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Minister gets jail sentence for protest at clinic

Published Oct. 16, 2005

A leader in Florida's anti-abortion movement was sentenced Tuesday to 90 days in jail and one year of probation for trespassing during a June 17 protest at a St. Petersburg clinic. The Rev. Edward J. Martin, 44, of Ocala, was found guilty of the trespass charge Tuesday after a daylong jury trial before County Judge Patrick K. Caddell.

Caddell also ordered Martin to never again trespass at hospitals and clinics where abortions are performed.

Martin, executive director of Rescue America, was among dozens of protesters arrested at the All Women's Health Center at 4131 Central Ave. Many of the protesters chained themselves together during the four-hour demonstration.

Assistant State Attorney Magda McSwain asked jurors in her closing arguments not to be swayed by the purpose of the protest.

"What it comes down to is that he remained on that property after he was told he was no longer welcome there," she said.

Martin, however, told jurors he thought police had invited him to stay on the clinic grounds to act as a liaison between the protesters and authorities.

Martin, who said he is a Pentecostal minister, denied he went to the clinic with the intent of being arrested with the other demonstrators. "I felt that I could serve in the capacity of a helper," he testified.