Pro-Life Houck Family Sue FBI and DOJ for Malicious Prosecution
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Months after a unanimous acquittal on all charges, devout Catholic father and dedicated pro-life advocate, Mark Houck, alongside his wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, have taken legal action by filing lawsuits against the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ). Their claims include malicious prosecution, abuse of process, false arrest, and assault.
Photo credit: David Trinks
The Houck family, consisting of nine members living in rural eastern Pennsylvania, is being represented by the Kansas City-based law firm, Graves Garrett. They have also joined forces with 40 Days for Life, a renowned national pro-life organization, for which Mark Houck has long been a committed volunteer.
Shawn Carney, President of 40 Days for Life, asserts that these lawsuits send a clear message that the era of targeting pro-life advocates for their beliefs has come to an end.
What do the lawsuits allege?
According to the lawsuit notices obtained by Catholic News Agency (CNA), they contend that the FBI's decision to arrest and prosecute Mark Houck, despite his willingness to cooperate with their investigation, was "malicious" and driven by an "illicit corrupt purpose" rather than the pursuit of justice. This was in violation of Mark Houck's well-established First Amendment rights and his common law right to be free from malicious and retaliatory prosecution.
The lawsuit also criticizes the FBI's use of excessive and overwhelming force during the arrest, resulting in unnecessary danger and fear, which has affected every member of the Houck family both physically and emotionally.
The repercussions of the FBI's actions include ongoing post-traumatic stress, financial losses, and irreparable damage to their reputation. The stress was so severe that it led to infertility, with the Houcks suffering the tragic loss of three babies through miscarriages.
In total, the Houcks are seeking $4.35 million in damages to compensate for the hardships and trauma they endured as a result of the FBI's actions.
On the morning of September 23, 2022, approximately 20 armed FBI agents raided the Houcks' home. During the raid, Mark Houck, a dedicated pro-life sidewalk counselor outside the Elizabeth Blackwell Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia, was arrested at gunpoint in front of his wife and children for two alleged violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
Houck was accused of intimidating and shoving an elderly Planned Parenthood volunteer, allegedly obstructing access to reproductive services, which is a violation of the FACE Act. These incidents, which occurred on October 13, 2021, had already been dismissed by local authorities. Houck explained that he pushed the volunteer to protect his 12-year-old son from harassment by the Planned Parenthood worker.
Despite Houck and his legal team's offer to cooperate with any federal investigation, his home was raided several months after the offer.
Houck was unanimously acquitted of all FACE Act charges in federal court on January 30, 2023.
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The Houcks take legal action
Mark Houck's lawsuit emphasizes that the FBI and DOJ ignored the fact that he was also a reproductive rights worker, serving as a volunteer at the Community Women's Center of America pregnancy center. This should have given him equal standing under the FACE Act with the Planned Parenthood volunteer.
The lawsuit alleges that the FBI had ample evidence to realize that their investigation was based on factual errors regarding the October 13 incident. Nevertheless, they chose to pursue charges.
The FBI's decision was seen as targeting Mark Houck for indictment without probable cause due to his beliefs, public prayers, and association with a crisis pregnancy center.
The consequences of these actions, as outlined in both notices, have been devastating for the Houck family.
The era of targeting pro-lifers is over
Shawn Carney, President of 40 Days for Life, asserts that these lawsuits mark the end of an era in which individuals were targeted for their pro-life beliefs.
He mentions that for years, 40 Days for Life had a cooperative relationship with the DOJ and FBI. However, this dynamic shifted dramatically after the reversal of Roe v. Wade. With 40 Days for Life's success in closing abortion clinics, it became evident that the only method left for those opposed to their mission was to silence 40 Days for Life by undermining free speech in the United States.
Carney emphasizes the recent surge in bigotry and hatred towards pro-life and Catholic Americans by the DOJ. He states that the fact that Mark Houck was peaceful and prayerful did not matter. Local authorities found no crime, yet Houck's home was subjected to an alarming show of force, all because the DOJ sought to make an example of him.
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