Attorneys for pro-life father Mark Houck dropped bombshell evidence in court yesterday during a pre-trial hearing that could help exonerate the man the Biden administration has filed bogus charges against for peacefully protesting abortion. Houck faces 11 years in prison if convicted on the trumped-up charges.
As LifeNews has reported, Joe Biden’s Justice Department clearly targeted a pro-life man and his family with a shocking home raid as an act of persecution. Houck made national headlines last year after 20 heavily-armed federal agents stormed his home at dawn on September 23 — frightening his family, pointing guns at his head, and then arresting him in front of his wife and seven young children.
Biden’s administration is coming under fire for weaponizing the FBI and Department of Justice to target pro-life conservatives and, in this case, contorting federal law to prosecute a pro-life man for merely protecting his son from bullying by an abortion center escort.
With the help of pro-life attorneys during an appearance in federal court, Houck pleaded not guilty to violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which makes it a federal crime to use force with the intent to injure, intimidate and interfere with anyone trying to access either abortion at an abortion business or medical care at a pregnancy center.
Yesterday, Houck’s attorneys produced new evidence – never before considered by a federal court – that when the United States Congress passed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, it expressly intended to exclude so-called “escorts” operating outside of abortion facilities from being encompassed by the FACE Act.
The Thomas More Society filing on behalf of Houck in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, quotes Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), chief sponsor of the FACE Act. Kennedy clearly stated that clinic escorts are excluded, because they do not provide reproductive health services in a facility, as required under the FACE Act.
“The FACE Act was never intended to cover disputes between advocates on the public sidewalks outside of our nation’s abortion clinics,” declared Thomas More Society Executive Vice President & Head of Litigation Peter Breen, who is representing Houck. “This new evidence shows clearly that Congress intended to limit the FACE Act to patients and staff working in the clinic, and not to take sides between pro-life and pro-choice counselors and escorts on the sidewalk. The Biden Department of Justice’s prosecution of Mark Houck is pure harassment, meant solely to intimidate our nation’s pro-life sidewalk counselors who provide vital resources to help pregnant women at risk for abortion.”
The Thomas More Society filing highlights a key exchange between Kennedy and Senator David Durenberger (R-MN), over a bipartisan amendment they negotiated to strip clinic escorts of the right to bring lawsuits under the FACE Act (139 Cong. Rec. S15682):
Mr. DURENBERGER. By defining “aggrieved person” in this way, was it your intention to exclude clinic escorts or so-called clinic defenders?
Mr. KENNEDY. That is correct. Demonstrators, clinic defenders, escorts, and other persons not involved in obtaining or providing services in the facility may not bring such a cause of action.
Durenberger then reiterated that escorts are not covered under the FACE Act (139 Cong. Rec. S15686):
The bill, as currently drafted before us, allows legal relief only to clinic patients and personnel. And this is the critical, if you will – not the only, but the critical – change that has been agreed to by the proponents of this legislation and by the Senator from Massachusetts. We have recognized that Federal law should be extended narrowly to protect only those who were actually attempting to obtain or provide medical or counseling services. It does not protect the escorts.
Thomas More Society attorneys filed the Objections to Government’s Jury Instructions in response to the Biden Department of Justice’s proposed jury instructions, which claim that, under the FACE Act, “A provider of reproductive health services includes any staff member or volunteer escort who is an integral part of a business where reproductive health services are provided.” The Biden Department of Justice claims that volunteer abortion escort Bruce Love is a “provider of reproductive health services” under the FACE Act.
Thomas More Society attorneys have provided alternate jury instructions, arguing that the clear language of the FACE Act requires that the reproductive health services must be provided “in a…facility,” which excludes escorts – a view reinforced by the clear statements supplied by the Congressional record.
United States of America v. Mark Houck is currently set for a jury trial, January 24 through 27, 2023, before United States District Judge Gerald J. Pappert in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Read the Objections to Government’s Jury Instructions, filed on January 17, 2023, by Thomas More Society attorneys on behalf of Mark Houck, in United States of America v. Mark Houck, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, here.
Houck’s attorney, Peter Breen, said that the case already made its way through the state court process and was thrown out, but the Biden Department of Justice took up the matter nearly a year later as a form of “political prosecution.”
“If he was truly a danger to the community, they wouldn’t have waited a year to prosecute,” Breen, VP senior counsel of the Thomas Moore Society, said outside the courthouse. “Serious questions need to be asked of the Attorney General. What was he thinking? Why did they do this obscene show of force against a peaceful pillar of the community?”
“It put officers’ lives in danger. It put the Houck family in danger. And it was an utter waste of judicial resources and taxpayer resources,” Breen said.
Breen said his team contacted the DOJ and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in June to inform them they had no case based on controlling precedent but if they decided to indict, defense would present Houck willingly in response to a summons. Breen said the next notice he received was that his client was in custody.
“This is a political prosecution,” Breen said. “And what’s clear from the Department of Justice at its highest levels which is directing this case that they are trying to send a message to pro-life and people of faith – ‘don’t mess with us.’ They want to intimidate — they want to cause good people like Mark to stop praying and counseling at the abortion clinics of our country. And that’s not going to happen.”
The U.S. government alleges that Houck assaulted and “forcefully shoved” Bruce Love, a 72-year-old volunteer at a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood.
Breen, however, categorized the abortion escort as “extremely aggressive,” saying Love was “harassing” Houck’s 12-year-old son before an “altercation ensued.”
“What in the world would possess the Department of Justice to send 20 or so heavily armed agents to this family’s home, violate the sanctity of that home, frighten the children and then drag their father away instead of allowing us to present him peacefully – which we had offered to do?” Breen said on Tuesday.
Houck, a father of seven, is frequently seen sidewalk counseling in front of Philadelphia abortion businesses to help women choose pro-life alternatives.
In October 2021, Houck was involved in an incident outside a Philadelphia abortion business where a pro-abortion clinic escort had repeatedly bullied and intimidated his 12-year-old son who was with him to help sidewalk counsel and encourage women to choose pro-life alternatives. After multiple verbal assaults and the abortion activist getting into his son’s face, Houck pushed him away and he fell.
Houck, who regularly prays the rosary outside the clinic, maintains he was defending his 12-year-old son from the escort’s verbal harassment, a family spokesman, Brian Middleton, told CNA. The man fell when Houck pushed him away, Middleton said. The incident was so minor that charges were never pressed and a court ultimately dismissed a complaint the abortion activist filed.
In June 2022, Thomas More Society attorneys notified the Biden Department of Justice that the FACE Act does not cover one-on-one altercations like the one involving Houck, which was initiated by the abortion proponent who was harassing Houck’s son. The Department of Justice was also advised that if the decision was made to bring a charge against Houck despite lack of legal foundation, Houck would appear voluntarily.
“Rather than accepting Mark Houck’s offer to appear voluntarily, the Biden Department of Justice chose to make an unnecessary show of potentially deadly force, sending twenty heavily armed federal agents to the Houck residence at dawn this past Friday,” explained Breen. “In threatening form, after nearly breaking down the family’s front door, at least five agents pointed guns at Mark’s head and arrested him in front of his wife and seven young children, who were terrified that their husband and father would be shot dead before their eyes.”
“This case is being brought solely to intimidate people of faith and pro-life Americans,” stated Breen. “Mark Houck is innocent of these lawless charges, and we intend to prove that in court.”
The case has drawn condemnation from pro-life members of Congress like Senator Josh Hawley and Congressman Chip Roy.
The DOJ charges go against court precedent. In June 2019, Thomas More Society attorneys won a case in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, establishing that a one-off altercation, like the one in which the Biden Department of Justice is levying two counts against Houck, cannot form the basis for a FACE claim.
As CNA reports, the incident at the abortion center was so minor that local charges were never filed.
When both the city police and the district attorney declined to file charges against Houck, the escort filed a private criminal complaint in Philadelphia municipal court, Middleton said. The case was dismissed in July when the man repeatedly didn’t show up in court, Middleton said.
Just days later, Houck received a “target letter” from the U.S. Attorney’s Office informing him that he was the focus of a federal criminal probe into the same incident, Middleton said.
Through his attorney at the time, Houck tried to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office to discuss the case but never received a response, Middleton said.
“The next time they heard anything was Friday morning,” he said.
Biden’s Justice Department is now charging Houck with violating the FACE Act and Houck is now facing a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $350,000 for merely defending his son from being attacked.
However, Houck never blocked access to the abortion center, which is what the law is designed to stop, and the incident was nothing more than a minor scuffle.
The Houck family is now panicked about what will happen to Mark from here. A GiveSendGo has been set up to help raise funds to support them and to assist with Mark’s legal defense.
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