Published: Jul 19, 2012 10:35 AM EDT
Updated: Jul 19, 2012 1:53 PM EDT

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) - An illiterate homeless man with a long criminal history pleaded guilty on Thursday to setting a fire that gutted a Pensacola abortion clinic in January.
    
Bobby Joe Rogers, 41, faces up to 21 years in prison for destroying the American Family Planning Clinic.
    
The clinic has been the site of protests and violence. In 1994, an anti-abortion activist killed a doctor and the doctor's security escort outside the clinic.
    
At the Thursday-morning hearing, Rogers told U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers that he dropped out of a Birmingham, Ala., middle school in the eighth grade and that he cannot read or write.
    
Rogers, who has been in and out of prisons for drug and alcohol-related crimes since he was 16, said he had lived in the Pensacola area for about eight months before he set fire to the clinic.
    
After his January arrest, Rogers told investigators he made a fire bomb and threw it at the clinic on the morning of Jan. 1 because of his hatred for abortion. He was living in a parking lot near the clinic and had spent time with the protesters who often gathered outside the clinic. Rogers had no history of political or social activism.
    
The judge scheduled an Oct. 4 sentencing hearing after Rogers pleaded guilty to one charge of arson and another charge of destroying a business that provides reproductive services.
    
Pensacola has a violent history of anti-abortion activism. In 1993, a doctor was shot and killed at another clinic by an abortion protester.
    
The American Family Planning clinic was bombed on Christmas Day in 1984.
    
"The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute acts of violence that threaten reproductive health workers and establishments." U.S. Attorney Pamela C. Marsh said in a statement released after Thursday's plea hearing.
    
An attorney representing Rogers did not have an immediate comment.

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