A Marshfield man who allegedly plotted to shoot a doctor at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Madison was ordered to stand trial after a brief preliminary hearing Friday, more than 14 months after his arrest.
Ralph Lang, 63, pleaded not guilty to attempted first-degree intentional homicide after Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan ruled there was sufficient evidence that Lang committed a felony. Flanagan made the ruling at the end of a preliminary hearing in which there was no testimony, only the submission of a transcript of a police interview with Lang after his arrest May 25, 2011. During the interview he told police of his plan to kill a doctor who performs abortions at the clinic.
Lang said in the interview that he did not know which doctor he was going to shoot and had planned to go to the clinic and ask people which doctors perform the procedure.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Kaiser argued that Lang had taken overt acts to commit the crime by coming to Madison from Marshfield specifically for the purpose of killing a doctor at Planned Parenthood and bringing a gun with him to do it.
Lang came to the attention of police after he accidentally fired the gun in his motel room while loading it and reported the gunshot to the front desk because he was concerned the shot may have entered another room.
Kaiser argued that Lang would have carried out his plan "but for the accidental firing of the gun."
Lang's lawyer, Eric Schulenburg, argued that Lang had not taken any actual steps toward carrying out the plan and told police that when they interviewed him.
"There has to be some unequivocal action that shows he intended to commit the crime," Schulenburg said. "There is no action."
Flanagan, however, agreed with Kaiser that there was probable cause to believe Lang had taken action and ordered him to stand trial.
Lang's case has been long delayed over questions about his competency to stand trial. He was found incompetent in May but after treatment regained competency last month.
Lang is also charged in federal court with attempting to injure, intimidate and interfere with persons participating in a program and activity receiving federal financial assistance. He is also charged with using a firearm in a crime of violence.
A competency hearing in the federal case is set to continue on Aug. 15.