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EXCLUSIVE: An attorney for Mark Houck, a Catholic pro-life activist from Pennsylvania, condemned the recent FBI arrest of his client as an abuse of power from President Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) intended to send an intimidating message to pro-life Americans.
“Americans should not have to fear that they’re going to have 20 federal agents pounding their door down and dragging them out as they’re trying to enjoy their morning coffee,” Peter Breen, senior counsel at the Thomas More Society, told Fox News Digital. “This is an outrageous abuse of the great powers that the American people entrust to the federal government.”
The FBI arrested Houck, 48, Friday in front of his wife and seven children at his rural Kintnersville home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The pro-life father, who routinely engages in prayerful protests outside abortion clinics, is co-founder and president of The King’s Men, a Catholic ministry that aims to spiritually mentor young Catholic men.
The arrest reportedly stemmed from an altercation Houck had with a Planned Parenthood escort in Philadelphia in October 2021, when he was accused of pushing a 72-year-old man outside the clinic after the escort allegedly verbally harassed Houck’s 12-year-old son.
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The Philadelphia Police Department confirmed to Fox News Digital that officers responded to the Planned Parenthood clinic on the afternoon of Oct. 13, but that Houck was not arrested and no charges were filed against him. The 72-year-old man “was pushed to the ground” by Houck, which caused “a scrape to his right arm,” a Philadelphia police spokesperson said.
After the Philadelphia district attorney declined to prosecute Houck over the incident, Breen said the other man involved brought a private criminal complaint against Houck, but that the man never showed up to his own court hearings that he initiated. Houck’s lawyer said they have considered taking legal action for abuse of process.
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In May, Houck received a “target letter” from the DOJ telling him he was being investigated by a grand jury for violating the Freedom of Access Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act, which makes it a federal crime to use force with the intent to injure, intimidate and interfere with anyone because that person provides reproductive health care.
Upon receiving the letter, Houck retained legal counsel at the Thomas More Society, which describes itself as a “not-for-profit, national public interest law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family and religious liberty.”
‘A political matter’
“This case is being run out of Washington, DC, directed by the highest levels of the Department of Justice against an innocent man, because he had the temerity to advocate and pray on the public sidewalk in favor of his pro-life convictions,” Breen said.
“The way that this case has been prosecuted by the Department of Justice so far shows that it is a political matter, not a legal one,” he added.
“The facts of this particular case are so clear that the altercations had nothing to do with abortion or keeping people from getting abortions, and you have to have that in order to make out a [FACE Act] claims; in order to take what is a local dispute and turn it into a federal lawsuit,” he explained.
Breen described the raid at Houck’s home by 20 heavily armed federal agents as “unprecedented” and “outrageous,” especially in light of the fact that Houck’s attorneys offered to bring him in “anytime, anywhere that the Department of Justice and the US Attorney wanted ” following the letter from the DOJ.
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Breen said the member of their legal team who responded to the target letter was a longtime federal prosecutor “who put some very bad people behind bars: drug lords, mafia bosses, all of that.” But he said they got no response until they were informed that their client was in custody.
Describing her husband’s arrest to Catholic News Agency, Ryan-Marie Houck said, “A SWAT team of about 25 came to my house with about 15 vehicles and started pounding on our door.”
The FBI later denied the agents were part of a SWAT team. And a former Houck family spokesperson said she unintentionally used a technical term. A senior FBI source previously told Fox News there may have been 15-20 agents at the house but denied 25 were there.
The agents who went to the door had guns drawn, according to this FBI source, but the guns were never pointed at Houck or his family and were lowered or holstered as soon as Houck was taken into custody.
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Breen believes that the FBI is splitting hairs over what he believes was a “a show of force against a peaceful, innocent man whose attorneys had said they would present him in response to a summons.”
“They didn’t dispute they were heavily armored,” Breen said. “The FBI didn’t dispute that they were armed to the teeth and had body armor and the like. They didn’t dispute that. They just said, ‘Well, this layperson called it a SWAT team, but it wasn’t actually a SWAT team.’ So I have to tell you, the FBI and the Department of Justice are on their heels about this.”
Breen believes that Houck’s arrest was intended to send a message to pro-life Americans in the wake of the Dobbs decision amid looming midterm elections.
“The message from the Biden Department of Justice is pure intimidation against pro-life people and people of faith,” he said. “Why in the world would you send this phalanx of officers heavily armed to this family’s home, violate the sanctity of their home, frighten their children? Why would you do that, other than just to send a message?
“They tried to take a set of facts that are clearly purely local, and they’ve twisted them to try to drive a political narrative at the federal level,” Breen added. “We’re almost to an election. In Pennsylvania, the election is red-hot, so it doesn’t take much to think that the Department of Justice wanted to try to paint a false narrative of some sort of untoward behavior by pro- life people and people of faith. So we are pushing back against that very hard.”
‘We’re going to fight’
Breen, who noted he has been involved with a lot of high-profile litigation, is reluctant to make predictions about the outcome of any case but remains confident in what he foresees as “a long, difficult fight.”
Breen said Thomas More Society is pursuing some of the best legal talent in Philadelphia to assist in the case, adding they are heartened by the support from members of Congress such as Sen. Josh Hawley, who demanded answers about Houck’s situation in a letter Monday to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The message from the Biden Department of Justice is pure intimidation against pro-life people and people of faith.
“When I’ve got the FBI sitting there backpedaling on [the number of agents] after the fact, that’s usually a good sign for my side. But we’re going to keep pressing, and we’re going to fight very hard,” he said.
“We are up against the full might of the US government and the highest levels of the DOJ. I don’t know if the attorney general personally authorized the raid, but his top lieutenants did if he didn’t do it himself.”
At his 1:30 pm arraignment in federal court in Philadelphia on Tuesday, Houck pleaded not guilty to two counts associated with the charges against him related to the alleged assault of the escort.
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The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia office of the FBI declined Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
Fox News’ Emma Colton and Brianna Herlihy contributed to this report.