A picture of the U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. The sign out front says "Joseph C O'Mahoney Federal Center United States Courthouse 2120 Capitol Avenue"
The U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. (Madelyn Beck/WyoFile)

CHEYENNE—Alleged arsonist Lorna Green stood in a floor-length dress printed with Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night as she pleaded not guilty in a federal courtroom Friday. 

The 22-year-old is charged with setting fire to Wellspring Health Access, a clinic offering a range of reproductive health services including abortion. Green faces a federal arson charge because the clinic engaged in interstate commerce. 

Wellspring was nearly ready to open amid community protests over its abortion offerings when its building was set aflame on  May 25, 2022. After bouncing back from fire-caused delays and an estimated $290,000 in damages, Wellspring is now the second clinic offering abortions in Wyoming and the only one offering surgical abortions.

How we got here

When law enforcement initially posted video of a masked figure lighting the building on fire, it prompted no arrests. However, after an increase in reward and the release of a new image of the arsonist, at least four people named Green in tips to investigators. 

On March 21, federal and local law enforcement talked to Green, and she told them she had lit the building on fire, according to court filings.

“Green stated she did not like abortion and was having nightmares which she attributed to her anxiety about the abortion clinic, so she decided to burn the building,” according to a sworn statement from a Special Agent Matthew Wright with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

After her initial appearance and arraignment Friday, Green’s attorney Ryan Semerad said he still wants to see the “full scope” of the evidence investigators gathered and the circumstances under which she admitted to committing the crime. 

“That’s one data point,” he said of the verbal admission.

He also wants to understand the context and make sure federal investigators “dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s,” he said. 

Asked if he denies that Green admitted to committing the crime, Semerad had no comment. 

Federal prosecutors will have to hand over any exculpatory evidence — or evidence that shows Green may not be guilty — according to Judge Kelly H. Rankin.

Rankin asked Green Friday if she was under the influence of any substance or suffering from mental or physical maladies that may affect her ability to understand the proceedings on Friday. She said no. 

The judge then told her the possible sentence if she’s found guilty: between 5 and 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fine. 

In the wooden benches at the back of the courtroom, her father leaned forward, watching and waiting for the brief arraignment to end. 

Green, who remains released on bond, said in the hearing she was currently going to school part time and working part time for DoorDash. 

Rankin scheduled a trial date for July 24 at 1:30 p.m., making sure it was within the timeframe for a speedy trial. Semerad said he’d possibly need more time, but it’s too soon to say. 

Madelyn Beck reports from Laramie on health and public safety. Before working with WyoFile, she was a public radio journalist reporting for NPR stations across the Mountain West, covering regional issues...

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  1. Gee, I don’t like churches, because they are places where people go to worship what I consider to be fairy tale characters, and then they come out and knock on my door peddling their beliefs. Does that mean I have the right to burn down their churches?