New York Attorney General Letitia James dismissed all charges against a group of pro-life sidewalk counselors on Tuesday, ending a four-year-long legal battle.
The June 2017 lawsuit brought by then-Attorney General of New York Eric Schneiderman alleged that 13 pro-lifers, including Brooklyn-based Church at the Rock pastor Kenneth Grieep, had violated the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act through their peaceful, prayerful witness each week outside Choices Women’s Center abortion facility in Jamaica, Queens. An initial pro-life victory in a lower court was stunningly rejected by the Second Court of Appeals earlier this year, only to be followed by an announcement by that same court in August that it was vacating its own ruling and would rehear the case.
“We are pleased to see the state of New York has finally come to its senses and dismissed these baseless charges,” said Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Stephen Crampton, who represented a majority of the pro-lifers. “Justice has finally prevailed.” Crampton lamented the waste of time and financial resources that the case involved.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver, who represented one of the sidewalk counselors, pre-K teacher Scott Fitchett Jr., called the dismissal a “great victory.”
“The New York attorney general’s lawsuit was politically motivated and patently frivolous,” he said. “Our client, Scott Fitchett, did nothing wrong by exercising his First Amendment right to preach the gospel on a public sidewalk.”
In a press release, Thomas More Society noted that Schneiderman and his successors “relentlessly litigated the case, using hidden cameras, undercover investigators, and even a fake Facebook account posing as the page of a pro-life advocate, to try to find evidence of wrongdoing.” Crampton commented, “They came up with absolutely nothing, but that didn’t stop them from continuing to persecute these gentle Christians.”
In the end, said Crampton, “After the evidence was in and the witnesses had testified, the judge saw through the state’s case. It collapsed like a house of cards. The judge specifically found that witness after witness for the state lied. Our clients refused to be intimidated. They stood for truth, and the truth finally came out. And all of the defendants in this case were ultimately exonerated.”
Crampton maintained, “The case should never have been brought in the first place. But the pro-abortion lobby is powerful […] Our clients’ only ‘crime’ was speaking out for the unborn, an unpopular and dangerous viewpoint in New York City.”
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