Photo: Mark Houck and family
There was a small victory for freedom last month when a federal jury took only an hour to find Mark Houck not guilty of serious charges falsely brought against him by corrupt federal prosecutors bent on criminalizing pro-life activism.
The embarrassing loss is a rare courtroom defeat for President Biden’s politicized Department of Justice. But it will take more than this one black eye to stop the juggernaut of federal law enforcement unleashed on Americans who voice opinions Democrats dislike.
Houck faced 11 years in prison for a minor shoving incident that local authorities found too trifling to charge. A year later, the DOJ decided to charge Houck with violating the FACE Act, which makes it a federal crime to block access to an abortion clinic. But the charges were only a pretext to make a public example of an abortion opponent. There was no evidence Houck violated the act, and the DOJ knew it.
The trial judge recognized it, too, telling the prosecutors their application of federal law “seem(ed) to be stretched a little thin here,” suggesting the case should never have been brought to trial.
On Oct. 13, 2021, Houck was in an area near a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood clinic, well away from the clinic entrance, where he regularly counseled women about alternatives to abortion. On that day, he’d brought along his 12-year-old son. At some point, clinic “escort” Bruce Love began “extremely aggressive” approaches to the two of them, hurling demeaning comments at Houck and his son.
Love’s behavior violated Planned Parenthood’s “non-engagement policy,” and the clinic’s own staff described Love “as an aggressive ‘provocateur.’” After several attempts to avoid Love and defuse the situation, Houck shoved Love away from his son, causing Love to fall and scrape his elbow. Philadelphia authorities investigated the incident and found it too insignificant to charge.
But nearly a year later, despite no evidence of a FACE Act violation, the Justice Department decided to investigate Houck.
Houck was more than willing to cooperate with the investigation. He retained lawyer Matt Heffron, a former federal prosecutor, who was familiar with procedures for dealing with cooperative defendants. Heffron reached out to the prosecutor several times, by voicemails and emails, to let her know that if Justice indicted his client, Effron would accept the summons on his behalf, and Houck would appear voluntarily.
But the prosecutor never bothered to respond. Instead, the FBI raided Houck’s home without warning and at an hour he and his wife and seven children would be sleeping, bringing just enough agents, tactical vests, ballistic helmets and automatic weapons to take down an armed sociopath sworn never to be taken alive.
Mrs. Houck described her children’s trauma, first by having FBI weapons pointed at them, then watching their unresisting father being handcuffed and hauled away.
The FBI offered the ludicrous excuse that the show of force was “standard protocol for making arrests in the field.” But the prosecutor knew better because Houck had offered to come in voluntarily, so terrorizing Houck’s wife and children with a 25-man “arrest in the field” was completely unnecessary. It was just another instance of a campaign of intentional political intimidation.
Since the leak of the Dobbs opinion last May, there have been more than 150 pro-abortion attacks of vandalism, threats and arson against pro-life facilities and churches. FBI Director Christopher Wray admitted last November that “70 percent of abortion-related threats of violence in the United States since the Dobbs decision has been against pro-life groups.”
So, what was Attorney General Merrick Garland’s response to these attacks by pro-abortion activists? He created a “Reproductive Rights Task Force” to protect abortion activism, which, according to Breitbart, he then used to go after “26 pro-life individuals … with alleged violations of the FACE Act.”
Meanwhile, in 2022 the Justice Department conspicuously failed to arrest or indict a single person for the violent pro-abortion attacks since last May. (The department indicted two this January.)
You don’t have to be a pro-life activist to draw the FBI’s gimlet eye.
Reporting last week on an internal memo from the Richmond, Va., field office revealed an FBI investigation into the “threat” of “White supremacy” and “violence” posed by conservative Catholics who prefer the Latin Mass. According to the FBI analyst who produced the memo, these “Radical-Traditionalist Catholics (RTC)” are “typically characterized by the rejection of the Second Vatican Council” and “adherence to anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and White supremacist ideology.”
The analyst has “high confidence” the feds can mitigate this RTC “threat” by “recruiting sources within the Catholic Church,” and “monitoring social media for RTC ideology in online posts.”
Citing no examples of traditionalist Catholics engaged in any wrongdoing, the memo warns RTC White supremacists might use “places of worship as facilitation platforms to promote violence.”
As soon as the media began reporting on the memo, the FBI immediately rescinded it, denying they would ever “open an investigation based solely on First Amendment protected activity.”
But the memo clearly indicates that’s precisely what the Richmond FBI agents were up to, and we would never have found out about it if not for the former Special Agent who leaked it.
This one-sided law enforcement isn’t a coincidence, and its message is unmistakable. Since President Biden took office, there’s been a terrifying rise in the abuse of federal police powers to criminalize law-abiding Americans for opinions disfavored by the radical left.
In Biden’s splenetic presidential address from Philadelphia last September, he made it crystal clear he believes the greatest danger to the country is coming from the half of America who voted against him or who challenge his policies. At the same time, Christopher Wray and Merrick Garland signaled their own contempt for those wrong-thinking Americans by brazenly refusing to investigate violent extremists on the left.
BLM, Antifa and Jane’s Revenge fanatics enjoy right-side-of-history immunity. Prison is for those on the wrong side.
The planned new FBI headquarters will be twice the size of the Pentagon, until recently the largest office building in the world. Why? Because Washington speaks through its architecture, and Permanent Washington, more talkative than ever, wants us to know Just Who Runs Things.
Talking back is more urgent now than ever.