BREAKING: Federal jury acquits pro-life activist of DoJ's FACE act charges

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Good. It’s a just verdict in a case that never should have been brought in the first place. A jury has acquitted Mark Houck of violating the FACE Act after an altercation near an abortion clinic so minor that local authorities refused to prosecute.

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Don’t remember this case? You might remember when Merrick Garland and Christopher Wray sent dozens of FBI agents to raid his house over an argument:

Local TV station WFMZ reported the verdict as well:

The jury has reached a verdict in the case of Mark Houck, the pro-life activist from Bucks County accused of violating the federal FACE Act when he pushed and injured a patient escort outside a Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia.

The jury found Houck not guilty of two counts of violating the Federal FACE Act Monday.

The verdict should have been a slam-dunk. That’s what makes what happened immediately before its announcement so interesting:

One of the 12 jurors deciding the fate of the pro-life father of seven Mark Houck in Philadelphia federal court has been replaced by an alternate.

The alternate took the place of the original juror at approximately 1:30 p.m. Monday, when deliberations began again. Defense lawyers for Houck could not comment on the reason for the replacement.

The jury began deliberations on the case on Friday but said they were “deadlocked” and would not come to a decision that night.

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Catholic News Agency published that story less than an hour before news of the acquittal came through. Did the juror who got booted try to deliberately impede the acquittal? Did other jurors complain about some lack of cooperation or ulterior agenda? It seems too coincidental that a jury went from deadlock to a verdict within an hour or so with the replacement of one of the original twelve jurors.

By the way, this isn’t over yet. Eleven others face prosecution for FACE Act charges for allegedly blocking access to abortion clinics, as Greg points out in a subsequent tweet. The Daily Signal’s Mary Margaret Olohan covered this in October:

Amid accusations that it is targeting pro-lifers to silence and intimidate, the Justice Department has charged 11 more pro-life activists with violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act for blocking the entrance of an abortion clinic in 2021.

The 11 activists were charged with FACE Act violations stemming from their 2021 “blockade” of an abortion clinic in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. This blockade was peaceful, pro-life activist AJ Hurley told The Daily Signal on Wednesday evening.

Several of the activists were arrested on the day of the blockade, after reportedly successfully preventing abortions from taking place at the clinic for most of the day, but police reportedly released these activists later in the day after they posted bail for misdemeanor charges, the pro-life news outlet Live Action reported.

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Meanwhile, the FBI has done little to pursue actual acts of vandalism and political violence that targeted pro-life clinics. Two people got indicted last week in Florida. but most other victims have barely heard from the FBI — and the 30-agent raid model somehow didn’t get deployed in these cases, either.

It seems that the process is the punishment at the Department of Justice. It’s yet another good reason that Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans have established a new select committee on the weaponization of federal law enforcement. Mark Houck will no doubt provide chapter and verse on that subject, starting with the astonishing raid over an argument.

Update: The Thomas More Society provided Houck’s defense, and issued a statement rightly celebrating their victory over “Goliath”:

“We are, of course, thrilled with the outcome,” stated Peter Breen, Thomas More Society Executive Vice President & Head of Litigation. “Mark and his family are now free of the cloud that the Biden administration threw upon them. We took on Goliath – the full might of the United States government – and won. The jury saw through and rejected the prosecution’s discriminatory case, which was harassment from day one. This is a win for Mark and the entire pro-life movement. The Biden Department of Justice’s intimidation against pro-life people and people of faith has been put in its place.”

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The Thomas More Society does a lot of great work in the pro-life space. This case demonstrates why the need for such communal efforts against prosecutorial abuse will be even more necessary in the days and years to come.

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David Strom 8:00 AM | July 25, 2024
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