CHEYENNE — Even those who directly suffered from Lorna Green’s decision to set fire to a Casper abortion and transgender treatment clinic last year expressed sympathy for the Casper woman as she was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday.
Julie Burkhart, president of the Wellspring Health Access organization that runs the clinic, said it’s a tragedy that Lorna Green’s life has been derailed because of her criminal actions.
“In a way my heart breaks for the defendant,” Burkhart said during Green’s sentencing at the federal courthouse in Cheyenne. “I don’t hate her, and I am trying to forgive her for this deplorable action.”
Green, 22, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson to 60 months in prison and three years’ supervised release as outlined in a plea agreement. In addition, she also will be required to pay a yet-to-be determined amount of restitution to Wellspring, the owner of the building, and the insurance company that had to pay out to repair the damage.
Johnson said that will likely be well over the $290,000 baseline damage that she caused to the facility.
Strong Emotions Prevailed
Green, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit with long light brown hair that extended down below her waist, said little besides a brief apology for her actions. Although she offered a small smile and long look at her friends and family upon entering the courtroom, she gave no parting glance upon leaving.
She also, through Johnson, painted a picture of a young woman who was confused and influenced by her parents and their strict, authoritarian household.
Green’s attorney Ryan Semerad was the only person to testify on her behalf on Thursday. Per Green’s wishes, Semerad clarified four points to the court.
Green takes full responsibility for her actions and acted independently without the help or guidance of any group.
It is not her intention or effort to try and spread fear.
She has no hate for the clinic’s employees or president.
Her actions are representative of strong emotions she didn’t know how to handle, but were not intended as a political act.
“Lorna Green’s crime did not happen in a vacuum,” Semerad said. “Leaders have inflamed raw emotion around a sensitive issue. These leaders are not blameless.”
Johnson said there was a remarkable outpouring of support for Green in letters sent to the court. About 20 of her friends and family were at Thursday’s sentencing.
Although Johnson said the letters were meaningful, he rejected the argument that her actions were impulsive. He hopes Green’s sentence sends a message to others considering acts of violence in the name of political beliefs.
“You are entitled to your opinions, whatever they may be,” Johnson said. “Those opinions certainly don’t justify in any effect the terrorism that was caused. I hope that for once the sentence in this case will cause anyone similarly inclined as the defendant in this case to cause terrorism to reconsider and think better of it.”
A pre-sentencing report shared by Judge Johnson related how Green was molded by corporal punishment that her defense argued predetermined her destiny at the hands of her parents.
From a young age, Green said her parents had told her that her role in life would be to pick a career that best supports her husband and to have many children. What she wanted for herself mattered little to them.
Green said she and her sister also received routine corporal punishment from their parents, claiming they gave her spankings when she was as old as 18 and subjected her to other acts of humiliation. She also said she witnessed her mother strike her sister so hard on one occasion that she suffered a nosebleed.
In July, Green pleaded guilty to breaking into the Wellspring Health Access building in Casper in May 2022, dousing it in gasoline and setting fire to it. She could have received as much as 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines, but instead got a minimum sentence as a result of her plea deal.
It took about nine months for FBI investigators to track down Green as the arsonist, but when they did, she immediately admitted to the crime.
Judge Johnson agreed with Green’s summation that a highly polarized political climate contributed to her decision to burn the clinic. But he and others like Burkhart also described the arson as an act of violence and terrorism unjustified by any political belief.
Burkhart told the court that she had a former boss murdered in church because of his role in providing abortions and that she’s also faced personal threats for helping provide the service. She said attacks on abortion clinics and their employees have significantly increased in the past year.
“This case is about upholding justice in an unjust situation and ensuring something like this does not happen again,” Burkhart said.
During her statement to the court, Burkhart stressed that Green’s actions are not a matter of political support for or opposition of abortion, but the basic difference between right and wrong.
“It sends a message that pervasive violence is unjust and will not be tolerated by the justice system,” Burkhart said.
Christine Lichtenfels owns the clinic building and also is the founder of Chelsea’s Fund, an organization that supports access to abortions to women in Wyoming.
“The defendant significantly hurt numerous women who could not receive care at the clinic,” Lichtenfels said.
Lichtenfels also spoke about how Green’s actions personally affected her, causing her to lose income had the Wellspring facility opened in time.
On the night of the arson, Burkhart said she received a call from the building contractor alerting her to what happened. When she looked at the phone, her heart instantly sank.
“The monetary cost was significant, but it doesn’t account for the damage the defendant’s actions did to everyone associated with Wellspring,” she said, adding that many employees had to put their lives on hold during the nearly year-long delay in opening the clinic.
She and others have been afraid of further violence, which she said they will “carry with us the rest of our lives.”
Johnson expressed belief in the accounts and that Green’s parents contributed to her mental health issues, which included anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders. As part of her sentence, Green will be required to seek mental health treatment upon release from prison.
The judge also told her that she needs to take responsibility for her life and chart her own decisions, commending her intelligence and “almost limitless abilities.”
Green said she is particularly close with her sister and asked that she be allowed to live with her when she gets out of prison instead of returning home to live with her parents in Wyoming.
Green also requested that she be allowed to serve her sentence in either Bryan, Texas, or Alderson, West Virginia, both minimum security prisons for female inmates. She will have 14 days to appeal Johnson’s sentence.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.