You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, December 16, 2022

Two Tennessee Individuals Charged In Manhattan Federal Court With Violating The Freedom Of Access To Clinic Entrances Act

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment charging BEVELYN BEATTY WILLIAMS and EDMEE CHAVANNES (together, the “Defendants”) with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (the “FACE Act”) and conspiring to do the same in connection with a multi-year campaign to interfere with individuals seeking to obtain and provide lawful reproductive health services in New York and in several other states.  WILLIAMS and CHAVANNES surrendered today and will be presented in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Jennifer L. Rochon. 

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As alleged, the defendants repeatedly attempted — including by using threats, and on at least one occasion, force — to prevent individuals from accessing their legal right to reproductive health services.  This Office will remain committed to ensuring that healthcare facilities, their staff, and those seeking to obtain reproductive health services can continue to do so without unlawful interference.”

FBI Assistant District in Charge Michael J. Driscoll said: “As we allege today, Ms. Williams and Ms. Chavannes violated the FACE Act by willfully interfering with individuals seeking to obtain or provide lawful reproductive health services.  In one instance, Ms. Williams injured a health-center employee while obstructing access to the reproductive health center.  The FBI will continue to investigate these types of allegations to ensure individuals who seek legal reproductive health services may do so without fear or intimidation.”

According to the allegations in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:[1]

From at least in or about 2019 up to and including at least in or about 2022, WILLIAMS and CHAVANNES agreed to and did use unlawful means — including force, threats of force, and physical obstruction — to injure, intimidate, and interfere with individuals because those individuals were seeking to obtain lawful reproductive health services or were providing such services. 

As part of that agreement, on or about June 19, 2020, and June 20, 2020, WILLIAMS and CHAVANNES threatened and used force against patients and staff members at a reproductive health center located in lower Manhattan (the “Health Center”), and blocked patients and staff members from accessing the Health Center.  In one instance, WILLIAMS pressed her body against the door of the Health Center’s patient entrance and refused to move, preventing a Health Center volunteer from entering the Health Center.  As a Health Center staff member (“Victim-1”) attempted to open the door for the volunteer, WILLIAMS purposefully leaned against the door, crushing Victim-1’s hand.  Victim-1 yelled, “She’s crushing my hand,” but WILLIAMS remained against the door, trapping Victim-1’s hand and injuring it. 

At various times on June 19 and 20, 2020, WILLIAMS and CHAVANNES stood directly in front of the Health Center entrances.  WILLIAMS and CHAVANNES initially blocked the main entrance used by patients, causing the Health Center to have to divert patients to enter through the staff entrance.  WILLIAMS and CHAVANNES responded by moving in front of the staff entrance and directing others to do so as well.  In addition, on or about June 19, 2020, CHAVANNES threatened Victim-1 by leaning her body toward Victim-1 at close range, forcing Victim-1 against metal barricades, while yelling “do not touch me” within inches of Victim-1’s face.

WILLIAMS and CHAVANNES livestreamed some of their conduct on June 19 and 20, 2020, on a social media account.  On the livestream on June 19, 2020, WILLIAMS stated, in part, “This is going to be a wonderful day.  We are going to terrorize this place.  And I want the manager to hear me say that.  We are going to terrorize this place.  More people are coming.”  The following day, WILLIAMS stated, in part, “We gonna stand here and we ain’t moving.  We not moving.  We’re standing here, so I guess no women will be coming in for abortions today.  It’s a warzone.” 

In addition to the defendants’ conduct in Manhattan, New York, WILLIAMS and CHAVANNES’ unlawful agreement to use prohibited means to injure, intimidate, and interfere with individuals because those individuals were seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services has extended to other locations, including Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, and Brooklyn, New York.  For example, in January 2022, WILLIAMS and CHAVANNES travelled to and were present outside a health center in Fort Myers, Florida, where they directed other individuals to block health center entrances.  In addition, in July 2022, WILLIAMS and CHAVANNES blocked patient access to a health center in Atlanta, Georgia, by standing inside the center’s vestibule and yelling threatening comments at individuals believed to be health center patients. 

*                *                *

WILLIAMS, 31, and CHAVANNES, 41, both of Ooltewah, Tennessee, are charged with conspiracy to violate the FACE Act, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  In addition, WILLIAMS is charged with violating the FACE Act through force, threats of force, and physical obstruction, resulting in bodily harm, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.  CHAVANNES is charged with violating the FACE Act through threats of force and physical obstruction, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison. 

The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as the sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI. 

The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit in the Criminal Division.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie Bagliebter is in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment, and the description of the Indictment set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Contact: 
Nicholas Biase (212) 637-2600
Press Release Number: 
22-398
Updated December 16, 2022