Defense attorney Brian McMonagle of the law firm McMonagle, Perri, McHugh, Mischak & Davis, said in his opening statement that “we’re not in state court here.”
“This is not a state court prosecution for assault,” he said, adding that “they made a federal case out of a shove.”
In order to fit the criteria laid out in the FACE Act, McMonagle told the jury that the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Houck used force, intentionally injured or attempted to injure Love, and that he did it because Love was providing reproductive health services.
“They’ve got to prove motive,” he said.
McMonagle said that Houck “pushed Love because he refused to stop degrading him in front of his son and refused to leave them alone.” He said that Houck intentionally positioned himself a distance away from the entrance to the clinic while sidewalk counseling with his then 12-year-old son, Mark Jr.
Referring to the first incident, McMonagle said that Love approached Houck from behind while Houck was speaking with a woman who left Planned Parenthood and blocked him “like he’s setting a pick in a basketball game.”
He said that Houck shouted at Love, asked him what he was doing, and then returned to the street corner to pray. McMonagle said that Love left Planned Parenthood a short while after and approached Houck and his son. According to McMonagle, Love harassed them, saying things to the boy such as “You’re dad’s a bad guy” and “Your dad doesn’t like women.”
He said Houck told Love several times to return to the clinic and stop harassing his son. He then said that Love began to speak to Houck’s son again after walking away briefly. There is a video of the altercation, but again, there is no sound. The video shows both Love approaching Houck’s location on the street corner and Houck pushing him to the ground.
McMonagle maintained that Houck’s push was to defend his son and that “Houck’s intentions were not to injure anybody.”
“His motive that day was pure and simple. His hope was that he might be able to touch one heart that day, so he could save a second heart,” he said of Houck’s sidewalk ministry work.
As part of Houck’s Catholic apostolate “The King’s Men,” he does sidewalk counseling for women who are considering abortion.
(Story continues below)
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Two of the prosecution’s witnesses took the stand on Wednesday: Malik and Dayle Steinberg, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Much of the questioning of the witnesses focused on the responsibilities of Planned Parenthood clinic escorts and whether Love had violated any of the company’s clinic escort policies.
Steinberg said she didn’t have an opinion on whether Love broke any policies, however, Love was removed from being a volunteer at the clinic temporarily, according to Malik. He said he asked Love to refrain from volunteering at the clinic until all litigation with Houck had concluded.
Malik said that Planned Parenthood has a “nonengagement” policy that directs the volunteer escorts to steer clear of and refrain from speaking to or engaging with protestors who may be in the vicinity surrounding the clinic.
Malik also affirmed that he told Love that he needed to stop engaging with protesters. It’s unclear if that was before or after the incident.
The trial will resume at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning.