WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) — In a third FACE Act trial this fall in Washington, D.C., in which the Department of Justice is pressing charges against pro-lifers for a “traditional” lock-and-block rescue in 2020 at the infamous late-term abortion facility Washington-Surgi Center, defendant Paulette Harlow called fellow pro-life rescuers Joan Andrews Bell, 74, and Jean Marshall, 72, Paulette’s sister, to the witness stand in an unexpected move.
The two will be brought to the courtroom on Wednesday from the Alexandria Detention Center, where they have been incarcerated since their own trial in mid-September.
At Harlow’s request, her trial is being conducted as a bench trial instead of a jury trial.
On Monday, the court began hearing witness testimony from the prosecution, which has consisted of the same lineup as the previous two trials. Included are three “nurses” who make up the staff at the Washington-Surgi Center along with infamous late-term abortionist Cesare Santangelo. The abortionist will not be called to testify despite the fact that the pro-lifer rescuers were motivated to “block” his facility after seeing a video in which Santangelo was caught admitting that he would leave a baby who survived an abortion to die of exposure, refusing to provide the medical assistance required by the federal Born Alive Act.
One of the nurses, testifying under the name Sarah Compton, claimed again that she suffered a sprained ankle on the morning of the pro-life rescue due to an altercation with defendant Jay Smith, who has not appeared in court due to accepting a plea deal from the government.
With no video evidence of the incident, Compton claimed that she did not feel the injury for about a half hour “after the adrenaline wore off.” She claimed that she declined to call an ambulance because they “wouldn’t be able to get through the police” on the scene. However, police had not set up any blockade and were allowing persons to enter and exit the clinic, as could be clearly seen in video footage shown in court.
Former pro-life rescuer Caroline Davis also took the stand, again testifying against fellow pro-lifers whom she had joined in October 2020 for the rescue conducted at the Washington-Surgi Center. A childhood friend of Davis told LifeSiteNews that Davis had a troubled adolescence and young adult life, riddled with instability and emotional trauma both within the home and outside of it.
The two had worked together as sidewalk counselors in Texas, taking part in events for 40 Days for Life as well as the Wahington, D.C, March for Life. Davis had become very zealous in her own faith and in the pro-life movement.
“I’m not surprised at the turnaround” the friend said, commenting that she believes this is what happens “when a weak mind is confronted with a heavy issue.” Davis’ history of emotional “trauma” and “unresolved issues,” her friend speculated, “overflowed” into the situation in which Davis finds herself today, turning against her fellow pro-lifers and becoming an informant for the DOJ under threat of decades of prison time for multiple pro-life rescues were she to refuse cooperation.
This week’s trial has been interrupted periodically to allow for Harlow, who is 75 years old and has multiple health issues, to rest or receive medical attention. Harlow was prevented from standing trial in September because she was in the hospital. She is escorted around the courthouse in a wheelchair.
Because of her poor health, which includes debilitating diabetes, Hashimoto’s disease and severe back pain requiring the use of a wheelchair, Harlow was transported from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. in a special-needs van equipped with a mattress for her to lie down. Harlow underwent a procedure to alleviate throat strictures from a hiatal hernia on Tuesday, three days before her pre-trial hearing on October 20.
Marshall, who is behind bars for the same October 2020 rescue at the Washington-Surgi Center, has fallen ill with pneumonia in prison.
Upon conviction in each of the first two D.C. FACE Act trials, defendants were immediately imprisoned because of a finding of “force” and “physical obstruction” attached to the charge of violating the FACE Act, which allowed the prosecution to request incarceration before sentencing due to conviction for a “crime of violence.”
Together with the FACE violation, defendants were charged with “conspiracy against rights.” The two charges carry a possible 11 years in prison. An appeal has been file and there’s hope that the U.S. Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down the FACE Act.