On Monday a federal jury acquitted Mark Houck, the Christian pro-life activist whose house was swarmed by FBI agents last fall in front of his wife and children. The not-guilty verdict comes more than four months after the Biden administration accused Houck of violating federal law for protecting his son from an angry abortion activist across the street from a Planned Parenthood in 2021.
After leaving the courtroom in a deadlock on Friday, on Monday a federal jury agreed Houck was not guilty of violating federal law, contrary to the Biden Department of Justice’s position.
The early-morning FBI raid on Houck’s home included battering rams and ballistic shields at the ready and was committed even after Houck’s attorney had told the U.S. Department of Justice Houck would turn himself in if they asked. Since his arrest in September 2022, Houck and his lawyers maintained “This case is being brought solely to intimidate people of faith and pro-life Americans.”
“We are, of course, thrilled with the outcome,” stated Peter Breen, head of litigation for the Thomas More Society, which defended Houck in court. “We took on Goliath – the full might of the United States government – and won. The jury saw through and rejected the prosecution’s discriminatory case, which was harassment from day one. This is a win for Mark and the entire pro-life movement. The Biden Department of Justice’s intimidation against pro-life people and people of faith has been put in its place.”
Houck is now freed from the threat of “a maximum possible sentence of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $350,000.” He also thanked Americans and pro-lifers for their support after the FBI raid and subsequent federal prosecution.
After weeks of ignoring pro-abortion violence and threats against pro-life pregnancy support centers across the nation, dozens of FBI agents arrested Houck in front of his wife and seven children in a raid at his home in September. When Houck’s wife recounted that “they had big, huge rifles pointed at Mark and pointed at me and kind of pointed throughout the house,” the FBI defended their “guns out and ready” positions as necessary.
The Biden administration’s Department of Justice alleged Houck violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, a law barring the physical obstruction of abortion facilities, by “attacking a patient escort” more than 100 feet away and across the street from a Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia during one of his regular trips to peacefully protest abortion.
The “patient escort,” Bruce Love, repeatedly initiated profanity-laced verbal confrontations with Houck and his son, Mark Houck Jr., said court documents. The documents also say Houck asked Love to stop multiple times, to no avail. On Oct. 13, 2021, when Love escalated by invading Mark Jr.’s personal space, Houck Sr. shoved him away.
Love fell and claimed he “required medical attention,” an allegation the DOJ indictment took as fact. Brian Middleton, a spokesman for the Houck family, said the “medical attention” Love spoke of was “a Band-Aid on his finger.”
During his testimony to the jury, Houck gave his side of the story.
“You consider it to be a battle, don’t you?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Nicole Martin asked Houck during the trial.
“A spiritual battle,” the father of seven replied.
Houck also disclosed that Love instigated the incident that later was used to sic federal investigators on the Houck family.
“All of this was set in motion by the escort, and that’s not a FACE violation,” Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Michael McHale said in a trial recap video on Friday. “FACE is about access to clinics. And what happened here was an escort interfering with Mark and Mark’s son.”
Houck’s son Mark Jr. also testified on Friday. In his testimony, Mark Jr. explained that Love initiated a conversation with him.
“That directly contradicted Bruce Love’s testimony,” McHale said. “Mr. Love testified that he never, has ever, talked to Mark Jr. And to have Mark Jr. on the stand today and just testify confidently and clearly that Bruce Love talked to him and said ‘Your dad’s a bad person and your dad’s harassing women.’ I really think that went a long way, at least with some people on the jury.”