April 18, 2024

3 convicted of blocking access to DC reproductive health clinic

Three people were convicted for federal civil rights violations Friday after blocking patient access to a D.C. reproductive health clinic in October 2020.

Randall Terry, with anti-abortion activist Lauren Handy, right, and Jonathan Darnell, left, speaks during a news conference in Washington, Tuesday, April 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)(AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Three people were convicted of federal civil rights violations Friday after blocking patient access to a D.C. reproductive health clinic in October 2020, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

A jury found 41-year-old Jonathan Darnel of Arlington, Virginia, 73-year-old Jean Marshall of Kingston, Massachusetts and 74-year-old Joan Bell of Montague, New Jersey guilty of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), a federal civil rights law that prohibits physically obstructing or using the threat of force to intimidate or interfere with a person seeking reproductive health services.

Darnel, Marshall and Bell were each convicted on a count of felony conspiracy, in addition to the FACE Act violations. Each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 11 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $350,000.

Including the three defendants convicted Friday, 10 people in total were charged with the same offenses between March and October of last year for their alleged roles in the blockade at Washington Surgi-Clinic in Northwest.

Five were found guilty by a jury at the end of last month: 28-year-old Lauren Handy of Alexandria, Virginia; 67-year-old John Hinshaw of Levittown, New York; 61-year-old Healther Idoni of Linden, Michigan; 52-year-old William Goodman of the Bronx, New York and 25-year-old Herb Geraghty of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

According to the Justice Department, one co-defendant, Jay Smith, pled guilty and was sentenced to 10 months in prison. Another co-defendant, Paulette Harlow, is awaiting trial on similar charges.

According to federal prosecutors, Marshall and Bell traveled to the D.C. area to meet with Darnel so they could participate in the clinic blockade, which was organized by another co-conspirator.

While Marshall and Bell were part of a group that forcefully entered the clinic and blockaded two clinic doors using their bodies, furniture, chains and ropes, Darnel stayed outside the clinic and livestreamed their activities on Facebook.

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who presided over Friday’s trial, ordered the defendants be immediately detained, as required by statute.

Sentencing will take place at a later date.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2023 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *