver's seat. Waagner said he was on his way to Seattle, where he hoped to shoot an abortion doctor and said he would have shot the arresting officer had Waagner's family not been with him. He was taken into custody, but in February 2001 Waagner escaped from the Dewitt County Jail in Clinton, IL, while awaiting sentencing after being convicted of possession of firearms and possession of a stolen motor vehicle.
Waagner had a history of arrests including armed robbery and weapons crimes over many years before becoming active in the anti-abortion movement.
After his escape in February 2001, Waagner eluded capture for nine months. While running from law enforcement officials, Waagner traveled extensively and is charged with robbing banks, stealing cars, and possessing weapons in addition to threatening abortion clinic staff. He also admitted to sending over 550 anthrax threat letters to clinics across the country during that time. In addition, he used the Army of God and Nuremberg Files websites to post threats against abortion providers and clinic staff.
During the summer of 2001 Waagner posted a threat on a message board on the Army of God website, which is run by extremist and Army of God member Donald Spitz. The post said in part, "So the abortionists don't get the wrong idea, I don't plan on talking them to death. I'm going to kill as many of them as I can.... It doesn't matter to me if you're a nurse, receptionist, bookkeeper, or janitor, if you work for the murderous abortionist I'm going to kill you."
Anti-abortion extremist and Nuremberg Files creator Neal Horsley claims that Waagner visited him at his home in Carrollton, GA, on Friday, November 23, 2001. In a lengthy conversation that Horsley says he had with Waagner, Waagner claimed credit for sending anthrax threat letters to clinics. He also claimed, as he had in the past, that he had a list of clinic workers, their vehicles, and their addresses. He said that he intended to start killing these people if they did not quit working at abortion clinics. Waagner allegedly told Horsley of a way that clinic workers who quit could provide proof to Horsley's website so that Waagner could take them off his list. Waagner would not reveal the names of those on his list but said that "the holy spirit would tell" those who were being targeted. Horsley claimed Waagner was also carrying a weapon and tied Horsley up with tape before he left.
During the week of October 15, 2001 anthrax threat letters were received by over 250 abortion and family planning clinics in seventeen states and the District of Columbia. The letters bore the return address of either the United States Secret Service or the United States Marshals Service and were marked "Time Sensitive, Urgent Security Notice Enclosed." The letters were sent from Cleveland and Columbus, OH; Atlanta, GA; and Knoxville and Chattanooga, TN. The envelopes contained a powdery substance and many were signed by the Army of God.
On November 7, 2001 about 270 anthrax threat letters were sent via Federal Express to clinics and pro-choice organizations in Eastern, Midwestern and Southern States. The letters fraudulently carried the return addresses and account numbers of the National Abortion Federation or Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The FedEx envelopes contained powder and a letter signed by the Virginia Dare Cell of the Army of God.
The National Abortion Federation worked closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Marshals Service (USMS), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) on their investigation of Waagner. The FBI, ATF, and USMS put Waagner on their Most Wanted lists. NAF also successfully advocated with the DOJ to have Attorney General Ashcroft issue a public statement in which he promised to prosecute those responsible for sending anthrax threat letters to reproductive health clinics to the fullest extent of the law.
On December 5, 2001, just days after Ashcroft's announcement, Waagner was captured outside Cincinnati, OH. A Kinko's employee identified Clayton Lee Waagner as the man using a computer at his store and called 911. He was subsequently arrested and taken into the custody of the U.S. Marshals.
On December 12, 2001 Waagner was extradited to Illinois to face charges for escaping from prison. In early 2002 he was sentenced to 30 years in jail for the charges he was found guilty of before escaping from prison including weapons violations and stolen vehicle charges as well as the escape.
In April 2002 Waagner was convicted in Cincinnati, OH, of six charges relating to weapons violations and stolen vehicles. He represented himself and it took the federal jury just forty minutes to return the guilty verdict. He was sentenced to 19 years and seven months in prison for these crimes. This sentence was ordered to be served after Waagner completes his previous sentence of 30 years.
While being held in a Kentucky county jail while on trial for additional related charges, Waagner and his murder suspect cellmate tried to escape. They were successful in removing two concrete bricks from the wall in a corner of the cell.
Waagner was indicted on 53 federal terrorism charges related to the hundreds of anthrax threat letters he claims he sent to clinics across the country in the fall of 2001. The charges include extortion, threatening the use of a weapon of mass destruction, mailing threatening communications, and violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. Some of the charges also relate to his threatening website post.
After a trial in Federal District Court in Philadelphia, PA, in November and December 2003 where Waagner acted as his own attorney, a jury took only about two and a half hours to convict Waagner on 51 of 53 counts of the indictment. Waagner was sentenced to 19 years without parole for these crimes. He has also been convicted and sentenced to more than 50 years in prison for numerous other crimes committed while on the run from law enforcement including escape, bank robbery, explosives and weapons charges.