The McCain campaign released a statement Wednesday from a New York supporter, John M. Murtagh, recounting how his family home was firebombed by the radical 1960s group founded by Obama supporter William Ayers.
Mr. Murtagh, a lawyer and a member of the Yonkers, N.Y., city council, gave a television interview last May to Fox News's Greta Van Susteren, and recently appeared on the Fox News show hosted by Sean Hannity. Mr. Murtagh said he was nine years old at the time his family was targeted because his father, a judge, had presided over a trial of members of the radical Black Panther party.
On Wednesday, the McCain campaign amplified those efforts by issuing a statement from Mr. Murtagh. "Barack Obama may have been a child when William Ayers was plotting attacks against U.S. targets -- but I was one of those targets," the statement read. "Barack Obama's friend tried to kill my family."
His account of that incident, posted on the Web, has been linked to by right-leaning bloggers.
Mr. Ayers, now an education professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago, was an early supporter of Sen. Obama. Charges against him were dismissed in the 1980s after procedural errors by federal investigators came to light.
But John M. Murtagh, has his own ties to radical protesters:
He served as a lawyer for a Catholic priest who led protests at an abortion clinic that turned violent.From 1999 to 2001, Mr. Murtagh served as a pro-bono lawyer for the Rev. John T. Murphy, a leader of a group of antiabortion protesters who spent years picketing outside Long Island Gynecological Services in Garden City, N.Y.
Rev. Murphy ran a charity called "Save the Babies," records show.
According to a 1995 Nassau County, N.Y., court decision involving the clinic, the Nassau County Police Department was called to the premises at least 17 times in 1994 and 1995 to investigate reports of physical assault, harassment, bomb threats and in four cases, the firing of bullets into windows.
A 72-year-old woman who worked for another business in the building told police that two protesters grabbed her from behind, dragged her down a hall, and slammed her into a wall before running off, leaving her with bruises and back pain.
She told police she believed the protesters had mistaken her for a clinic employee because she had been wearing a white nurse's uniform.
Threatening notes were left at the clinic, including one stating "Danger" and "This is a war zone."
A protester threw a piece of lead at a building manager, missing the man but breaking the car window of the building's owner, the police records cited by the New York court show.
Rev. Murphy had been acquitted of criminal trespassing charges twice in 1998 relating to his protesting at the clinic.
In both cases, the judge ruled that Rev. Murphy hadn't been aware he'd been on private property and that his free-speech rights were protected.
Mr. Murtagh became involved in 1999 when the clinic filed a civil lawsuit in Nassau County court seeking to end the protests.
Mr. Murtagh represented Rev. Murphy.
In 2001, a judge granted the clinic's request, ruling that while the protesters had a right to free speech, their conduct had violated the clinic's private property rights.
Mr. Murtagh also represented Rev. Murphy in a separate civil counterclaim filed in federal court against the clinic and its landlords. The free-speech issues "raised a unique issue of what constitutes the public space," Mr. Murtagh said in a telephone interview.
Although he opposes abortion and is the past chairman of a women's care center that counsels against ending pregnancies, Mr. Murtagh said he took the Rev. Murphy's case because of the constitutional issues it raised, and not because of his own antiabortion views.
The records of his counterclaim are archived and were not immediately available. Mr. Murtagh said the clinic settled the case and paid his client several thousand dollars.
But Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union who represented the clinic in that case, said she had no recollection of any financial settlement with the Rev. Murphy.
A telephone number associated with the Rev. Murphy was disconnected.
Mr. Murtagh said he'd not seen the priest since the case ended in 2001 and didn't know how to reach him.
Mr. Murtagh also said he was a supporter of Sen. McCain for president.
Neither Mr. Murtagh nor a spokesman for the McCain campaign said they saw any parallels between Mr. Ayers and the Rev. Murphy.
"With all due respect, I think it's a stretch. Father Murphy was being sued for praying outside an abortion clinic," Mr. Murtagh said.
Michael Goldfarb, the McCain spokesman, noted that the Rev. Murphy had not been convicted of any crimes.
Thursday, October 09, 2008