WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) — A jury on Tuesday found five pro-life activists guilty of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and conspiracy against rights. They were immediately incarcerated following the verdict and could face more than a decade in prison for their efforts to prevent women from killing their preborn babies.
In a statement to LifeSiteNews at the courthouse on Tuesday, defendant William Goodman urged his supporters “to forgive the jury, the judge, and all those who witnessed against us, and to pray that they would see how God loves the gift of every human life.”
All the defendants were led away and Goodman was handcuffed after the judge determined that the rescuers must be immediately detained pending sentencing since the nature of the FACE Act violation amounted to a “crime of violence.”
Just ahead of the judge’s decision, defendant Heather Idoni told LifeSiteNews that the determination of whether or not she and other defendants would be immediately incarcerated was all up “to the Lord and His ministry.”
In an emailed statement Tuesday, Steve Crampton, senior counsel with the conservative Thomas More Society law firm, called the immediate incarceration due to the alleged “violence” of the crime “an outrage” since “the one thing the defendants had really agreed upon was to remain non-violent.”
“The real violence is what happens during the abortion procedure,” he said.
As LifeSiteNews has extensively reported, five anti-abortion activists – Goodman, Idoni, Lauren Handy, John Hinshaw, and Herb Geraghty – have stood trial over the past week for blocking access to the Washington Surgi-Clinic in downtown Washington, D.C., in a “traditional rescue” in October 2020. Pro-life “rescues” involve activists physically intervening to try to stop women from going through with abortions.
Jury deliberations began in the case on Friday at about 10:30 a.m. and concluded Tuesday afternoon. The court did not meet on Monday.
According to an email from pro-life rescuer Bernadette Patel to LifeSiteNews, the jury asked the judge several clarifying questions during their Friday deliberations, including asking for a definition of the terms “oppression” and “intimidation” under the law. In response, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly allowed jurors to broadly interpret the word “oppress” as any acts that “harm, frighten, punish, prevent, and obstruct.”
Kollar-Kotelly had no comment on other questions pertaining to an incident in which an abortion-seeking woman collapsed in the hallway of the abortuary, and the nature of the procedures undertaken at the notorious late-term abortion facility.
On Tuesday, the jury found all five defendants guilty on all charges. Sentencing has not been determined yet, but each defendant could face up to 10 years for the conspiracy charge and a year for the FACE Act violation, as well as $350,000 in fines and three years of supervised release.
Supporters of the activists have had cause for anxiety over the course of the week-long trial as former pro-life “rescuer” testified against her colleagues, an abortion staffer claimed that Catholicism was compatible with her work, and the judge admonished a Catholic nun who began praying in the courtroom while the witness passed by.
Last week, Judge Kollar-Kotelly refused to allow the defense attorneys to present the jury with a video filmed in 2013 by an undercover investigator with the pro-life group Live Action, despite the fact that the defendants have said the footage played a major role in inspiring their efforts to stop abortions.
One of the defense attorneys last week notified the judge of a recent appellate court decision siding with pro-lifers in a separate case alleging selective enforcement of the law.
The decision could be a positive indicator for the pro-life defendants if their cases are appealed.
In an email statement shared with LifeSiteNews, Handy’s attorney Martin Cannon with the Thomas More Society said the verdict was disappointing but promised not to stop fighting.
“We are, of course, disappointed with the outcome,” Cannon said. “Ms. Handy has been condemned for her efforts to protect the lives of innocent preborn human beings, something she should never have been arrested for. We are preparing an appeal and will continue to defend those who fight for life against a Biden Department of Justice that seems intent on prosecuting those who decry abortion and present it as it is—the intentional killing of children in utero.”
“Make no mistake–the incredible injustice of the federal court today is unprecedented in the history of the pro-life movement,” said Monica Miller, director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society in an emailed press statement to LifeSiteNews on Tuesday.
She argued that, while “literally hundreds of rescues took place in defense of the unborn and thousands of pro-lifers were arrested” from the 1970s through the 1990s, rescuers “never endured the gross, unspeakable injustice that occurred today.”
“I was in court observing this trial for seven days. I watched video after video of this rescue–and these pro[-]lifers never engaged in any violence on any level,” Miller said. “Indeed, they were subjected to violence from the Washington Surgi-Clinic staff–shoved, pushed and beaten with a broomstick!”
“We must show our support for Handy, Hinshaw, Idoni, Goodman and Geraghty and in no way be daunted or intimidated by this weaponized DOJ,” she said. “Peaceful rescues of the unborn must continue!
As LifeSiteNews previously reported, the charges stem from a federal grand jury’s two-count indictment of nine abortion opponents for allegedly taking part “in a conspiracy to create a blockade at the reproductive health care clinic to prevent the clinic from providing, and patients from receiving, reproductive health services” for blocking access to the Washington-Surgi Clinic.
Lauren Handy, 29; Jonathan Darnel, 40; Jay Smith, 32; Paulette Harlow, 73; Jean Marshall, 72; John Hinshaw, 67, Heather Idoni, 61; William Goodman, 52; and pro-life heroine Joan Bell, 74, were charged with conspiracy against rights and violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act for the effort.
According to a DOJ press release, the pro-life advocates took part in a “conspiracy” to block access to the Washington Surgi-Clinic.
“Handy, Smith, Harlow, Marshall, Hinshaw, Idoni, Goodman and Bell forcefully entered the clinic and set about blockading two clinic doors using their bodies, furniture, chains and ropes,” the press release said. “Once the blockade was established, Darnel live-streamed footage of his co-defendants’ activities.”
The defendants allegedly violated the FACE Act when they made use of “physical obstruction to injure, intimidate and interfere with the clinic’s employees and a patient, because they were providing or obtaining reproductive health services.”
The FACE Act (18 U.S.C. § 248(a)(3)) prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.”
Starting September 6, the remaining five activists will stand trial for the same October, 2020 rescue in Washington, D.C. LifeSiteNews will continue reporting on these important cases.
As with their colleagues, if convicted, they could each face 11 years in prison plus three years of supervised release and up to $350,000 in fines.