A Puyallup man has been charged in federal court in Sacramento, California, with threatening an individual at a biotech firm publicly connected to Planned Parenthood’s handling of fetal tissue and organs.
Scott Anthony Orton is accused of directing threatening messages at an officer of StemExpress LLC in Placerville, California, after the firm was mentioned in a viral YouTube video as a recipient of fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood.
The officer of StemExpress is identified in court papers only as “Victim 1” and a resident of El Dorado County, California.
Orton, 57, was arrested Tuesday at his home by a deputy U.S. marshal.
Despite the government’s request that Orton be held without bail, a federal magistrate judge ordered him set free the next day on an unsecured appearance bond and directed him to appear in the Sacramento court Dec. 29.
Anti-abortion activists released a video July 14 of an unsuspecting Planned Parenthood official explaining how the organization provides fetal tissue to researchers. The video went viral on the Internet.
StemExpress cut its ties to Planned Parenthood in the midst of the controversy.
Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, cites StemExpress in the video as a firm with which her organization shares a beneficial partnership responsible for contributions to lifesaving stem cell research.
Two days later, according to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent David Rubel, Orton posted his first message on the Internet: “The management of StemExpress should be taken by force and killed in the streets today.”
Over the next four hours, according to officials, Orton posted 18 additional messages, ranging from “Kill StemExpress employees. I’ll pay you for it” and “Stop the death of innocents. Kill the killers,” to “StemExpress your lives don’t matter nearly as much as your deaths do” and “I think I’ll take a little trip to Placerville this weekend. I hear there’s some good hunting down Placerville way … ”
The affidavit says Orton identified “Victim 1” by title or name in other messages. Those included:
▪ “Someone needs to double tap the (officer) of StemExpress. She lives in Placerville CA.”
▪ “(Victim 1) will have to face the souls of the babies she’s bought and sold when she arrives on the other side. I’m sending her there early.”
▪ “(Victim 1) must die. End of story. If we as humanity accept her actions we’re to be judged in the harshest manner possible.”
▪ “(Victim 1) your life isn’t worth squat.”
The final message quoted in the affidavit was posted the next day, July 17: “(Victim 1) of StemExpress should be executed by hanging.”
Two days later, the FBI received tips via its public access telephone line that threats were being made against “Victim 1.”
Agents traced the messages to Orton. They were posted on the Fox Nation website by user “Joseywhales,” a handle that might refer to “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” a 1976 movie directed and starring Clint Eastwood as a farmer whose family is murdered by Union soldiers during the Civil War.
Fox News cooperated with the FBI in its investigation, according to the affidavit.
In an interview with agents at his home Nov. 24, Orton acknowledged he was responsible for the messages, Rubel reports in his affidavit.
Orton said that, because of his experience as a professional copywriter, he uses “words that have a lot of meaning.”
He told the agents he wrote the messages “so they would cut like a knife,” and that he relied on his skills gained as a copywriter to make online statements that would influence people. His goal, he said, is to get people to “wake up.”
Investigators asked Orton to explain why he wrote, “The (officer) of StemExpress is a death profiteer,” and “should be hung by the neck using piano wire and propped up on the lawn in front of the building.”
Orton said it was intended to “paint a mental picture with words. I’m a wordsmith. That’s what I do.”