A Philadelphia jury has found pro-life father Mark Houck not guilty on both counts in the case of the bogus charges the Biden administration filed against him.
Houck is facing bogus charges that he violated the federal FACE law when he was helping women outside an abortion center. An abortion business escort accosted and bullied his son and Houck stepped in to stop it – and, in doing so, the older abortion center volunteer fell down. Houck could have faced over a decade in prison if he was found guilty.
But a jury today reached a not guilty verdict – in what is a huge victory for Houck’s family and pro-life Americans who protect or help women outside abortion businesses.
Houck’s attorney Peter Breen (pictured below) celebrated the decision in comments to LifeNews.
“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,” he said.
Breen added: “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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During the trial, Houck delivered strong, clear testimony about what really happened on October 13, 2021 and testified that the two incidents that day were caused by the aggressive actions of now-former clinic escort Bruce Love.
Mark Houck thanks pro-life people for their support after a jury finds him not guilty. h/t @revmahoneyhttps://t.co/L1sGqjZE2h pic.twitter.com/2QjRqKVWr8
— LifeNews.com (@LifeNewsHQ) January 30, 2023
Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri also applauded the decision.
“Remember, this is the Catholic man Biden DOJ arrested in a SWAT-style raid at his home. In front of his children. On bogus charges. All to intimidate pro-life Americans & people of faith,” he tweeted.
Senator Tom Cotton chimed in as well.
“Mark Houck never should have been prosecuted, let alone treated like a terrorist in an early-morning FBI raid with a SWAT team. Merrick Garland should be ashamed for using DOJ as a political weapon to target pro-life activists,” he tweeted.
Pro-Life Congressman Chip Roy of Texas celebrated the decision – tweeting “Good. Begs question of the $48 billion we give to DOJ.”
Andrew Bath of the Thomas More Center, a pro-life legal group, described what ws at stake in the case.
“I don’t know how anyone could hear what we’ve heard over the past few days and think that Mark deserves to be in prison. I don’t know how anyone could watch this grueling trial and think that Bruce Love was a helpless victim and Mark a violent monster. And I don’t know how anyone could hear the moving and courageous testimony of young Mark Jr. and come away with their hearts hardened against his father. As Brian McMonagle told the jury, “This case is about a father’s love for his child.”
“I truly believe that we’ve sent a message to Biden’s DOJ and the abortion industry that, despite all their money and power, they can’t get away with abusing government power to destroy the lives of heroic sidewalk counselors without triggering a confrontation with the Thomas More Society,” he added.
As the Catholic News Agency reported last week, defense attorneys were seeking a dismissal of the case — something that the presiding federal judge appeared to think may be appropriate since the Biden administration is clearly warping and twisting federal law to cover a minor incident.
At the end of the day, the defense asked the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that Houck was defending his son from harassment and that Love was the instigator.
Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Gerald Pappert himself raised that possibility, asking the prosecution at one point whether the federal law didn’t “seem to be stretched a little thin here?”
On the witness stand, Love denied trashing Houck and his son or calling Houck a “f—— a——” and telling his son that Houck hates women and has a weird religion.
Witnesses of the incident told the court that they heard Love making disparaging and bullying remarks to Houck and his son.
One of the witnesses who was questioned, 31-year-old Steven Jeronimo, said that he didn’t remember exactly what Houck yelled but that he “did hear a mention of a kid.”
Ellen Weiss, 71, another witness whose first day as a clinic escort was on the day of the incident, also said Houck was “saying something about his son.”
Andrew Bath, Executive Vice President & General Counsel, of the Thomas More Societ, which is providing Houck legal support and assistance, is concerned about the implications the case will have on pro-life Americans.
“If Mark Houck is convicted of these phony charges, the Biden DOJ have struck a devastating blow against sidewalk counselors across America. It would create a horrible and dangerous precedent and would encourage abortion escorts to get aggressive with sidewalk counselors,” he said. “But if Mark is acquitted, the Thomas More Society will have sent a message to the Biden administration and the abortion industry: you can’t mess with us and get away with it.”
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 FBI raided the home of the well-known pro-life advocate and arrested him on a bogus charge that had already been thrown out of court. Biden’s administration is coming under fire for weaponizing the FBI and Department of Justice to target pro-life conservatives.
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With the help of pro-life attorneys during an appearance in federal court, Houck pleaded not guilty in Pennsylvania federal court 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.
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.