Feds Impose Heavy Sentences For FACE Act Violators

(PatriotWise.com) — In late May, a US District Court judge sentenced the last of the ten defendants charged with blocking a Washington, DC, abortion clinic in October 2020, handing down a 24-month sentence to 75-year-old Paula Harlow.

The Massachusetts resident was convicted under the FACE Act (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) and also on charges of civil rights conspiracy.

According to the Justice Department, the defendants traveled to Washington, DC, to meet with principal defendant Lauren Handy, 30, of Alexandria, Virginia who organized a plan on social media to block the Surgi-Clinic in Washington in October 2022.

The ten defendants—Handy, John Hinshaw, William Goodman, Jonathan Darnel, Jean Marshall, Joan Bill, Herb Geraghty, Heather Idoni, Jay Smith, and Paula Harlow—entered the Surgi-Clinic and began blocking the doors using furniture, chains, ropes, and their bodies, and then live-streamed the protest.

Nine of the defendants were later convicted, while the tenth, 34-year-old Jay Smith, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in March 2023 to 10 months, followed by three years of supervised release.

Handy, Hinshaw, and Goodman were sentenced on May 14, with Handy receiving the longest sentence of 57 months. The 69-year-old Hinshaw was sentenced to 21 months, while the 54-year-old Goodman received 27 months.

Darnel, Marshall, Bell, and Geraghty were sentenced the following day to 34 months, 24 months, 27 months, and 27 months, respectively.

The ninth defendant to be sentenced was 59-year-old Heather Idoni, who received 24 months.

In an op-ed last Tuesday, Reason columnist Billy Binion described the sentences imposed on the defendants in the case as “overly harsh.” He argued that the FACE Act only further criminalized actions that were already illegal and suggested that Justice Department prosecutors deliberately added the civil rights conspiracy charge to ensure that none of the defendants got off lightly.

Binion noted that Lauren Handy’s 57-month sentence was identical to the sentence a federal judge imposed on a Hawaii man who defrauded $1.2 million from 42 investors. He argued that the sentences secured against the ten defendants were “disproportionate” to the crimes they committed.

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