Gov. DeSantis said the indictment of the two pro-abortion activists is ‘a step in the right direction’ for the DOJ, which he said has been ‘asleep … at the wheel on this for a long time.’
Editors note. This is excerpted from a story that ran at Life Site News.
MIAMI— Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday weighed in on the recent indictment of two pro-abortion activists charged with vandalizing pro-life pregnancy centers, saying he was “surprised” but “glad” that the DOJ is taking action against them.
DeSantis made the comments during a January 26 press conference in Miami, in which he spoke about Florida’s newest “law and order” legislative priorities.
Toward the end of the briefing, an Epoch Times reporter asked DeSantis his opinions about the recent indictment of two Florida residents for civil rights conspiracy and Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) Act offenses.
Caleb Freestone (27) and Amber Smith-Stewart (23) were indicted by a federal grand jury in the Middle District of Florida for allegedly targeting three pro-life pregnancy resource centers in the Sunshine State.
According to a press release published January 24 by the Biden administration’s Justice Department, the pair could face up to 12 years behind bars for their alleged crimes, along with “three years of supervised release and fines of up to $350,000.”
On Thursday, DeSantis said he was “surprised” when he heard about the indictments, since “the Department of Justice had not been willing to hold those types of perpetrators accountable.”
The popular conservative governor remarked that while the DOJ under Biden-appointed U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has seemed reluctant to prosecute pro-abortion activists, it has aggressively prosecuted pro-life advocates.
“Meanwhile, on the other side, you could have a pro-life advocate… [with] a picket sign, and they’re gonna treat him like he’s some hardened criminal,” DeSantis said. “So there was a massive imbalance about how that’s been handled.”
The DOJ has drawn heavy criticism from pro-lifers for its failure to pursue arrests against pro-abortion activists in the lead-up to and aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Meanwhile, pro-life advocates like Mark Houck and Paul Vaughn were subjected to raids by heavily-armed FBI agents for their alleged violations of the FACE Act.
“So I’m glad to see it. I am surprised to see it, but they need to do a lot more,” he added.
LifeSiteNews previously reported that Freestone and Smith-Stewart are alleged to have conspired with others to spray-paint threatening messages on the pregnancy centers.
In Winter Haven, Florida, the pair and their co-conspirators are alleged to have vandalized the exterior of the pro-life center with messages including, “If abortions aren’t safe than [sic] niether [sic] are you,” “YOUR TIME IS UP!!,” “WE’RE COMING for U,” and “We are everywhere.”
Winter Haven wasn’t their only target, according to the indictment, which also alleges that the pair attacked pro-life centers in Hollywood, Florida, and Hialeah, Florida.
Meanwhile, the governor’s remarks about the DOJ’s prosecution of pro-lifers came amid the blockbuster criminal trial of Mark Houck, the pro-life Catholic father of seven and sidewalk counselor who was raided by the FBI last year and charged with two felony FACE Act violations over a sidewalk altercation with an abortion “escort” who he said had been harassing his 12-year-old son.
In a statement published on the Thomas More Society’s website, Executive Vice President & Head of Litigation Peter Bree, called the situation “a sidewalk squabble that has turned into a federal case.”
On Monday, after a tense weekend following a jury deadlock on Friday, Houck was acquitted of both charges.
Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse Monday, Breen said his team’s “hope” is “that a message was sent to Washington D.C. to stop this harassment of sidewalk counselors who are just trying to provide alternatives to those who are facing an abortion decision.”
“And I hope, again, that this will be one of those points where a change is made. And so no one else will have to suffer the same way that Mark and his family have had to suffer,” he added.