Atheist, nonbinary pro-life activist sentenced to federal prison for FACE Act violation

The Department of Justice building in Washington, D.C., on February 9, 2022.
The Department of Justice building in Washington, D.C., on February 9, 2022. | STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

The first pro-life atheist indicted under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act has been sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for participating in the 2020 blockade of a Washington, D.C., abortion facility. 

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly announced the sentence for nonbinary pro-life activist Herb (Rosemary) Geraghty on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the federal judge sentenced three of Geraghty’s fellow activists — Lauren Handy, John Hinshaw and William Goodman — who also participated in the October 2020 blockade of the Washington Surgi-Clinic. Handy is a member of Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, another pro-life group of which Geraghty is also a part.

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.
Pro-life activist Herb Geraghty speaks at the 22nd Annual Cardinal O'Connor Conference in January 2021.
Pro-life activist Herb Geraghty speaks at the 22nd Annual Cardinal O'Connor Conference in January 2021. | YouTube/Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life

Prior to the nine-month incarceration, Geraghty served as the executive director of the nonpartisan pro-life organization Rehumanize International. 

Geraghty was immediately taken into custody after a jury issued a guilty ruling last year on charges of violating the FACE Act. 

Geraghty was one of several defendants who participated in an effort to stop the Washington Surgi-Clinic from performing abortions on Oct. 22, 2020. According to prosecutors, Geraghty assisted Handy in planning the blockade. 

A jury concluded last year that the activist "did, in fact, use force and/or violence against clinic employees in his entry, or at least aided and abetted fellow Defendants in doing so." During the trial, Geraghty denied using force to enter the facility, citing pacifist beliefs. 

In a Wednesday statement to The Christian Post, Terrisa Bukovinac, founder of PAAU, expressed her commitment to standing with Geraghty and "nonviolent political prisoners everywhere." 

"I am appalled by Biden's weaponization of the Justice Department against Herb, the first atheist to be indicted and now sentenced under FACE," Bukovinac stated. "The assessment by Judge Kollar-Kotelly that Herb used force or violence is a blatant lie born of her clear confirmation bias against anti-abortion people." 

The pro-life leader was present in the courtroom Wednesday during Geraghty's sentencing.

The PAAU founder said that Kollar-Kotelly, an appointee for former Democrat President Bill Clinton, claimed Geraghty and the other defendants did not exhibit compassion on Oct. 22, 2020. Bukovinac said the defendants who testified in their defense received longer sentences than the activists who opted not to testify. 

Bukovinac said the judge claimed Geraghty lied about entering the facility to check on Paulette Harlow, another defendant in the case who is in her 70s, pointing to footage showing Geraghty stepping over Harlow and entering the facility.

The PAAU leader argued that it was just Kollar-Kotelly's "opinion" that Geraghty lied.

Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Martin Cannon told CP that Geraghty's sentencing reflects "an enhancement under the sentencing guidelines," contending that the judge's reasoning would "discourage any person who will probably be convicted from testifying."

"It's a total inversion of justice!" Cannon wrote in an email. 

Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Steve Crampton told CP that the judge's allegation that Geraghty lied is "one of the great travesties, in our view."

"The government claimed that each defendant who took the stand provided false testimony, for which they each received additional points under the sentencing guidelines, resulting in harsher sentences," Crampton said. "We argued unsuccessfully that just because the government didn't like what the defendants said and the jury found against them doesn't mean they testified falsely. Obviously, the judge disagreed."

The Washington Surgi-Clinic made headlines in March 2022 after Handy and Bukovinac recovered 115 human remains from the facility, five of which were full-term babies. PAAU has repeatedly called for an autopsy of the five full-term remains to determine if the facility is conducting abortions in a manner that violates federal law. 

The recovery, in addition to an undercover video the pro-life group Live Action published in 2013, led Handy to believe that the Washington Surgi-Clinic performs illegal abortions. The undercover video purportedly shows Cesare Santangelo, the abortionist at the facility, telling a Live Action investigator that he would not try to help an infant who survives an abortion.

During Handy's sentencing, Kollar-Kotelly said she would have allowed the full video to be shown at trial but contended that she did not think it offered any proof that Santangelo was leaving born-alive infants to die. 

Kollar-Kotelly sentenced Handy to 57 months in federal prison for participating in and planning the blockade at the Washington Surgi-Clinic. Hinshaw received a sentence of 21 months incarceration, while Goodman was sentenced to 27 months. 

"These defendants conspired to use force to prevent fellow citizens from exercising rights protected by law," U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew Graves said in a Tuesday statement. "People cannot resort to using force and intimidation to prevent others from engaging in lawful activity simply because they disagree with the law. The Department was founded to protect the civil rights of our citizens and remains steadfast in this mission."

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.