Sentencing continues for pro-life activists in DC, including grandmother and Iraq War vet

Sentencing continued on May 15 for pro-life activists convicted of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and “conspiracy against rights.” Scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday were Herb Geraghty, Jonathan Darnel, Jean Marshall, and Joan Bell. Three other pro-life activists were sentenced on Tuesday.

The activists were found guilty of conspiring to violate civil rights and blocking access to notorious abortionist Cesare Santangelo’s Washington, D.C., abortion business in October of 2020. They reportedly used chains, bike locks, furniture, and their bodies to prevent abortions from being committed and to prevent police from removing them from the premises — peaceful protest tactics commonly used today and even in decades past.

The three activists sentenced on Tuesday were Lauren Handy, age 30, who was sentenced to 57 months with credit for time served, John Hinshaw, age 69, who was sentenced to 21 months with credit for time served, and William Goodman, age 54, who was sentenced to 27 months in prison with credit for time served. They have each been in prison for nine months since their convictions on August 29, 2023.

The conspiracy statute under which the activists have been charged is 18 U.S.C. § 241, which “makes it unlawful for two or more persons to agree to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in the United States in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States or because of his or her having exercised such a right. Unlike most conspiracy statutes, §241 does not require, as an element, the commission of an overt act.” Interestingly, even as abortion advocates push to undo laws from the 1800s (like Arizona’s pro-life law from 1864, which lawmakers recently voted to revoke, as well as federal Comstock laws against mailing abortion drugs across state lines), this particular statute was put in place in 1870. Forbes notes (emphasis added):

Section 241 was initially passed after the Civil War as part of the Enforcement Act of 1870 as a way to punish members of the Ku Klux Klan and other Southerners from intimidating or harassing Black voters for exercising their new voting rights, but has since been used more broadly to thwart attempts to interfere in federal elections.

However, the DOJ’s civil rights division notes that “Section 241 is used in Law Enforcement Misconduct and Hate Crime Prosecutions. It was historically used, before conspiracy-specific trafficking statutes were adopted, in Human Trafficking prosecutions.”

Now, it has been used against pro-lifers seeking to prevent homicide against preborn human beings.

Herb Geraghty

First to be sentenced on Wednesday was 27-year-old Herb Geraghty. Geraghty was sentenced to 27 months in prison. Geraghty, along with Handy, cited a 2013 Live Action undercover video of abortionist Santangelo as the motivation to hold the protest at his DC clinic. In the video, Santangelo indicated to an undercover investigator that he wouldn’t provide certain medical measures for a baby born alive during a botched abortion in his abortion facility. In that video, Santangelo directly states:

I mean, technically, you know, legally, we would be obligated to help it, you know, to survive. But, you know, it probably wouldn’t. It’s all in how vigorously you do things to help a fetus survive at this point [24-25 weeks]… you know, there are things you do…. let’s say you went into labor, the membranes ruptured, and you delivered before we got to the termination part of the procedure here, you know. Then we would do things — we would — we would not help it… we wouldn’t — uh, intubate, let’s say. 

In the video, he made it clear that he would not provide medical care to an abortion survivor and would allow the born child to die.

Herb Geraghty (l) with PAAU founder Terrisa Bukovinac (r) Photo: Rehumanize International (Facebook)

In March 2022, pro-life activists retrieved a medical waste bin from a medical waste hauler outside Santangelo’s facility. In that container, they discovered the bodies of 115 aborted children. Physician experts told Live Action News that five of those aborted children appeared to have been old enough to survive outside the womb, raising concerns about potential legal and serious ethical violations by Santangelo’s facility. (Washington, D.C. does not have a gestational limit on abortion.) Despite multiple attempts, appeals, and press conferences in an effort to get authorities to investigate or perform autopsies on the children to determine cause of death, nothing has been done. Earlier this year, the DOJ attempted to have the bodies of these children destroyed, until members of Congress and outside legal counsel stepped in.

Jonathan Darnel

Iraq war veteran (serving two tours) Jonathan Darnel, 42,  has been sentenced to 34 months in federal prison with credit for time served, amounting to approximately 25 months. He was convicted on September 15, 2023. According to Monica Migliorino Miller of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, one of the conditions of his three-year probation is to perform 100 hours of community service. He is also required to refrain from criminal activity and avoid going within 1000 feet of ‘reproductive health’ care facilities.

During sentencing, Darnel stated, “I don’t know if this makes any difference, I am proud of the courage of my [co]defendants. I maintain that abortion is highly immoral and it is illegal. I took an oath as a captain to obey orders and as a Christian to love my neighbor, and I hope in some way I am accomplishing both.”

He also stated that he hopes that the penalties against these activists does not cause people to fear activism or the government, but that it instead “inspires them to compassion and to courage.”

Jean Marshall

Seventy-four-year-old Jean Marshall was found guilty on September 15, 2023, and was sentenced to 24 months in prison with credit for time served.

“At sentencing she provided a [doctor]’s note indicating she’s in need of a hip replacement due to extreme osteoporosis,” said pro-life activist Terrisa Bukovinac on X. “The feds said that hip replacement surgery is elective and wanted a harsher sentence.”

Joan Andrews Bell

Joan Andrews Bell, 76, was sentenced to 27 months in prison with credit for time served. After she is released, she will be under supervision and will not be allowed within 1000 feet of an abortion facility. Migliorino Miller explained that Bell received 100 hours of community service as well. She was convicted on September 15, 2023. Andrews Bell told the judge that she will not accept the conditions of her probation when she is released from prison. She will not pay the fine or carry out the community service.

“It violates my conscience,” she explained. “I cannot do something in reparation for something that the court should be doing: protecting children. I can’t volunteer for probation. I don’t agree I did anything bad.”

Her husband, Chris Bell, said the judge then warned her that there would be consequences. Andrews Bell responded, “I understand consequences.” She added that she could not adhere to her probation “because it will be perceived as if I’ve done something wrong and need to make up for my conduct. I did not do anything wrong.”

She said she would rather spend more time in jail than act as though she had acted wrongly in trying to save babies from abortion. The entire courtroom erupted in applause as she left the courtroom, said Chris Bell.

“Pro-Life Rescue ICON Joan Andrews Bell has been sentenced to 27 months in prison under FACE,” wrote Bukovinac on X. “Her family cried tears of joy that the sentence wasn’t longer. Joan told the judge she will not cooperate with the terms of her probation after her release.”

Andrews Bell has dedicated her life to saving babies and women from the horrors abortion beginning when the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade when she was just 24 years old. She has been arrested more than 200 times and spent more than six years combined in prison. Her activism inspired others.

She later went on to co-found Good Counsel Homes with her husband. Good Counsel Homes offers live-in facilities for pregnant women facing difficult situations.

Paulette Harlow and Heather Idoni are the two remaining activists scheduled to be sentenced later this month. According to the Department of Justice, Idoni is also scheduled to be sentenced on July 30 for separate conspiracy and FACE Act convictions from a different pro-life protest in Tennessee. There was also a tenth pro-lifer, Jay Smith, who was sentenced to 10 months in prison and three years of supervised release following his guilty plea to a felony FACE Act offense on March 1, 2023.

Editor’s Note: This article will be updated as new information becomes available.

The DOJ put a pro-life grandmother in jail for protesting the killing of preborn children. Please take 30-seconds to TELL CONGRESS: STOP THE DOJ FROM TARGETING PRO-LIFE AMERICANS.

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