(Photo courtesy of the Houck Family)
01-18-2023 CBN News Steve Warren
Mark Houck, a Catholic pro-life father of seven who was arrested by FBI agents in the early morning hours at his Pennsylvania residence last September, will get to tell his side of the story next week in a jury trial. And now his attorneys say they’ve offered “bombshell evidence” to the court that could change everything.
The case is scheduled for trial Tuesday, Jan. 24 at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
As CBN News has reported, Houck, 48, is being prosecuted by the Biden Justice Department for alleged violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994 (FACE).
The FACE Act makes it a federal crime to physically obstruct the entrance to a clinic or to use force, the threat of force, or physical obstruction, such as a sit-in, to interfere with, injure, or intimidate clinic workers or women seeking abortions or other reproductive health services.
As CBN News has reported, the government’s case against Houck stems from a minor altercation he had with a volunteer at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Philadelphia in October of 2021.
Police were called, but declined to pursue the case because of a lack of evidence.
The volunteer, 72-year-old Bruce Love (who is identified only as “B.L.” on the indictment), was familiar with Houck because the two crossed paths at the Philadelphia abortion clinic many times previously.
The indictment against Houck claims he “assaulted” the man only “because Love was a volunteer at the abortion clinic”. But according to Houck’s family representative Brian Middleton, that’s not what happened.
Houck was at the abortion clinic praying and ministering within his legal rights (on the sidewalk, not clinic property) when, according to Middleton, it was Love who approached Houck’s 12-year-old son and began unleashing a string of vile comments, cursing the young man. That’s when Houck intervened and eventually pushed Love in order to protect his son, causing Love to fall to the ground. Then the police were called but they eventually decided there was a “lack of evidence” of an assault taking place and declined to pursue the issue any further.
Love filed a criminal complaint against Houck, but failed to show up to any of the court hearings, prompting the judge to dismiss the case.
Then, six days after the case was dismissed, Houck received a target letter from the DOJ notifying him he was the subject of a federal grand jury investigation.
Even though his attorney had offered to bring Houck in, the Justice Department still came after Houck. Emails from Thomas More Society attorneys show that they explicitly offered to bring their client in to avoid the inconvenience (and danger) of an arrest. The government never responded.
Instead of handling the potential investigation peacefully, the FBI reportedly raided Houck’s home with overwhelming force, terrorizing his wife and children in the process.
The government claims a FACE Act violation took place, but Houck and his attorneys vehemently disagree. He has pled not guilty.
If convicted, Houck faces up to 11 years in prison and a $350,000 fine.
New Evidence: FACE Act Didn’t Include ‘Escorts’ Operating Outside of Abortion Facilities
In his pre-trial hearing Tuesday, Houck’s attorneys produced what they call “bombshell evidence” that’s never been considered before by a federal court. Their material reveals that when the U.S. Congress passed the FACE Act, it expressly intended to exclude so-called “escorts” operating outside of abortion facilities from being encompassed by 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,” Breen added.
The filing by the Thomas More Society quotes the late U.S. Sen. 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 filing reveals a key exchange between Kennedy and then-U.S. Sen. 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):
Durenberger – “By defining ‘aggrieved person’ in this way, was it your intention to exclude clinic escorts or so-called clinic defenders?”
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,” the senator said.
Houck’s attorneys also filed Objections to Government’s Jury Instructions in response to the 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 Department of Justice claims that volunteer abortion escort Bruce Love is a “provider of reproductive health services” under the FACE Act.
Houck’s 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.
Houck’s Arrest Made National Headlines, Prompting Congressional Leaders to Act
The reported FBI raid on Houck’s home with dozens of agents reportedly having guns drawn as Houck’s wife and children looked on in horror made national headlines and even drew attention from U.S. lawmakers. As CBN News reported in late October, 22 members of Congress sent a letter to the Biden administration demanding answers – and so far, none have been given.
As CBN News reported last September, the FBI arrived at the Houck’s residence in Bucks County, PA and began pounding on the door. Despite putting his hands up and willingly cooperating, multiple agents pointed guns in Mark’s face as his family – including his seven young children – were forced to watch their dad “shackled” and taken away, according to family representative Brian Middleton, who spoke with CBN’s Faithwire.
A senior FBI source at the time, via Fox News, claimed:
There may have been 15-20 agents at the scene, but denied 25 were there. The agents who came to the door had guns out and at the ready, according to this FBI source, but the guns were never pointed at Houck or his family and were lowered or holstered as soon as Houck was taken into custody.
Houck was handcuffed with a belly chain, according to a senior federal law official familiar with the situation. In this process, the suspect’s handcuffs are attached to a chain around the belly so the person doesn’t have to sit in a car with handcuffs behind his back.
Later that same week, FBI Philadelphia released another statement on Houck’s arrest.
“Extensive planning takes place prior to the service of any federal warrant. The FBI then employs the personnel and tactics deemed necessary to effect a safe arrest or search. While it’s the FBI’s standard practice not to discuss such operational specifics, we can say that the number of personnel and vehicles widely reported as being on scene Friday is an overstatement, and the tactics used by FBI personnel were professional, in line with standard practices, and intended to ensure the safety of everyone present in and outside the residence.”
The update failed to detail how many agents were on site, nor whether or not guns were drawn.
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