A jury in Washington D.C. has convicted three defendants on federal civil rights charges in connection with a pro-life protest at a D.C. late-term abortion clinic on October 22, 2020.
U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Assistant Director David Sundberg, of the FBI Washington Field Office were proud to announce on Friday that Jean Marshall, 73, of Kingston, Mass.; Joan Bell, 74, of Montague, NJ; and Jonathan Darnel, 41, of Arlington, Va. were each convicted of a felony conspiracy against rights and for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
The two elderly pro-life women are facing prison sentences that could keep them locked up until they are in their mid-80’s. The punishment for each of the defendants includes “up to a maximum of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $350,000,” according to the D.C. Attorney’s Office’s press release.
U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a Clinton appointee, “ordered the defendants immediately detained as required by statute.”
The pro-life activists had borrowed a tactic that has been commonly used by left-wing agitators, but with only minor legal consequences. They blocked the entrance to the D.C.-based Washington Surgi-Clinic (WSC).
As the evidence at trial showed, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to create a blockade at the reproductive health care clinic to prevent the clinic from providing, and patients from receiving, reproductive health services. As part of the conspiracy, Marshall and Bell traveled to the Washington, D.C. area to meet with Darnel and participate in a clinic blockade that was directed another co-conspirator and was broadcast on Facebook.
According to the evidence, Marshall, and Bell were among a group that forcefully entered the clinic and set about blockading two clinic doors using their bodies, furniture, chains and ropes. Once the blockade was established, Darnel – who remained outside the clinic — live-streamed their activities on social media. The evidence also showed that the defendants violated the FACE Act by using a physical obstruction to injure, intimidate and interfere with the clinic’s employees and a patient, because they were providing or obtaining reproductive health services.
Five co-conspirators in the action were convicted in August 2023 on the same counts. Lauren Handy, 28, of Alexandria, Va.; John Hinshaw, 67, of Levittown, NY; Heather Idoni, 61, of Linden, Mich.; William Goodman, 52, of the Bronx, NY; and Herb Geraghty, 25, of Pittsburgh, Pa., also were convicted of felony conspiracy against rights and a FACE Act offense. One co-defendant, Jay Smith, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 months of incarceration, followed by three years of supervised release.
Since the early days of the Biden regime, the DOJ has executed a policy of treating traditional Catholics and pro-lifers like violent domestic extremists. At the same time, the vast majority of citations and charges against the George Floyd protesters who rioted throughout the U.S in the summer of 2020 were “ultimately dropped, dismissed or otherwise not filed,” according to a Guardian analysis of law enforcement records and media reports.
Late last month, a federal D.C. jury found five other members of the group— Lauren Handy, Will Goodman, John Hinshaw, Heather Idoni, and Herb Geraghty—guilty of violating the same federal laws.
They also up to 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $350,000.
Handy’s defense attorneys wanted to submit to the court a 2012 Live Action undercover investigative video of Dr. Cesare Santangelo, who runs the infamous WSC, admitting that any babies accidentally born alive during abortions would not receive any medical assistance to survive—neglect that is illegal under federal law, but not being prosecuted by the Biden DOJ.
They contend that video evidence compelled Handy to leave her full-time job in order to save the lives of preborn babies and choose WSC as a place for her activism.
However, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly claimed without proof that the video was “heavily edited,” claiming the abortionist’s video confession is just “gossip from propagandists.”
Lila Rose, founder and president of Live Action said the jury’s decision set “a horrific precedent for jailing Americans for exercising their 1st Amendment rights.”
“From the beginning, this trial has been a sham with a completely biased pro-abortion judge who has made a mockery of our justice system. This decision will be appealed, and we demand it be overturned. These activists are heroes, and the Department of Justice has acted capriciously and illegitimately. These charges stem from the FACE Act, which exists to target and chill the free speech of pro-life Americans,” she said in a statement. “Their acts of bravery to protect innocent human life from notorious D.C. abortionist Cesare Santangelo have been punished by the corrupt DOJ.”
According to LifeSite, Judge Kollar-Kotelly heavily censored the opening and closing statements of the 74-year-old Ms. Bell, marking “large sections” of the opening statement with a large X, and banning the closing statement altogether.
Bell’s unedited statements, obtained by LifeSite, are below:
I am a pacifist. Always have been. [When I was] a kid growing up on a farm, my dad had to deal with me blocking the cattle loading shut to prevent the calves from going to slaughter. When I got old enough, I realized animals had a purpose. They are not people. As long as they are not abused and … they are dealt with humanely, it is all right that they fulfil that purpose.
Being Catholic and knowing that human life is sacred, I’ve been deeply involved in fighting injustice against persons since my pre-teens, from the civil rights movement, Citizens against the Death Penalty, the anti-war movement of the 1960s and 1970s, [to] the pro-life movement (resisting the worst mass murder of all).
My means of resistance have always been totally non-violent along with compassion and respect shown towards those with whom I am in opposition.
Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. have been my spiritual mentors. Jesus Christ is the ultimate standard: lay down your life for others.
I vehemently opposed the anti-war movement leadership when those around me were verbally disrespecting the police by calling them “pigs” and calling soldiers “baby killers.” I opposed and finally departed any group that would not cease or that promoted violence, verbal or otherwise. That stands true to this very day. And I will tell you the most caring and non-violent group I have ever been part of is the pro-life movement. After over 50 years working with thousands of others to protect human life in this cause, this is the most compassionate, most caring, most non-violent people I have ever been part of verbally and physically. [Added: OK only if testifying] Yes, I have blocked the killing of babies, but never verbally accosted an abortionist or anyone else, especially a pregnant mother. We love them.
At a rescue before this one, I had an abortionist say, “I know you love me.”
Please understand we have an absolute standard that cannot be violated whether you are sidewalk counselling or at a prolife march or rally or doing a rescue inside or outside a building. You may not touch anyone! If you are assaulted, you can only lie down to protect yourself. To protect someone else you cannot touch the attacker. You are only allowed to block the attack of others by putting your own body between the assailant and the victim. If the victim is on the ground, you can place your body over the other to take the blows for him or her. This is an absolute standard. Nothing else is tolerated.
CLOSING STATEMENT [crossed out and the words “Addressing the Jurors” added]
I did not want a lawyer representing me though the court insisted I have a lawyer as legal advisor in the courtroom … Mr. Stephen Brennwald has been a great blessing, and I do thank the court. But I did not want to be represented because the little babies being put to death on the day I and others attempted to rescue them were never given due process of law before their falsely legal execution: no day in court, no representation.
Please understand. I can love God in prison or out of prison. What matters to me is for you to know that God loves you with a passion! I hope with all my heart that if you do not already know this…you will come to know this Truth most personally and deeply.