D.C. Judge Denies Emergency Motion to Release Pro-Life Activist from Jail

WASHINGTON, D.C. - APRIL 2: Lauren Handy, director of activism for Progressive Anti-Aborti
Eric Lee for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Attorneys for pro-life activist Lauren Handy are appealing her case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit after a district court judge denied their emergency motion to release Handy from jail. 

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, denied Thomas More Society’s emergency motion on Thursday to release Handy, one of the five pro-life activists found guilty on Tuesday of conspiracy against rights and violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act for seeking to prevent abortions by blocking the entrance of the Washington Surgi-Clinic abortion facility in October of 2020. 

Judge Kollar-Kotelly, who once proposed that a constitutional right to abortion may be found in the 13th Amendment because of its prohibition of “slavery nor involuntary servitude,” ordered Handy and her four co-defendants to be immediately taken to jail after the jury returned its verdict, deeming their violation of the FACE Act a “crime of violence.” 

Thomas More Society senior counsels Martin Cannon and Steve Crampton 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 should not lead to pre-sentencing detention. They also argued that releasing Handy before sentencing would pose no risk 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.”

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

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sanjay Patel argued during the trial that Handy, who is now an activist with the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU), designed the “invasion” into the Washington Surgi-Clinic, an abortion facility infamous for late-term abortions. According to WUSA 9, Handy and the other activists gained access to the clinic by scheduling an appointment under the name “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.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 23: Lauren Handy (C) joins fellow anti-abortion demonstrators to rally against the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision outside the U.S. Supreme Court building on May 23, 2022 in Washington, DC. Handy pleaded not guilty in April after being indicted on federal civil rights charges, the same day police recovered fetal remains at the apartment where she was staying in Washington. The Supreme Court released opinions Monday in Morgan v. Sundance and Shinn v. Ramirez, in addition to an order list from the May 19 conference. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Lauren Handy (C) joins fellow pro-life activists protesting the Roe v. Wade abortion decision outside the U.S. Supreme Court building on May 23, 2022, in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In March of 2022, the DOJ charged Handy and eight others with “conspiracy against rights and a [Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances] Act offense.” The DOJ charges occurred the same month that Handy and PAAU’s founder and former executive director Terrisa Bukovinac allegedly discovered the remains of approximately 115 aborted babies in a waste box from the Washington Surgi-Clinic, five of whom they say may have been partially aborted or killed after birth in violation of federal law. D.C. police previously told Breitbart News that the deaths of the five babies are still under investigation. 

Judge Kollar-Kotelly notably barred Handy’s attorneys from entering photos of the remains as evidence at trial. She also barred them from including a Live Action undercover video of Washington-Surgi Clinic abortionist Dr. Cesare Santangelo allegedly saying he would not assist a baby that is born alive in a botched abortion. Handy’s attorneys argued that the video has had a “lasting impact” on Handy’s decision to become a pro-life activist and is “integral to understanding Lauren’s motive that day in October 2020.” 

Crampton told WUSA9 that he thinks the case is “far from over.”

“Miss Handy is a person who has the courage of her convictions. Willing to do time – obviously doesn’t want to do time. While she will fight on, we intend to fight on as well at the Thomas More Society,” he said. 

A second group of defendants is scheduled to begin trial on the same charges as Handy next week.

The case is United States v. Handy, No. 1:22-cr-96 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. 


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