A federal jury has delivered guilty verdicts for three defendants in a case involving federal civil rights offenses related to an incident at an abortion clinic in Washington, DC on October 22, 2020. The Department of Justice (DOJ) made the announcement through a press release, with US Attorney Matthew M. Graves, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Assistant Director David Sundberg of the FBI Washington Field Office revealing the outcome.
The three defendants, Jonathan Darnel, 41, of Arlington, Virginia, Jean Marshall, 73, of Kingston, Massachusetts, and Joan Bell, 74, of Montague, New Jersey, were found guilty of felony conspiracy against rights and a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE). These convictions could lead to penalties of up to 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $350,000.
Joan Bell, a 74-year-old woman bound to a wheelchair, has long been recognized as a prominent figure in pro-life activism. The attorneys representing the defendants argue that they did not obstruct access to the building but rather engaged in peaceful activities such as kneeling, praying, and distributing pro-life literature to individuals entering the clinic.
According to the DOJ, the defendants conspired to create a blockade at the reproductive health care clinic with the aim of preventing the provision of reproductive health services and impeding patients from receiving them. The department alleged that Marshall and Bell traveled to the DC area to join Darnel in a clinic blockade organized by another co-conspirator, which was livestreamed on Facebook.
The DOJ claimed that Marshall and Bell, along with a group, forcibly entered the abortion clinic and deliberately blocked its two entrances using furniture, chains, ropes, and their own bodies. Darnel was said to have livestreamed the event on social media while remaining outside the clinic.
In August 2023, five other individuals described as co-conspirators were convicted on the same charges. These individuals included 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.