A D.C. judge denies a pro-life activist's emergency release request

September 2, 2023

The attorneys for pro-life activist Lauren Handy are appealing her case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit after an emergency petition to release Handy from detention was denied by a district court judge.

Thursday, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied Thomas More Society's emergency motion to release Handy, according to a report by Breitbart News.

The defendant is one of five pro-life activists found guilty on Tuesday of conspiracy against rights and violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act for attempting to prevent abortions by blocking the entrance of the Washington Surgi-Clinic abortion facility in October of 2020.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly, who once suggested that a constitutional right to abortion could be found in the 13th Amendment due to its prohibition of "slavery nor involuntary servitude," ordered Handy and her four co-defendants to be taken to jail immediately following the jury's verdict, deeming their violation of the FACE Act a "crime of violence."

Attorneys' Take

Attorneys Martin Cannon and Steve Crampton, senior counsels for the Thomas More Society, argued in their motion that under federal law and binding precedents from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, the FACE Act is not categorically a "crime of violence" and pre-sentencing detention should not occur.

Additionally, they argued that releasing Handy prior to sentencing would not pose any danger to the public.

“Ms. Handy is a prominent national nonprofit leader,” Handy’s attorneys wrote in the motion. “In 2017, she founded Mercy Missions, a mutual aid organization dedicated to helping families and mothers in crisis pregnancies and providing survival aid for houseless people.

"Her charitable work and desire to help people and particularly families have led to previous arrests and charges for, primarily, trespassing. There is no evidence that Ms. Handy poses a danger to the safety of any person or the community.”

Defendant Details

According to the Department of Justice, the activists, including Handy, Heather Idoni, William Goodman, Herb Geraghty, and John Hinshaw, could face a maximum of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $350,000.

During the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sanjay Patel argued that Handy planned the "invasion" of the infamous late-term abortion clinic Washington Surgi-Clinic. WUSA 9 reports that Handy and the other activists acquired access to the clinic by making an appointment under the alias "Hazel Jenkins."

“Some simply kneeled and prayed at Santangelo’s facility, some passed out pro-life literature and counseled abortion-minded women, and others roped and chained themselves together inside the facility,” according to Handy’s attorneys from the Thomas More Society, a pro-life law firm that has represented other pro-life activists like Mark Houck and David Daleiden.

In March 2022, the DOJ accused Handy and eight others with “conspiracy against rights and a [Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances] Act offense.”

The DOJ charges came the same month that Handy and PAAU's founder and former executive director Terrisa Bukovinac found the remains of 115 aborted babies in a Washington Surgi-Clinic waste box, five of whom may have been partially aborted or killed after birth in violation of federal law. D.C. police informed Breitbart News they are still investigating the five babies' deaths.

Handy's attorneys were forbidden from using images of the remains at trial by Judge Kollar-Kotelly. She prohibited them from adding a Live Action undercover video of Washington-Surgi Clinic abortionist Dr. Cesare Santangelo purportedly indicating he would not help a live infant delivered after a botched abortion.

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