Five pro-life activists found guilty of FACE Act violations in DC

Verdicts were handed down today in the federal trial of five pro-life activists – Lauren Handy, Will Goodman, John Hinshaw, Heather Idoni, and Herb Geraghty – who were charged with conspiracy against rights and FACE Act violations. The jury found all of the defendants guilty of both charges. Read all the details here.

The defendants were indicted for their participation in an October 2020 rescue action at the D.C.-based Washington Surgi-Clinic (WSC), the abortion facility run by Cesare Santangelo. Santangelo was featured in Live Action’s InHuman investigation stating that if a child was born alive at his facility during an abortion, “we would not help it.”

Two defendants – Lauren Handy and Herb Geraghty – cited Live Action’s InHuman video as informing their belief that abortion survivors might be being left to die at WSC, which in turn motivated their decision to participate in the rescue action at Santangelo’s facility.

However, calling the video “gossip from propagandists” (despite the fact that the video showed the abortionist in his own words) presiding Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly would not allow the video itself to be admitted into evidence. 

Bias on the part of the prosecution was evidenced by its own word choices. For example, government attorneys referred to a three-day abortion procedure as “care” and as a “treatment” that was “absolutely needed.” 

Government attorneys also made sarcastic, condescending remarks to and about the defendants, with one caustically remarking, “That’s convenient,” after a defendant said she could not remember a specific detail.

The judge herself was not above entering into heated exchanges. Sparks flew after defendant Herb Geraghty asserted under cross-examination that federal law prohibits certain types of abortion procedures nationwide:

(Gov. Attorney) Patel: You know that abortions are legal in the District of Columbia?

Geraghty: I know that some abortions are, but partial birth abortion and abortion that a fetus survives outside the womb– 

Patel: Sir– 

Judge Kollar-Kotelly: Sir, as a practical matter, that’s not correct. There are no statutes in the District of Columbia that say anything about limitations on abortion. 

Geraghty: There’s federal laws, Your Honor. 

Judge Kollar-Kotelly: You are going to be the legal expert here? I suggest that you not get into that.

However, partial-birth abortion, or D&X, is indeed outlawed under the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007.

During deliberations on Friday, the jury sent three questions to the judge.

First, they asked: What do “oppression” and “intimidation” mean as defined by law?

Second, pertaining to a particular client of the abortion facility who was on the final day of a three-day abortion procedure and was experiencing labor pains when she arrived at WSC on the day of the rescue: What were the exact medical symptoms of the woman who collapsed in the hallway?

And lastly: What is the nature of ‘treatment’ for each of the different 3 days of ‘procedures’ at the Washington Surgi-Center?

There was a discussion about whether to define “oppression” and “intimidation” narrowly, as in the FACE Act, or more broadly, as it frequently is under conspiracy charges. Ultimately, the judge settled on a broad definition. With regard to the second and third questions, the judge gave the jury no answers; the second on the grounds that private medical conditions are not relevant, and the third on the grounds that there was no evidence given about specific abortion procedures during the trial.

More can be read about the trial at the links below:

Additional analysis of the verdicts will be forthcoming.

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