In a harshly-worded letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, more than 20 GOP members of Congress demanded “an explanation for the excessive level of force used by the FBI” in Friday’s arrest of a Bucks County pro-life activist.
Mark Houck, 48, of Kintnersville, is charged with violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act regarding a shoving incident between himself and a pro-abortion activist outside a Philadelphia clinic a year ago. Both city police and the district attorney declined to file charges against Houck. A private legal action filed by the pro-abortion activist was dismissed in July.
Houck pled not guilty to the two federal counts in Philadelphia federal court on Tuesday.
The letter, led by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), founder and chair of the Senate Pro-Life Caucus, raised questions about the DOJ’s actions in this case.
“Surely, the FBI must have an extraordinary reason for showing up at the home of an American family, allegedly with roughly 25 heavily armed federal agents, and arresting a father in front of his seven children. At the moment, it appears to be an extraordinary overreach for political ends,” the letter read.
Houck’s wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, told the Catholic News Agency that “a SWAT team of about 25 came to my house with about 15 vehicles and started pounding on our door. They said they were going to break in if he didn’t open it. And then they had about five guns pointed at my husband, myself, and basically at my kids.”
The Philadelphia FBI office issued a statement denying that claim. However, it has not disclosed how many agents were sent to execute the arrest, nor has it explained why it did not merely send notice to Houck to appear in court.
“While it’s the FBI’s standard practice not to discuss such operational specifics, we can say that the number of personnel and vehicles widely reported as being on scene Friday is an overstatement, and the tactics used by FBI personnel were professional, in line with standard practices, and intended to ensure the safety of everyone present in and outside the residence,” the statement read.
Houck’s attorney, Peter Breen, told Fox News Tuesday his team had been in touch with the DOJ over the summer, refuting the notion there was a legitimate case but informing the agency that if they chose to indict, Houck would voluntarily turn himself in. Instead, the federal government chose to send armed agents to his home “as if he was a drug lord or a mafia boss.”
“If he were truly a danger to the community, they wouldn’t have waited a year to prosecute,” Breen said. “Serious questions need to be asked of the attorney general. What was he thinking? Why did they do this obscene show of force against a peaceful pillar of the community?
“It put officers’ lives in danger. It put the Houck family in danger. And it was an utter waste of judicial resources and taxpayer resources,” Breen said.
A spokesperson for Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub told DVJournal the office knew nothing about the DOJ’s plan to arrest Houck in advance and referred all questions to the federal authorities. GOP gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Doug Mastriano called the DOJ’s actions outrageous.
“Citizens across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania join me in expressing our outrage at this early-morning raid executed on a young family,” Mastriano said. “This show of force carried out by the Biden regime against ordinary Americans is an abuse of power that stands against the fundamental principles on which our country was founded.
“As governor, I will not allow the police state of Joe Biden to enforce his persecution against his political enemies on sacred Pennsylvania soil. Not on my watch.”
In their letter, the members of Congress — none of them from the Pennsylvania delegation — pointed out that state-level assault charges against Houck had been dismissed by local authorities in Philadelphia.
“We request an explanation for the excessive level of force used by the FBI in this case and why the power of federal law enforcement was once again used against an American citizen in what should be a state and local matter,” the letter concluded.