A jury handed five pro-life activists a guilty verdict Tuesday on charges of conspiracy against rights and violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act) stemming from a 2020 “rescue action” at a D.C.-based clinic.
Lauren Handy, Will Goodman, John Hinshaw, Heather Idoni, and Herb Geraghty were all found guilty on both charges after they were indicted for participating in a mission in October 2020 at the Washington Surgi-Clinic (WSC), which is headed by Cesare Santangelo.
Two defendants, Handy and Geraghty, referenced pro-life organization Live Action’s “Inhuman: Undercover in America’s Late-Term Abortion Industry” video as influencing their decision to participate in the blockade.
One part of the video, released a decade ago, shows Santangelo telling an undercover woman if she went into labor and delivered before the “termination part of the procedure” was carried out, “then we would not help it.”
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“We wouldn’t intubate, let’s say,” Santengelo said.
Judge Kollar-Kotelly, one of former President Bill Clinton’s nominees, did not permit Live Action’s video to be played in court, reportedly calling it “heavily edited” and “gossip from propagandists.”
“From the beginning, this trial has been a sham with a completely biased pro-abortion judge who has made a mockery of our justice system. This decision will be appealed, and we demand it be overturned,” Live Action founder Lila Rose said in a statement provided to Fox News Digital. “Their acts of bravery to protect innocent human life from notorious D.C. abortionist Cesare Santangelo have been punished by the corrupt DOJ.”
Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America said in a statement to Fox News Digital Tuesday’s verdict is “a shameful day for a nation founded on unalienable rights, first and foremost including life.”
“Pro-life advocates like Lauren Handy have put their freedom on the line – peacefully and bravely – to protect babies and women from the brutality of abortion. They have done a vital public service in exposing the horrors of late-term abortion taking place in D.C., where there are no limits on abortion up to birth, and across the country,” the statement read.
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Prosecutors described Handy as the leader of the “rescue action” to reportedly block patients from the WSC to get an abortion procedure.
According to the October 2022 indictment, using a fabricated identity, Handy secured an appointment at the clinic, and as a clinic staff member opened the door, pro-life activists emerged from the building’s emergency stairwell and invaded the facility. The incident resulted in an altercation that led to a clinic employee being hospitalized for an ankle injury.
Prosecutors argued the pro-life activists violated the 1994 FACE Act, a federal law that prohibits physical force, threats of force, or intentionally damaging property to prevent someone from obtaining or providing abortion services.
Handy’s attorney, Martin Cannon senior counsel for pro-life law firm the Thomas More Society, argued during trial Handy didn’t physically block anyone nor violate the FACE Act.
Body-worn camera footage presented as evidence to the jury reportedly showed Handy telling police the group was there to “block the facility to prevent abortions.”
Some activists didn’t want to “risk the ordinance,” Handy said in the bodycam footage, and would be praying outside the clinic. The blockade persisted for over three hours until authorities successfully cleared the activists from the facility.
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Kotelly reportedly termed the defendants’ defense “vigilante” during the trial when the activists cited First Amendment protection, or a third-person defense for their case.
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According to a transcript posted by the Thomas More Society, Cannon said in his closing statements to the jurors: “In order to be guilty of conspiracy, you can’t just plan an event. You have to have an agreement that involves breaking the law. How can we have a conspiracy to violate FACE when most of the parties to the so-called agreement aren’t going to do it?”
“They’re going to do conventional sit-in kind of stuff – just like Martin Luther King has a federal holiday for – that doesn’t necessarily break FACE,” he said.