PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that Mark Houck, 48, of Kintnersville, PA, was charged by Indictment with a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which makes it a federal crime to use force with the intent to injure, intimidate, and interfere with anyone because that person is a provider of reproductive health care. The defendant was arrested and made his initial appearance in federal court on these charges earlier today.
According to court documents, the defendant is alleged to have twice assaulted a man because he was a volunteer reproductive health care clinic escort. The charges stem from two separate incidents both on October 13, 2021, which occurred at the Planned Parenthood Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center on Locust Street in Philadelphia, where Houck allegedly assaulted the victim, a 72-year-old man, identified in the Indictment as “B.L.,” because B.L. was a volunteer escort at the reproductive health care clinic. In the first incident, B.L. was attempting to escort two patients exiting the clinic, when the defendant forcefully shoved B.L. to the ground. In the second incident, the defendant verbally confronted B.L. and forcefully shoved B.L. to the ground in front of the Planned Parenthood center, causing injuries to B.L. that required medical attention.
“Assault is always a serious offense, and under the FACE Act, if the victim is targeted because of their association with a reproductive healthcare clinic, it is a federal crime,” said U.S. Attorney Romero. “Our Office and the Department of Justice are committed to prosecuting crimes which threaten the safety and rights of all individuals.”
“Put simply, violence is never the answer,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. “Violating the FACE Act by committing a physical assault is a serious crime for which the FBI will work to hold offenders accountable.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $350,000.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anita Eve and DOJ Trial Attorney Sanjay Patel of the Civil Rights Division.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.