Defendants in DC FACE Act trial convicted and detained

“Long live rescue!”

That was the rallying cry of pro-lifers amid tears in response to Tuesday’s verdict against five rescuers. 

As Live Action News reported, five defendants – Lauren Handy, Herb Geraghty, Heather Idoni, Will Goodman, and John Hinshaw – were found guilty of conspiring to violate civil rights and blocking access to notorious abortionist Cesare Santangelo’s clinic in October of 2020. 

The case seemed to reflect an attempt by the administration of President Biden, who claims to be a practicing Catholic, to protect abortion after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs. Each defendant faces up to 11 years in prison.

The jury convicted each defendant of violating a conspiracy law and the FACE Act, which the administration has touted as part of its post-Roe strategy. Government attorney Sanjay Patel, who was condescending in some of his remarks, had just failed to obtain a conviction for pro-lifer Mark Houck. Handy and the others, however, were convicted under FACE with two counts surrounding both the use of force and physical obstruction. 

Tuesday’s hearing ended with U.S. marshals taking defendants through a side door after the DOJ requested incarceration. From the gallery, cries of “long live rescue,” “we love you,” and descriptions of the defendants as heroes could be heard as they were taken away. Goodman, who had his hands behind his back, had asked after the verdict for prayers and forgiveness for both the jury and prosecutors.

After the verdict was read, Geraghty’s attorney John Kiyonaga asked to poll the jury and each responded by concurring with the verdict.

Idoni’s, Geraghty’s, and Handy’s attorneys have said they will pursue appeals. Thomas More Society counsel Martin Cannon, who was defending Handy, said, “We are, of course, disappointed with the outcome. Ms. Handy has been condemned for her efforts to protect the lives of innocent preborn human beings. We are preparing an appeal and will continue to defend those who fight for life against a Biden Department of Justice that seems intent on prosecuting those who decry abortion and present it as it is — the intentional killing of children in utero.”

As Live Action News has noted, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly dismissed Live Action’s footage of Santangelo as “gossip” and attempted to correct Geraghty in response to a factual assertion about federal law. 

During Tuesday’s hearing, Kollar-Kotelly asked the government whether they wanted to seek incarceration for the defendants, as well as whether DOJ thought they committed a crime of violence under federal law. DOJ attorney John Crabb requested some time to discuss with his co-counsel, allowing the defendants some time to briefly exit the courtroom.

Crabb eventually said he believed the defendants committed a crime of violence under 18 U.S. Code § 3156, which defines a crime of violence as “an offense that has as an element of the offense the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another” and “any other offense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.”

Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Steve Crampton blasted the decision, saying:

In an unexpected twist, the Court found that because the violation of FACE — in this case — was a crime of ‘violence,’ all five defendants must be immediately incarcerated. So, the defendants were led out of the courtroom by an army of U.S. Marshals.

This is an outrage, and the one thing the defendants had really agreed upon was to remain non-violent. The real violence is what happens during the abortion procedure.

Briefs are due September 29. Kiyonaga previewed his follow-up arguments by saying he would make arguments regarding whether there was reasonable doubt that his client, Geraghty, was guilty of the conspiracy charge.

Geraghty underwent a lengthy cross-examination last week in which Patel pressed the defendant about prior knowledge of the October 2020 rescue. Geraghty denied knowledge of various aspects of the rescue. 

At least four U.S. marshals were inside the courtroom prior to the verdict. Outside, a group of at least eight officers – many of whom could be seen with DHS on their uniforms – stood in the hallway. Their presence offered a stark contrast to the tears shed by activists like Aimee Murphy, who preceded defendant Herb Geraghty as head of Rehumanize International.

Prior to being apprehended, defendants talked with friends in the hallway. Handy could be heard offering a statement accusing Santangelo of committing infanticide. She had cited Live Action’s 2013 video of Santangelo indicating to an undercover investigator that he wouldn’t provide certain medical measures for a baby born from a botched abortion. 

A decade later, Santangelo’s operations remain largely under wraps — but both Handy and Terrisa Bukovinac, who founded Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, were able to obtain approximately 115 of Santangelo’s apparent victims outside his abortion business last year. Shortly thereafter, DOJ announced its indictment against Handy and others for their role in a rescue nearly two years prior to them finding the babies.

Live Action News reported on the horrific discovery and quoted Dr. Kathi Aultman, a former abortionist, as saying that at least one of the babies, who was still in his or her amniotic sac, appeared as though he or she could have been born alive. 

Nonetheless, Kollar-Kotelly refused to admit Live Action’s video, citing a portion where Santangelo tells the investigator – a prospective patient in 2013 – that type of birth hasn’t happened at his facility. She also refused to alter jury instructions after the defense requested a provision related to the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, a federal law requiring life-saving care for abortion victims. 

Live Action founder and CEO Lila Rose responded to the verdict in a press release, stating:

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. These activists are heroes, and the Department of Justice has acted capriciously and illegitimately…

This is also the same judge who recently suggested that the 13th Amendment to the constitution’s ban on “involuntary servitude” may confer a right to abortion, comparing the beauty of pregnancy and motherhood with the horror of slavery. I stand with these activists who have been unjustly convicted and demand authentic justice for these advocates working to end the barbaric killing of abortion.

Following the verdict, pro-lifers stood outside singing praise and worship music. Others from PAAU held a press conference while a pro-abortion protester repeatedly tried to interrupt. At one point, the protester yelled “666 Satan!”

Defendants are awaiting sentencing and a separate batch of defendants will stand trial in September. PAAU is holding a vigil for the babies outside the D.C. jail on Tuesday evening.

Editor’s Note, 8/30/23: Press release remarks have been added since original publication.

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