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From left to right: Joan Andrews Bell, Jonathan Darnel, Jean MarshallPhoto Credit: Jim Hale / LifeSiteNews

WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) — Jonathan Darnel has been sentenced to 34 months in jail and a $125 fine Wednesday morning, in the second batch of pro-life activists convicted last year of blocking access to a late-term abortion facility in the nation’s capital, a case pro-life leaders call an egregious case of Biden administration overreach.

On August 29, 2023 a D.C. jury found Lauren Handy, Will Goodman, Heather Idoni, Rosemary “Herb” Geraghty, and John Hinshaw guilty of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and conspiracy against rights. The next month, Darnel, Joan Andrews Bell, and Jean Marshall were convicted of the same; Paulette Harlow’s conviction came in November.

Wednesday’s hearings, before U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, include Geraghty starting at 9 a.m., Darnel at 11 a.m., Marshall at 1:30 p.m., and Bell at 3 p.m.

As LifeSiteNews has extensively reported, the five activists stood trial for blocking access to the Washington Surgi-Clinic in downtown Washington D.C., in a “traditional rescue” in October 2020. Pro-life “rescues,” of which there were many in the early days of the pro-life movement before the FACE Act became federal law, involve activists physically entering abortion centers and refusing to leave in an effort to convince women to choose life for their babies (Washington Surgi-Clinic is also where five late-term aborted babies were discovered that may have either been killed by illegal partial-birth abortion procedures or after live-birth).

Following the convictions, Handy and most of the co-defendants were denied release while awaiting sentencing. Last month, the U.S. Justice Department filed sentencing memos calling for Handy to serve between 5.25 and 6.5 years in prison, near the high end of the sentencing guidelines, and for the rest of the defendants to serve a minimum of two years. 

Darnel, a decorated U.S. Army Captain who deployed twice to Iraq, has already spent nine months in prison, giving him a remainder of two years and one month to serve. On Tuesday, Handy was sentenced to serve four years, Hinshaw to one year, and Goodman to 18 months, all with the same $125 fine. Geraghty was also sentenced Tuesday, to 27 months (18 left to serve) and $125.

“I am proud of my co-defendants, proud of their courage,” Darnel told the judge. “I hold that abortion is not only highly immoral, but also illegal, until we change the 14th Amendment. I took an oath as a soldier to uphold the Constitution, and as a Christian to love my neighbor. And I hope that [with] my actions I have fulfilled both.” He also said that he hoped this trial would not make Americans live in fear of their government.

Following sentencing, Darnel released a separate statement obtained by LifeSiteNews:

Though my sentence was not as harsh as it might have been, today was not really a surprise. Our pro-death government is determined to make an example of us. It will be interesting to see what happens if this case reaches the Supreme Court. We should have defied FACE a long time ago, but perhaps this is the opportune moment.

I doubt most anti-abortion Americans have given much thought to how this barbarism can be abolished. One thing is clear: it will never end if all we do is vote. Notice what’s happening outside the Bible Belt? People are just as deluded as they were 50 years ago! Some of us must show that baby-killing is intolerable. Rescue is essential. All anti-abortion citizens should rally behind it.

The cases are the latest in what pro-lifers call a pattern of the pro-abortion Biden Department of Justice (DOJ) weaponizing the criminal justice system to crush its political enemies.

Since May 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court’s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade was first leaked, “there have been at least 236 attacks on Catholic churches and at least 90 attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers,” the Daily Signal reports. Yet the DOJ “charged only pro-life activists with FACE Act violations in 2022, and has since charged only five individuals with violating the FACE Act by targeting pregnancy centers.” At the same time, it has zealously pursued incidents involving pro-lifers, from the D.C. defendants to Philadelphia sidewalk counselor Mark Houck.

Several of the D.C. Nine have endured mistreatment while in custody above and beyond the charges and sentencing themselves. Heather Idoni, 59, was placed in prolonged solitary confinement for 22 days and deprived of sleep with the lights of her cell kept on continually. Jean Marshall, 74, was deprived of sufficient clothing and heat during extreme freezing winter cold, causing her to contract pneumonia which went untreated for three weeks, and was denied urgent hip surgery.  Paulette Harlow, 75, was refused permission to attend Catholic Mass while under house arrest.

LifeSiteNews’ extensive coverage of the D.C. Face Act trials can be found here

READ: Pro-life rescuers are very effective in saving lives despite the risk of jail: here’s why