Pro-life activists convicted of 'felony conspiracy' for protesting in front of abortion clinics, face 11 years in prison

The defendants face up to 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine that could go as high as $350,000.

A federal jury today found three defendants guilty of a two-count indictment charging them with federal civil rights offenses after an occurrence on October 22, 2020 at an abortion clinic in Washington, DC. 

The news came from a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release, with an announcement from US Attorney Matthew M. Graves, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Assistant Director David Sundberg of the FBI Washington Field Office.

Due to convictions of a felony conspiracy against rights as well as a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), defendants Jonathan Darnel, 41, of Arlington, Virginia, Jean Marshall, 73, of Kingston, Massachusetts, and Joan Bell, 74, of Montague, New Jersey all face up to 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine that could go as high as $350,000.

Bell, who is 74 years old and bound to a wheelchair, has been known by many as the 'matriarch of pro-life activism.'

Attorneys representing the defendants reportedly said they did not prohibit people from coming into the building and had only kneeled, prayed, and handed out pro-life literature to people coming in. 

According to the DOJ, the defendants conspired to "create a blockade at the reproductive health care clinic to prevent the clinic from providing, and patients from receiving, reproductive health services." It went on to say that Marshall and Bell took a trip to the DC area to meet up with Darnel and take part in "a clinic blockade that was directed another co-conspirator [sic] and was broadcast on Facebook."

The DOJ claims that Marshall and Bell were part of a group that forced itself into the abortion clinic and then intentionally blocked its two doors with furniture, chains, ropes, and even their own bodies. Darnel was then said to have livestreamed the occurrence on social media while remaining outside of the clinic. 

Previously, five others that the DOJ describes as "co-conspirators" were convicted for the same counts in August 2023. These people were: Lauren Handy, 28, of Alexandria, Virginia; John Hinshaw, 67, of Levittown, New York; Heather Idoni, 61, of Linden, Michigan; William Goodman, 52, of the Bronx, New York; and Herb Geraghty, 25, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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