The jury deciding the fate of Mark Houck was “deadlocked” after two-and-a-half hours of deliberation Friday in a case that could see the pro-life advocate imprisoned for up to 11 years if found guilty of a federal violation for pushing an abortion clinic escort in a verbal dispute. Jurors will reconvene on Monday.
Houck, a father of seven, is facing a federal FACE Act violation for pushing Planned Parenthood abortion clinic escort Bruce Love who verbally confronted him as he stood across the street from the clinic to counsel women about alternative options to abortion.
The pro-lifer is accused of pushing Love twice on Oct. 13, 2021, after the clinic escort walked across the street to confront Houck and his son, who was 12 years old at the time. A security camera caught the altercation that showed Love falling to the ground, injuring his elbow.
Defense attorneys requested a motion to dismiss the federal indictment Thursday. Both Houck and his son, Mark Houck Jr., testified Friday, the third day of the trial at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Pastor Bill Devlin, who has been present at the court proceedings, told The Christian Post on Thursday that he has ministered with Houck for over 20 years and is familiar with The King’s Ministry, of which Houck is president.
“We are deep brothers in the faith, and I’ve come alongside to undergird and support him because it’s the presumption of innocent until the government can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mark Houck violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act,” Devlin told CP.
On Thursday, Houck’s attorneys, Brian McMonagle of the law firm McMonagle, Perri, McHugh, Mischak & Davis, alongside Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, a nonprofit law firm, argued before Judge Gerald Pappert that the federal government had not made the case to prosecute Houck.
According to Devlin, McMonagle said Houck’s actions were not a violation of the FACE Act, which prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.”
After hearing McMonagle’s motion to dismiss, Devlin said he heard the judge say, “It appears to me that the U.S. government is stretching the statute of the FACE Act.”
Devlin told CP that federal prosecutors argued that Houck committed two violations of the FACE Act by allegedly preventing someone from entering the abortion clinic and causing bodily injury by pushing Love, the clinic escort who fell to the ground.
McMonagle argued, according to Devlin, that the shove which resulted in Love falling to the ground was initiated by Love, who, as the defense attorney noted, was in violation of the non-engagement policy described in Planned Parenthood’s volunteer escort manual.
The volunteer manual instructs escorts not to engage with the pro-life sidewalk counselors outside the clinic. McMonagle argued that Love caused the altercations by violating the clinic’s nonengagement policy.
Devlin said the defense attorney argued that the case “never should have been brought to federal court” and the fact that it was brought to federal court is a “disgrace.”
The first interaction between Houck and Love took place on the opposite side of the street from the Planned Parenthood clinic where Houck was attempting to talk with two women who had already left the facility when Love ran up to them and interrupted, appearing to violate the non-engagement policy.
The U.S. Department of Justice has claimed that Houck violated the FACE Act during the altercation in which he twice pushed Love, who had walked across the street to confront the pro-life counselors.
Houck maintains that he was defending his son from the clinic escort, who was reportedly behaving in an aggressive manner toward the boy and had gotten in his son’s face after he tried to walk away from Love.
Devlin said that during every court recess, he would take people outside and lead them in prayer. Many are also fasting in addition to praying that “God will bring the victory now.”
“We’re hoping and praying that reason and common sense will prevail, that the jurors, the 12 jurors, and the two alternates will understand that this case should never have ended up in federal court.”
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