Barack Obama’s hand-picked attorney general, Eric Holder, has called it quits in another standoff with a pro-life sidewalk counselor, and this time the agreement to drop a case includes having the government paying $120,000 for bringing a case that the district court judge determined lacked evidence.
In fact, it is the case involving Mary Susan Pine in which U.S. District Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp openly speculated that there was some cozy relationship between an abortion clinic and federal prosecutors that could warp justice.
As Ryskamp recently dismissed the complaint against the woman for lack of evidence, he charged that there appeared to be collusion and that if there had been a little more evidence, he might have taken action.
“It is rather curious that the Department of Justice was able to meet with the [Presidential Women's Center in West Palm Beach, Fla.] staff and police officers the very next day after the alleged violations occurred. It is also curious that the government failed to make any efforts to obtain the identities of the passengers who are the alleged victims in this case – the court finds it hard to believe that the government was completely unaware of the existence of the sign-in sheets and video surveillance system,” he wrote.
The judge said the court “can only wonder whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the government and the PWC, which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities rather than to vindicate the rights of those allegedly aggrieved by Ms. Pine’s conduct.”
“If this is the case, the court would be inclined to sanction the government with, at a minimum, an adverse inference. Given the absence of further evidence substantiating the court’s suspicions, the court is not authorized to do so,” the judge wrote.
The judge’s 21-page ruling granting Pine a summary judgment and clearing her of the charges said the entire episode raised questions.
“The court is at a loss as to why the government chose to prosecute this particular case in the first place,” Ryskamp wrote. “The record [is] almost entirely devoid of evidence that Ms. Pine acted with the prohibited motive and intent or that Ms. Pine engaged in any unlawful conduct. The government has failed to create a genuine issue for trial on all three elements of its FACE (Federal Access to Clinic Entrances) claim, and Ms. Pine is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Federal officials sued her under the FACE act, a civil action, after they alleged she talked to occupants in a car while they were going into a parking lot – and may or may not have been going to an abortion business.
Today, officials with Liberty Counsel, which has been working on the case, confirmed that the Department of Justice dropped its appeal.
“The DOJ has agreed to pay $120,000 for this improper lawsuit,” the announcement said.
The organization said it took 18 months of litigation, but the DOJ case was thrown out of federal court, the agency “chastised” for filing a case without evidence, and the “cozy relationship” between the abortion industry and Obama’s DOJ noted officially.
“It is irresponsible for the U.S. Department of Justice to place politics above principle when deciding to prosecute, and thus attempt to silence, a pro-life sidewalk counselor without any evidence of wrongdoing,” said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. “When the nation’s highest law enforcement officer files suit against any citizen, the suit must be based on the law coupled with compelling evidence. Anything less is an abuse of the high office. Susan Pine will not be silenced or detoured from her mission to have the lives of innocent children.”
Liberty Counsel reported Pine continues to counsel outside abortion businesses.
“Ironically … in the midst of the case, Ms. Pine actually counseled a woman outside of PWC and convinced her not to have an abortion, thus saving the life of the child and possibly the mother as well,” the organization reported. “Her email to Liberty Counsel read, ‘We saved a life today.’”
The dispute was over whether Pine could be prosecuted under a federal law that bans obstructing access to a “clinic,” or in her case an abortion business.
Holder launched the attack on the women in 2010. Pine routinely approaches vehicles and pedestrians entering and exiting the PWC’s shared parking lot, talking about abortion and offering information about “life-affirming” alternatives, the court opinion explained.
“Sometimes people stop and accept her literature; many people do not.”
The situation developed on Nov. 19, 2009, when Sanjay Raja, a police officer, was on duty. He had positioned himself so he could observe Pine from about 300 feet away.
He reported a green sedan started entering the lot through the “exit only” drive, and stopped, and Pine approached the driver’s window. The driver rolled the window down, and she talked with the driver and a passenger.
The officer told them not to block traffic, and the car moved on.
The DOJ started working on a FACE prosecution the next day, but the judge noted that the government never asked for any surveillance videos or login records from the abortion business, and they later were destroyed routinely.
The judge noted Pine sought the dismissal because the government failed to prove she obstructed the sedan or even that the vehicle occupants were en route to the abortion business.
“Although one might suspect that the government was in fact aware of such facts [about surveillance videos], and that it purposely neglected to prevent destruction of the sign-in sheets and surveillance tapes because they were detrimental to its FACE claim, mere speculation is insufficient to support a finding of bad faith,” the judge wrote. “The government’s failure to take the necessary steps to prevent the destruction of potentially critical evidence was indeed negligent, and perhaps even grossly negligent.”
In another similar case, in Denver, the DOJ recently agreed to drop all charges and claims against a sidewalk abortion counselor, despite having five prosecutors assigned to the case.
The agreement is an astounding capitulation by the Justice Department, which had assigned five federal prosecutors to go after Ken Scott, a pro-life advocate, for passing out information outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Denver.
Last June, Scott was charged by the Department of Justice for violating the FACE, which creates an eight-foot floating bubble around anyone within 100 feet of the entrance of an abortion facility.
The government claimed that Scott routinely stood in the driveway of the clinic and created a “physical obstruction and unreasonable hazard” for cars entering the facility.
It was in January when U.S. District Court Judge Philip Brimmer dismissed 10 motions made by federal prosecutors, including one that would have barred Scott from being within 25 feet of the entrance to the parking lot of the clinic.