PHILADELPHIA (LifeSiteNews) — The jury in the blockbuster pro-life trial of Mark Houck, a Catholic sidewalk counselor and father of seven who was subjected to an FBI raid and charged with two felonies for pushing an abortion “escort” who attorneys say had been harassing Houck’s 12-year-old son, delivered its verdict Monday, finding Houck not guilty on both charges.
If he had been found guilty, Houck would have faced 11 years behind bars and a $350,000 fine.
In a Monday press release, Thomas More Society Executive Vice President & Head of Litigation Peter Breen said the defense team is “of course, thrilled with the outcome.”
“Mark and his family are now free of the cloud that the Biden administration threw upon them. We took on the Goliath – the full might of the United States government – and won. The jury saw through and rejected the prosecution’s discriminatory case, which was harassment from day one. The Biden Department of Justice’s intimidation against pro-life people and people of faith has been put in its place.”
In a statement to LifeSiteNews, Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania spokeswoman and Houck family friend Ashley Garecht said “We rejoice and celebrate that Mark Houck has been found not guilty on all counts.”
“This case was always about a father’s right to protect his son, and never had anything to do with the FACE act,” she said. “We are grateful to the judge for his integrity, and to the jurors for their thoughtful deliberations. We are grateful to Mark’s attorneys who labored so diligently in his defense. And we are grateful for all of those who surrounded and supported Mark and his family in prayer through this challenging ordeal.”
“Most of all we praise and thank God for his protection and provision,” Garecht added. “To Him be all the glory.”
In a 60 second video segment shared to social media, prominent pro-life leader and Priests for Life founder Frank Pavone reacted to the news by congratulating Houck and his legal team.
“Congratulations, Mark, congratulations to the entire pro-life movement, congratulations St. Thomas More Society for the legal defense, Peter Breen, Tom Brejcha, all our friends there,” Pavone said.
“Forward we go to more victories,” he added.
Monday’s verdict came after a tense weekend wait following a deadlocked jury on Friday.
The jury reconvened Monday morning, launching into several hours of deliberations before an alternate was chosen to replace one of the jurors. The jury delivered its verdict just before 3:00 p.m. EST, acquitting Houck on both charges.
As originally reported by LifeSiteNews, Houck was subjected to a dawn raid by Biden’s FBI last year, with dozens of heavily armed agents swarming the family’s property. The DOJ charged Houck with two felonies for allegedly violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act when he pushed abortion clinic “escort”, Bruce Love, 73, during sidewalk altercations on two separate occasions in 2021.
Houck’s criminal trial, United States v. Mark Houck, began Tuesday in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
During the trial, attorneys with the Thomas More Society successfully made the case that the Catholic sidewalk counselor and father pushed abortion “escort” Love simply to protect his then-12-year-old son, whom Love had been verbally harassing using vulgar language.
The federal government attempted to claim that Houck violated all elements of the FACE Act because he had undeniably pushed Love, as evidenced by video footage; that he did so to stop him from his work as an abortion “escort”; and that he was motivated to do so because he “had had enough” of Love performing his function, according to reporting by Catholic News Agency journalist Joe Bukuras.
However, Houck consistently stated that he simply pushed the “escort” “because he was harassing my 12-year-old boy.”
In addition, the defense team presented evidence earlier in the trial indicating that the FACE Act was never intended to cover abortion “escorts.” Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, chief sponsor of the legislation, had clearly stated that “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.”
Defense attorney Brian McMonagle, who is working in tandem with the Thomas More Society, also told the jury during his Friday closing argument that Houck had “a right to be on that sidewalk” and argued that the case centers around the First Amendment, according to Bukuras’ reporting.
McMonagle noted that, as previously reported by LifeSiteNews, the Planned Parenthood “escort” manual explicitly forbids the volunteers from engaging in altercations with protesters. He also observed that the CEO of the local Planned Parenthood chapter wanted Love pulled from his rotation because of his failures to abide by the policy.
Pointing out that the Biden administration’s DOJ didn’t take up the case until a year after it occurred, McMonagle said “you’re darn right” the prosecution of Houck “has to do with politics,” per Bukuras’ reporting.
According to McMonagle, Mr. Love “set in motion a chain of events that now jeopardizes that young man’s dad [pointing to Mark Jr.], and you know it.”
Conservatives and members of the pro-life movement have pointed to the raid, arrest, and prosecution of Houck as an example of the weaponization of federal law enforcement under the Biden administration to attack pro-life Americans.
In October, shortly after Houck’s dramatic dawn arrest by the FBI, fellow pro-life Catholic and father of 11 Paul Vaughn was similarly targeted by federal law enforcement. That same month, the DOJ hit 11 pro-life activists, including an 87-year-old survivor of a communist concentration camp, with federal charges under the FACE act for a peaceful protest at a Nashville, Tennessee abortion facility.
This month, prosecutors found Catholic priest and pro-life advocate Fr. Fidelis Moscinski guilty of violating the FACE Act for locking the gate of an abortion clinic in July. Fr. Moscinski will be sentenced in April, and faces up to six months in federal prison.
In a January 30 tweet reacting to the acquittal of Mark Houck, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas argued that Biden-appointed U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland ought to “be ashamed for using DOJ as a political weapon to target pro-life activists.”