This article has been updated and expanded to include additional information following publication.
PHILADELPHIA (LifeSiteNews) — The blockbuster Mark Houck case has been adjourned until Monday after the jury reached a deadlock today following 2 1/2 hours of deliberation behind closed doors.
The news comes after an intense and emotional day of cross-examinations, during which the prosecutor for the U.S. government grilled Houck on his religious beliefs and claimed that the Catholic father of seven deliberately assaulted abortion “escort” Bruce Love because he “was a clinic escort for reproductive health services.”
The Thomas More Society has posted a video update recapping Friday’s court proceedings. The video can be viewed (here).
READ: Mark Houck, 13-year-old son testify ahead of jury deliberations in pro-life case of the century
As originally reported by LifeSiteNews, Houck was subjected to a dawn raid by President Joe Biden’s FBI last year. The DOJ has charged Houck with two felonies for allegedly violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act when he pushed Love, 73, during sidewalk altercations on two separate occasions in 2021.
Houck’s trial, United States v. Mark Houck, began Tuesday and was originally expected to conclude Friday.
In a statement to LifeSiteNews following the news of the jury deadlock, Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania spokeswoman and Houck family friend Ashley Garecht said her group would “spend this weekend in prayer, and in hopeful anticipation of a complete acquittal for Mark when the court reconvenes next week.”
“Mark Houck’s legal team has done terrific work showing that Mark acted only as a father defending his son from a known hostile and aggressive escort — indeed Planned Parenthood was so concerned about Mr. Love’s antics that they removed him as a volunteer for several months separate from the incident with Mark last year,” Garecht said.
“It is abundantly clear that Mark did not violate any aspect of the FACE Act and the government’s case is without merit,” she added.
READ: Mark Houck heads to trial in one of the biggest pro-life cases of the century
Catholic News Agency reporter Joe Bukuras has been reporting from the courtroom in Philadelphia and published a lengthy Twitter thread recounting the proceedings.
Bukuras said Mark Houck Jr. took the stand Friday, explaining to the jury that Mr. Love had verbally harassed him and cursed at him on the day that the altercations took place.
When the 13-year-old finished his testimony, he was embraced by his mother Ryan-Marie, who was in tears.
Houck Jr. said yes.
Defense asked him, and what did we tell you to tell the jury?
“The truth,” he said.
— Joe Bukuras (@JoeBukuras) January 27, 2023
According to Bukuras, Houck also became visibly emotional as he took the stand, describing his Wednesday sidewalk counseling trips to the Philadelphia abortion clinics as times of companionship and prayer with his son.
Houck recounted the events that unfolded during his altercations with Love, stating that the “escort” had verbally harassed his son.
He said he didn’t intend to hurt Love when he pushed him, adding through tears that he “pushed Mr. Love because he was harassing my 12-year-old boy.”
The defense asked: Why did you push Bruce Love?
“I pushed Mr. Love because he was harassing my 12-year-old boy,” Houck said tearing up on the stand.
— Joe Bukuras (@JoeBukuras) January 27, 2023
When the prosecution took its opportunity to cross-examine Houck, they quickly began to grill him on his sidewalk counseling and his ministry, The King’s Men, which helps men overcome pornography addiction.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Nicole Martin demanded whether Houck had ever called an abortion “escort” a “baby-killer” or a “murderer,” or said there was “a special place in hell for people like them,” according to Bukuras.
Houck denied the allegations, and repeatedly stated that he prays for abortion “escorts,” adding, “We’re all sinners.”
As previously reported by LifeSiteNews, Martin also asked Houck whether he was engaging in a “battle” in his sidewalk counseling.
“A spiritual battle,” he responded.
UPDATE (01/30/23): Mark Houck has been AQUITTED on both charges!
Thanks be to God LifeSiteNews can report that Mark Houck has been found "Not Guilty" on all counts today.
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.”
The Thomas More Society is set to hold a press conference today on the 6th street side of the James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse, 601 Market Street, Philadelphia.
Monday’s verdict came after a tense weekend wait following a deadlocked jury on Friday.
Several hours into Monday’s deliberations after the jury reconvened, an alternate was chosen to replace one of the jurors. Just before 3:00 p.m. EST, the jury delivered its verdict, acquitting Houck on both charges.
Mark Houck, a pro-life Catholic father of 7, became the latest victim of an FBI raid and arrest on the morning of Friday September 23 — for supposed “FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) Act” violations — at his rural home as his children looked on “screaming.”
The arrest and raid stems from an altercation with a Planned Parenthood worker.
According to Mark’s wife Ryan-Marie, a “pro-abortion protester” would verbally harrass Mark's 12-year old son — hurling vulgar and derogatory statements.
When the protestor encroached in the boy's space, Mark defended his son. At that point, “Mark shoved him away from his child, and the guy fell back,” Ryan-Marie recounts.
The protestor was not injured, but he tried to sue Mark Houck for the assault but his case was thrown out of court in the early summer.
WE CANNOT ALLOW THE LEFT TO HARRASS PRO-LIFE ADVOCATES THIS WAY!
It's vital to stand in solidarity with a pro-family and pro-life man being unjustly persecuted - please SIGN & SHARE our message of support now.
In case you hadn't caught on already, the satanic Biden administration is waging war on Christians. https://t.co/E6ChpZVDYW— Michael (X) Knowles ✊ (@michaeljknowles) September 24, 2022
The description of this arrest sounds like it took place in a totalitarian state. A tragic unraveling of Justice in America. https://t.co/e3vEID7E39— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) September 25, 2022
If convicted, Houck faces up to a maximum of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $350,000, according to the Justice Department.
Additional conservative pro-life leaders have weighed in — this is why we need your support ASAP.
“Just in the last few days we’ve seen some pretty glaring examples of what appear to be instances of DOJ [Department of Justice] overreach. You’ve got a Catholic father of seven who formed a group designed to encourage young men to be faithful to their commitments, arrested in front of his seven children just recently. You’ve got all these instances of overreach. It’s deeply concerning to us all. These are all things we’re gonna be looking into.” — US Senator Mike Lee
Tell the Houck family that you stand by them!
SIGN: We stand with pro-life Catholic dad of 7 raided by Biden’s FBI
Please share this petition widely. Let's stand in solidarity with Mark Houck and his family.
READ: Pro-lifers rally outside courthouse as Mark Houck’s trial begins
According to Bukuras, Martin then asked Houck whether he had threatened to push Love into the street. Houck affirmed that he had made that remark, “unfortunately,” but couldn’t say precisely when he had said it.
Closing arguments ensued, Bukuras reported, with the prosecuting attorney contending that the altercations met all the requirements of a violation of the FACE Act.
The federal government claims that Houck undeniably pushed Love, as evidenced by video footage; that he did so to stop him from his work as an abortion “escort”; and that Houck had motive because he “had had enough” of Love performing his function, Burkuras reported.
However, the defense team had 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 “escorts” 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.
READ: Defense attorneys in Mark Houck case bring crucial evidence to light as trial nears final stages
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.”
The jury was sent to deliberate at roughly 2:30 p.m. After about 2 1/2 hours behind closed doors, the jury foreman told the judge they had reached a deadlock and would be unable to render a decision that night.
The judge has adjourned the case until Monday.
You can keep up with the updates on the Houck trial by following LifeSiteNews’ coverage as well as developments posted on the Thomas More Society’s website.
Most of all, readers are asked to pray for the legal team representing Houck, as well as for Houck himself, his wife, and their young children.