CV NEWS FEED // Mark Houck, a Pennsylvania pro-life leader and Catholic father of seven, pleaded not guilty to felony charges in federal court on Tuesday.
Thomas More Society Vice President and Senior Counsel Peter Breen, who represented Houck, “said the case already made its way through the state court process and was thrown out but that the Biden Department of Justice took up the matter nearly a year later as a form of ‘political prosecution,’” Fox News reported:
“If he was truly a danger to the community, they wouldn’t have waited a year to prosecute,” Breen … said outside the courthouse. “Serious questions need to be asked of the attorney general. What was he thinking? Why did they do this obscene show of force against a peaceful pillar of the community?”
Breen also pointed out that the arrest “put officers’ lives in danger,” put the “Houck family in danger,” and “was an utter waste of judicial resources and taxpayer resources.”
“This is a political prosecution,” Breen said:
And what’s clear from the Department of Justice at its highest levels, which is directing this case, [is] that they are trying to send a message to pro-life and people of faith: “Don’t mess with us.” They want to intimidate — they want to cause good people like Mark to stop praying and counseling at the abortion clinics of our country. And that’s not going to happen.
Houck was arrested by a team of at least 20 armed agents in the early hours of Friday morning. Agents nearly broke into the Houck family’s home, pointed guns at Houck’s head, and shouted aggressively during the arrest, according to Houck’s wife, who says their children witnessed the whole scene and were deeply traumatized.
Houck was then charged with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, a felony, nearly a year ago, when Houck shoved away a so-called “patient escort” who was harassing his 12-year-old son outside of a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood clinic, according to Houck family spokesman Brian Middleton.
As the Catholic News Agency reported on Sunday:
When both the city police and the district attorney declined to file charges against Houck, the escort filed a private criminal complaint in Philadelphia municipal court, Middleton said. The case was dismissed in July when the man repeatedly didn’t show up in court, Middleton said.
Just days later, Houck received a “target letter” from the U.S. Attorney’s Office informing him that he was the focus of a federal criminal probe into the same incident, Middleton said.
Through his attorney at the time, Houck tried to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office to discuss the case but never received a response, Middleton said.
“The next time they heard anything was Friday morning,” he said.
In June, attorneys with the Thomas More Society informed the Justice Department on Houck’s behalf that he would willingly appear before them if they wished to bring charges against him.
“Rather than accepting Mark Houck’s offer to appear voluntarily, the Biden Department of Justice chose to make an unnecessary show of potentially deadly force, sending twenty heavily armed federal agents to the Houck residence at dawn this past Friday,” said Breen shortly after the arrest.
“Mark didn’t commit a single actual crime. He didn’t do anything wrong,” said CatholicVote President Brian Burch on Tuesday. “All he did was pray and defend his young son from being harassed by a pro-abortion fanatic.”
Burch decried the dramatic nature of the arrest on Friday, but also the fact that “today Mark faces up to 11 years in federal prison on phony, drummed-up charges.”
“Who approved this outrageous raid?” Burch asked:
Who decided to put the full weight of the FBI and Department of Justice into targeting pro-life Catholics—even when they’re innocent?
And why haven’t the DOJ and FBI arrested one single person responsible for bombing, burning, and vandalizing pro-life pregnancy resource centers and Catholic churches?
I want answers.
Twenty-two members of Congress on Tuesday sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding answers to such questions.
“Surely, the FBI must have an extraordinary reason for showing up at the home of an American family, allegedly with roughly 25 heavily armed federal agents, and arresting a father in front of his seven children,” the letter pressed. “At the moment, it appears to be an extraordinary overreach for political ends.”
Many lawmakers have also noted the contrast between the Biden DOJ’s use of force against a pro-life Catholic father on the one hand and its controversial inaction against an ongoing rash of violence, threats, and even terrorism against pro-life Americans, women’s clinics, and Catholic churches.
As CatholicVote previously reported:
At least 73 pregnancy resource centers and offices of pro-life groups have been attacked and vandalized since May, according to one of CatholicVote’s violence trackers (which can be found here). Attacks have included firebombings and other forms of property destruction, and the CatholicVote tracker does not include numerous additional violent threats and other examples of intimidation by pro-abortion terrorist groups.
A pro-life activist couple in Pennsylvania set up a GiveSendGo fundraiser for Mark Houck over the weekend following his arrest with the goal of raising $75,000 for his legal defense. CatholicVote has encouraged Catholics throughout the U.S. to help Houck family.