A divided federal appeals court has denied pro-life campaigner Lauren Handy’s appeal of a lower court’s finding that her actions at a Washington abortion clinic protest constituted a “crime of violence.”
Ms. Handy and her co-defendants—who are facing up to 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $350,000—may appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
Ms. Handy is the director of activism for Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, which describes its mission as mobilizing “grassroots anti-abortion activists for direct action and [to] educate on the exploitative influence of the Abortion Industrial Complex through an anti-capitalist lens.”
After being sentenced to jail time on a separate charge in July 2022, Ms. Handy said, “As a Catholic and progressive myself, I am compelled by my deeply held beliefs … to put my body between the oppressed and the oppressor.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Nov. 3 affirmed with a 2–1 vote a federal district court’s finding that violence was involved in the events giving rise to charges under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
In a decision that became available on Nov. 6, the appeals court upheld the lower court’s finding that the disruptive political protest in which she was involved was a “crime of violence,” which was vigorously contested by defense counsel.
The defendants “have not demonstrated that the district court erred in concluding that they had been found guilty of a crime of violence and therefore should be detained pending sentencing pursuant to 18 U.S.C. [Section] 314 3(a)(2),” the circuit court stated.
The FACE Act has been criticized by federal lawmakers.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) has said the administration of President Joe Biden enforces the law selectively against pro-life activists.
On Sept. 19, Mr. Roy introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the FACE Act.
“Free Americans should never live in fear of their government targeting them because of their beliefs. Yet Biden’s Department of Justice has brazenly weaponized the FACE Act against normal, everyday Americans across the political spectrum, simply because they are pro-life,” the lawmaker said at the time.
Ms. Handy and her four co-defendants, who were convicted by a jury on Aug. 29 of conspiring to obstruct access to an abortion clinic in the nation’s capital and of “conspiracy against rights,” were ordered to be incarcerated immediately after the conviction and pending sentencing by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The judge was appointed in 1997 by President Bill Clinton.
Critics question the “conspiracy against rights” charge because the Supreme Court ruled last year in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that there is no constitutional right to an abortion. The decision overturned Roe v. Wade (1973) and returned the regulation of abortion to the states.
Under federal law, the “crime of violence” finding by Judge Kollar-Kotelly allowed the court to incarcerate the defendants immediately without waiting for sentencing or for the appeals process to play out.
Judge Karen Henderson, who was appointed to the circuit court in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, was the lone dissenter on the three-judge panel.
She would have reversed the “crime of violence” finding and the decision to detain the co-defendants before sentencing.
One of Ms. Handy’s attorneys, Stephen Crampton, senior counsel at the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm, weighed in on the latest ruling.
“We are of course disappointed in this decision and continue to believe that dissenting Judge Henderson got it right while the majority got it wrong,” Mr. Crampton told The Epoch Times.
“The irony of Lauren Handy and the other peaceful pro-life advocates sitting in jail while truly violent criminals like those firebombing churches and pregnancy resource centers and defacing monuments in Washington go free cannot be ignored.
“We are considering our options, including an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, in our quest for justice for our clients.”
Mr. Crampton also told The Epoch Times, “We still haven’t even received a date for the sentencing itself, so our ability to appeal the merits of the case has not taken place yet.”
“It’s a very strange case procedurally because of the bifurcation of the trial of several of the defendants, one of whom was tried just a week or so ago. And to my knowledge, the court has yet to rule on that case.
“So apparently, it won’t be until we have all the defendants tried before they schedule a hearing on our sentencing itself.”
Officials at the U.S. Department of Justice didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment. The Epoch Times also sought comment from attorneys for Ms. Handy’s co-defendants but received none by press time.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times