Two abortion protesters became the first people convicted under the Town of Amherst's selective-picketing ban Thursday when they were found guilty of demonstrating outside the home of an Amherst doctor.
Kenneth Handyside of Mill Road, West Seneca, and Hettie Pasco of Humber Avenue were convicted after a one-day non-jury trial before Town Justice Edward L. Robinson.
Videotape presented in court showed the two picketing June 26 in front of Dr. Barnett A. Slepian's home on Blue Heron Court, according to Amherst Court Administrator J. William Everett.
"I'm pleased. I couldn't be more pleased," said Slepian's wife, Lynne. "It's been a long battle."
The Rev. Daren Drzymala, the South Buffalo Baptist minister who started the program of picketing the homes of those whose work involves abortions, said the convictions mean that Project House Call will have to step up its presence in Amherst.
"There will have to be some plans taken to challenge this law," he said. "I'm going to have to rally the troops a lot harder."
Mr. Drzymala indicated that Project House Call would be in Amherst sometime this weekend.
The Amherst Town Board passed an ordinance last spring to ban picketing in front of a particular home or office, in an attempt to stop anti-abortion demonstrators from harassing Amherst residents at their homes. The ordinance says pickets may walk up and down a street but may not single out any particular home or office.
Glenn Murray, Slepian's attorney, said the Slepians, frequent targets of abortion protests, "feel the order reaffirms their right to residential privacy."
"They were definitely focusing in on us," Mrs. Slepian said of the pickets.
Mrs. Slepian said protesters have picketed her home every few months for about four years. While they do not use foul language, she said, the pickets can be nasty and shout loudly.
"You don't have to really go out of the house to hear them," she said.
Mr. Drzymala called the convictions an injustice. He maintained that the pickets had not been standing in front of the Slepian house.
"When we march in Amherst, we march in front of one home and the one next to it," he said.
But the judge ruled that although other demonstrators were said to have walked between several houses during the June 25 incident, the "focus" of the activity of Handyside and Ms. Pasco was the Slepian residence.
Mrs. Slepian said she thinks that the ordinance "worked this time. It doesn't stop them from threatening to be back."
Marilynn Buckham, executive director of Buffalo GYN Womenservices, who has been the target of pickets outside her Buffalo home, said she would like to see a selective-picketing ban in Buffalo.
"Kenmore and Amherst have definitely been . . . punishing these lawbreakers and bullies, and Buffalo doesn't even have an ordinance," she said.
Mr. Drzymala said that it was unfair that pickets were found guilty of a misdemeanor for walking in front of Slepian's home but that charges against Slepian for hitting a protester with a baseball bat outside his home Dec. 5, 1988, were reduced from assault to disorderly conduct.
Slepian was given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay $407.82 restitution.
Handyside and Ms. Pasco were fined $112 each for the misdemeanor conviction, including a state misdemeanor surcharge. Robinson stayed the payment of the fines pending appeals in County Court of his ruling on the ordinance and his decision in the case.
News Staff Reporters Matt Gryta and Barbara O'Brien contributed to this article.