FBI agents arrested a Catholic father of seven at his home last month despite an alleged offer to voluntarily appear at court from his attorney months earlier.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) notified Mark Houck, a pro-life activist, on April 27 that he was under investigation for potential violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The Federalist reported that it had obtained emails that show that roughly six weeks later Thomas More Society lawyer Matt Heffron, Houck’s attorney, offered to receive a summons on behalf of his client should Houck be charged.
“I will accept a summons on my client’s behalf, rather [than] put Mr. Houck and his family through needless disruption,” Heffron wrote to Assistant U.S. Attorney Anita Eve in a June 9 email, according to The Federalist.
Heffron also mentioned that he had left two phone messages for the federal prosecutor on May 21 and June 7. Eve did not reply to Heffron until September 23 in an alleged email notifying him that, “[t]this morning, [Houck] was taken into custody by FBI agents and is being transported to the Philadelphia FBI office for processing.”
Eve told Heffron in her September 23 email the DOJ would ask Magistrate Judge Richard Lloret for Houck’s release “on his own recognizance secured by a $10,000 bond” after being processed by the FBI, according to The Federalist.
Roughly 20 FBI agents arrived at Houck’s home just after 7 a.m. on September 23 to take him into custody for two alleged violations of the FACE Act. Houck and his wife said the agents came to the home armed with rifles and sometimes pointed them at the couple.
The FBI have contested the Houck’s version of events. “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,” said a spokesman with the FBI’s Philadelphia field office. A senior FBI source told Fox News that guns were never pointed at Houck or his family.
A letter from a dozen GOP senators sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray last month said that Heffron had told them about the alleged emails. The senators expressed concern about Heffron’s allegations and whether the FBI “complied with DOJ’s use of force policy.”
The senators also noted in their letter that Houck had previously been investigated by Philadelphia police over the incident that resulted in the charges from the DOJ. Houck shoved a Planned Parenthood volunteer escort on October 13, 2021.
Philadelphia police allegedly declined to arrest or recommend prosecution against Houck over the incident. The clinic volunteer filed a criminal complaint against the pro-life activist, however, according to the senators’ letter.
The volunteer alleged that Houck had targeted him over his work with the abortion clinic. Houck said that he shoved the volunteer because he was harassing Houck’s then-11-year-old son. A judge ultimately dropped the complaint against Houck after the volunteer failed to show up for at least two court appearances scheduled over the incident. The DOJ picked up the case shortly after.
“This extraordinary fact pattern requires additional information from the Justice Department and the FBI relating to why Mr. Houck was not allowed to self-report for his arrest and arraignment and whether political considerations were made to approve and execute the search warrant,” the GOP senators wrote.