A 19-year-old Middletown man pleaded guilty Feb. 11 to firebombing a Planned Parenthood facility in Newark last year.
“I threw a Molotov cocktail at a Planned Parenthood,” Samuel James Gulick told the federal court in Wilmington, speaking via videoconferencing software from a Philadelphia detention center.
Gulick pleaded guilty to two charges: intentional damage to a facility that provides reproductive health services and possession of an unregistered destructive device. A third charge, maliciously damaging a building used in interstate commerce, was dropped.
Gulick could face up to 11 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced June 2. As part of the plea, he agreed not to ask for less than two years in prison. The prosecution has not yet recommended a sentence.
He also agreed to pay $17,000 in restitution to Planned Parenthood and to permanently surrender an AR-15 rifle and ammunition that were seized from his bedroom when the FBI arrested him.
“While people have a First Amendment right to peacefully express their views, they do not have a right to vandalize clinics in the hopes of deterring women from receiving lawful services that those facilities provide,” Jennifer C. Boone, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Baltimore Field Office, said in a prepared statement following the guilty plea. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners will hold those accountable for any threats of violence to healthcare facilities or their employees.”
Gulick spoke very little in the hour-long plea hearing, other than to answer procedural questions from Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark. At one point, he told the judge he had previously been treated for mental illness and said he didn’t know how to answer the judge’s question about his level of schooling. His lawyer stepped in to explain that at the time of his arrest, Gulick was attending The New School near Newark, which doesn’t have traditional grade levels.
Prosecutors said the firebombing incident happened around 2:15 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2020, at the Planned Parenthood on East Delaware Avenue.
Gulick was captured on surveillance video standing on the front porch of the building and spray-painting “Deus Vult” in red letters, according to court documents. The Latin phrase means “God wills it.” While it originated during the Crusades, the phrase is often used by the alt-right movement.
Gulick stepped off the porch, removed a Molotov cocktail from a plastic bag, lit it and threw it at the front door of the building. A Molotov cocktail is a crude explosive device usually consisting of a bottle filled with flammable liquid and a means of ignition.
The device exploded, but self-extinguished after one minute. The explosion damaged the front window and porch of the building. An employee called police after noticing the damage the next morning.
Police used surveillance footage and the city of Newark’s automatic license plate readers to identify the getaway vehicle as a maroon Toyota Highlander owned by Gulick’s father, according to court documents.
Law enforcement also identified Gulick through his social media postings, which included anti-abortion, white-supremacist and alt-right messages and imagery.
“The Nazis said killing millions of Jews was a national health issue. Democrats are using the same excuse to kill American children,” one post read.
“Us white folks don’t oppress minorities, we subjugate minorities. Thank you, Herman Cortez,” another read, referring to the Spanish conquistador who conquered the Aztec Empire.
The FBI arrested Gulick one day after the Molotov cocktail incident.
During a previous court hearing, prosecutors presented as evidence text messages in which the author – it’s not clear if the messages were sent or received by Gulick – discusses plans to make fliers “in the style of american wwii propaganda” that encourage people to “Firebomb your local Planned Parenthood TODAY.” The fliers would contain an image of Israelites conquering people or the Spanish conquering the Aztecs. “And on the back it says ‘90% of arson cases are unsolved’ with the locations of all the local planned parenthood abortion mills.”
While no one was injured in the January 2020 firebombing, it prompted an outpouring of support for Planned Parenthood and calls for bringing Gulick to justice. A few days after the incident, more than 100 people, including a number of state and local officials, attended a rally at New Ark United Church of Christ.
“Hate came to Newark, but it can’t stay here. There is no place for hate, and this is no place for hate,” State Rep. Paul Baumbach said during the rally. “We won’t be terrorized. We won’t cower.”
Ruth Lytle-Barnaby, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Delaware, said at the time that she considered the incident “an act of domestic terrorism.”
“No other physician’s office has people protesting outside,” Lytle-Barnaby said. “When you go to your allergist, somebody isn’t out there screaming at you for it. When you’re at the urologist, someone’s not yelling at you, so it shouldn’t be like that for us.”