Missouri man sentenced to 5 years for arson at Planned Parenthood clinic

A Missouri man was sentenced to five years in prison Wednesday for throwing a firebomb into a Planned Parenthood clinic, federal prosecutors said.

Wesley Brian Kaster, 43, of Columbia, was arrested in March 2019, about a month after he threw a Molotov cocktail inside the Columbia Health Center, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri said. He pleaded guilty two federal charges in November.

No one was injured in the Feb. 10 arson, which occurred shortly after 4 a.m., but the top federal prosecutor for the district called the attack “the antithesis of everything for which the best ideals of this nation have always stood.”

Prosecutors said that Kaster admitted to setting the fire “because Planned Parenthood provided reproductive health services at the facility.” Due to a state law, the clinic was not providing abortion services at the time of the attack, Planned Parenthood has said.

A federal public defender listed as representing Kaster declined to comment Wednesday night. The attorney wrote in a sentencing memorandum that Kaster is a dedicated father of four with no past criminal history who served in the military for eight years. Prosecutors said in court documents that he served in the Navy from 1998 until March 2006.

There was only moderate damage and the fire was put out by the building’s sprinkler system before firefighters arrived, according to court documents.

“We will not tolerate the use of violence and arson as a means to achieve personal political or policy goals,” Tim Garrison, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said in a statement. “This attack is the antithesis of everything for which the best ideals of this nation have always stood.”

Kaster pleaded guilty to one count of maliciously using explosive materials to damage a building owned by an organization that receives federal financial assistance and one count of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates the Columbia health center, said in February that the clinic was briefly closed by the fire but has since expanded access to care.

“With sexual and reproductive health care under attack in Missouri, our mission is more important than ever before,” Brandon J. Hill, Planned Parenthood Great Plains President and CEO, said in a statement at the time.