Acquitted pro-life activist Mark Houck reveals details of ‘reckless’ FBI raid; will press charges
Boston, Mass., Feb 1, 2023 / 13:31 pm
Mark Houck, the pro-life father of seven who was acquitted Monday in federal court of charges of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, said he is planning to sue the FBI and other authorities following his ordeal.
On a Jan. 31 episode of the podcast “War Room,” the host, Steve Bannon, asked Houck: “Do you intend to press charges for prosecutorial abuse? And are you going to press charges against the FBI agents and the state troopers?”
“We most definitely will and we will be seeking counsel on that,” Houck responded.
Houck was arrested Sept. 23, 2022, following a federal indictment alleging two violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, commonly referred to as the FACE Act.
The FACE Act prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.”
At the time of the arrest, Houck’s wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, told CNA that “a SWAT team of about 25 came to my house with about 15 vehicles and started pounding on our door.” She added: “They said they were going to break in if he didn’t open it. And then they had about five guns pointed at my husband, myself, and basically at my kids.”
The allegations in the case were related to two incidents that took place on Oct. 13, 2021, at a Philadelphia abortion clinic, where Houck has been a longtime pro-life sidewalk counselor. The federal indictment alleged that Houck twice shoved an abortion clinic escort, Bruce Love, once when Love was attempting to escort clients and again during a verbal altercation with Love in front of the clinic.
The prosecution argued that Houck pushed Love because he was trying to interfere with his provision of reproductive health services. Houck said he pushed Love because he was just trying to protect his 12-year-old son who was being harassed by Love. A 12-person jury unanimously found Houck not guilty of both counts of violating the FACE Act on Monday.
After news of his acquittal broke, several supporters of Houck called for legal action against the Justice Department.
Until Monday, Houck himself had not made any public statements on the nature of his arrest, but he went into more detail on the podcast.
‘I have seven babies in here’
Houck said that a local criminal complaint against him in Philadelphia Municipal Court “went nowhere” and added that he was soon notified that he was the target of a grand jury investigation.
He said his lawyers at the time said that they would peacefully bring Houck in for questioning from authorities if needed.
“The next thing I know, I had 20-plus federal agents and state troopers banging on my door at 6:45 in the morning on Sept. 23, Friday morning,” he said.
Houck said he was awake, but his wife and kids were asleep. He said the FBI “repeatedly” rang the doorbell and banged on the door saying “open up.’”
Houck said that the authorities did not identify themselves while banging on the door.
He described the FBI’s tactics as “recklessness” and an “act of terror.”
Houck asked if the authorities would identify themselves before he opened the door, which they did.
“To which I replied, ‘Okay, I’m gonna open the door. Stay calm. I have seven babies in here,’ which were stirring at the time, but I didn’t know they were awake,” he said.
Houck said he opened the door and showed them his hands.
“As I opened the door, I could not believe the circus scene that I saw,” he said.
There were “at least 10, 15 marked and unmarked units right in front of me. Surrounding the side of my house, I have 100 yards to the street, cars lined all the way up to the street, long guns pointed at me, heavily armored vests, ballistic helmets, ballistic shields, a battering ram,” he said.
He said his daughter “took note” of an FBI agent in the back of the house, and there were at least five federal agents on his porch “with M-16s pointed at me and now my wife as she entered the opening of the door.”
“I opened the door and I said, ‘What are you doing here?’”
“They said, ‘You know why we’re here,’” Houck said.
“And then I said, ‘Oh, I know why you’re here. You’re here because I rescue babies,’” he said.
Houck said that he looked at all of the agents and said, “You wouldn’t be here if the Trump administration was in the White House.”
He said that the agents did not respond but just looked at him.
Ryan-Marie Houck asked if they had a warrant for his arrest, Houck said, adding that the FBI responded, “We’re taking him with or without a warrant.”
Ryan-Marie told CNA at the time of the arrest that she was handed the warrant after she asked for it.
Houck said that when he was arrested, his children were screaming, he had on flip-flops, a pair of shorts, a T-shirt, and was not wearing underwear.
Houck said that the agents did not let him put on underwear, brush his teeth, or put deodorant on. They did allow him to take his rosary, he said.
“It was reckless that day,” Houck said. “I’m so surprised that someone wasn’t shot or I wasn’t shot.”
“[If] my kids picked up one of our airsoft guns that they play around with they easily could have been shot,” he said, adding that this was “extremely reckless behavior on the part of the federal government.”
In September 2022, the FBI issued a statement disputing details in the reports of Houck’s arrest.
“There are inaccurate claims being made regarding the arrest of Mark Houck,” the FBI’s Philadelphia office said in a statement.
“No SWAT Team or SWAT operators were involved. FBI agents knocked on Mr. Houck’s front door, identified themselves as FBI agents, and asked him to exit the residence. He did so and was taken into custody without incident pursuant to an indictment,” the statement continued.
At the time, an FBI spokesman declined to answer CNA’s questions about the number of law enforcement personnel at the scene and whether any drew their weapons and pointed them at the family.
“Extensive planning takes place prior to the service of any federal warrant. The FBI then employs the personnel and tactics deemed necessary to effect a safe arrest or search,” the statement said.
“While it’s the FBI’s standard practice not to discuss such operational specifics, we can say that the number of personnel and vehicles widely reported as being on scene Friday is an overstatement, and the tactics used by FBI personnel were professional, in line with standard practices, and intended to ensure the safety of everyone present in and outside the residence,” the statement concluded.
Close to the cross of Christ
Houck said that he was shackled at the waist and feet once he arrived at “the federal building.”
Houck said that his detainment was “the most intimate prayer experience” of his life, adding that he was “at the foot of Calvary” and was at peace. He said he felt so close to the cross of Christ that he could “take the splinters off that cross.”
Houck also said that the FBI “manipulated” him and his wife into giving them information that he didn’t want to give them.
He said that he was then in the custody of the U.S. Marshals and said that he was still chained in “a pure act of humiliation,” adding that they treated him like he was “a convicted felon” and “like no other person has ever treated” him.
Houck told Bannon that prior to the trial, the government offered him a plea deal: If he would plead guilty, he would walk away with virtually no punishment but “a slap on the wrist.”
He said his wife told him: “You’re not allowed home if you take that plea.”
“I was not going to take that plea. But I just wanted your audience to know that that’s how highly the government thought of this case,” he said. “And I knew the importance of allowing this case to set precedent for the pro-life movement, to have case law on the books.”