“I Was Just The Piano Player” Defense

The other day I watched the US Senate Judiciary Committee exercise its Constitutionally-mandated duty to oversee the Department of Justice.

The last moment of comity when AG Garland trotted up to the Senate to answer a few questions. Merrick: “Oh shit, here it comes, the damn Houck imbroglio.”

The fun chaps on the J Committee — Sen Mike Lee, Sen Josh Hawley, Sen Teddie Cruz, Sen John Cornyn, Sen John Kennedy — had Attorney General Merrick Garland over for a chat, a foot massage, and a wine spritzer.

Texas Sen Teddy Cruz asking pointed questions.

The Offense

All of these Senators were quite interested in the FBI’s raid of Mark Houck. In fact, they had given AG Garland a heads up they wanted to visit about this matter before the hearing. FBI, of course, reports to and is supervised by the Department of Justice run by AG Garland.

Houck is the pro-life father of seven who pushed a pro-abortion activist on 13 October 2021 in front of a Philadelphia abortion clinic when the activist verbally assaulted his twelve year old son.

Houck is a fixture at that clinic and has conducted his affairs with no history of violence for years. He has seven children.

 1. The local Philly police did not prefer charges after investigating and speaking to all involved.

 2. The local prosecutor demurred similarly.

The case was thought to be dead.

The Department of Justice intervenes

There is a law, a Federal law called the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act — the FACE Act — that prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.”

Read that carefully and see if you think it prohibits dads from pushing guys who talk shit to their children. It does not.

It is about access to abortion facilities and is not about pushing obnoxious men who  scream at twelve year old kids on public sidewalks or at McDonald’s.

The Department of Justice, working through its local US Attorney, charged Mark Houck with two offenses under this act. It took the Feds a year to conjure up the courage to arrest this Houck desperado.

Houck’s lawyer at all times was in close contact with the US Attorney attempting to forestall this arrest and when the Ass’t US Attorney assigned to the case said he was not going to play ball — despite the decision not to prosecute by the local cops and prosecutor who had primary jurisdiction — Houck’s attorney said, words to the effect, “Let me know and I will bring my client down to be questioned or arraigned.”

The FBI raid — thugs in  toyland

What happened next is a perfect example of the literal weaponization of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI arrived in an armed convoy at 6:45 AM on a Friday morning. There is some argument as to whether they had 26 men or 22 men, but that they had the home team outnumbered and had enough players to have played baseball in the Houck backyard is not in dispute.

The FBI asserts they did not send a SWAT team which is a bit of “words with dopes” language. They just don’t call their teams “SWAT” teams.

They did send men armed with M-16s in bulletproof vests, ballistic helmets, ballistic shields with a battering ram, and did encircle the property before approaching the front door, but yeah, no SWAT team.

No reasonable person would dispute this was a hard core tactical takedown as the FBI would execute to pick up a dangerous, armed felon, likely to resist, not someone accused of shoving another man on a sidewalk.

FBI agents armed with M-16s approached the front door of the Houck home, pounded on it — it was bloody 6:45 AM in the morning and not yet light — and demanded Houck, “Open up.” They informed Houck they had a battering ram and would break in if he did not immediately comply.

Houck’s assertion is they did not identify themselves whilst the FBI does not dispute they arrived en masse at 6:45 armed, but they say they did identify themselves.

Houck opened the door to be confronted by the two dozen +/- armed men brandishing M-16s and their black SUVs, surrendered, and asked if he could slip into something other than his sleeping attire — he and his entire family were sleeping at 6:45 AM — and brush his teeth and apply some deodorant.

The FBI refused.

The FBI then handcuffed and shackled Houck — handcuffs on his wrests, chains on his ankles, and a waist chain. This is all documented by photographic evidence.

The FBI contends their conduct was in accordance with their SOPs — standard operating procedures — but there is an enormous body of video and photographic evidence showing they do not routinely handcuff and shackle persons when serving an indictment or warrant. Remember, Houck stands accused of pushing a chap.

Reasonable folks would ask, “M-16s? Really? M-16s? Isn’t that overkill?”

I have it on good authority the FBI’s M1A1 Abrams tanks were in the shop for an oil change.

Further, US Attorneys allow lawyers to surrender their clients all the time for questioning and/or arraignment. There is not a lick of evidence that Houck was armed or dangerous.

The trial

The Department of Justice, quite pleased with themselves and the spectacle of the raid, offered Houck a plea deal in which they assured him he would be punished with no more than a “slap on the wrist” if he would just plead guilty to some misdemeanor.

They even offered to handle it via mail rather than in person.

It would be fair to suggest the Feds, now faced with having to carry the burden of proof in front of a dozen peers of the accused, got cold feet and were looking for a door marked “exit.”

As attractive as that was, Houck refused and the Department of Justice took the case to trial.

The government asserted Houck had, in fact,

 1. shoved a man named Bruce Love once when he was supposedly “escorting” women into the abortion clinic; and,

 2. shoved him another time when Love accosted Houck’s minor son.

At trial, the government failed to provide convincing evidence as to the offense of shoving Love whilst escorting. This bogus charge was necessary in order to conform to the words of the statute as it is silent on shoving people who traumatize your son.

Houck admitted he shoved Love when Love accosted Houck’s son. He admitted that before the local police and prosecutor made their decisions not to prosecute.

The trial judge was skeptical from the beginning and the jury acquitted — unanimously — Houck on all charges.

The government’s case was no more complicated than the facts considered by the local cops and the prosecutor a year earlier.

The “I was only the piano player” defense

Brother Garland under pointed questioning essentially admitted to all of the facts above though he pushed back a few times and said, “That does not comport with report I received.”

This was related to how many dancing FBI agents you can fit on the head of a pin or how many agents were at the front door, but he did not deny the FBI went in fully armed in a pre-dawn raid with M-16s and arrested a man accused of shoving another man on a sidewalk.

So, Big Red Car, why did this happen?

Ahhh, dear reader, the government decided they wanted to make an example of anti-abortion protestors and Houck was an anti-abortion protestor.

The FBI raid was grossly disproportionate to the real danger presented by Houck in his home sleeping peacefully at 6:45.

If you were the FBI and had been tasked to pick up a chap who was accused of an act like this — shoving somebody in the front of an abortion clinic — would you really feel compelled to monkey suit out the team, arrive pre-dawn, kit the boys out with M-16s, send so many of them, and spend all that money on overtime?

Or, might the Ass’t US Attorney have accepted the Houck lawyer’s offer to produce his client for questioning and/or arraignment?

Take a minute and try to come up with a reason why you would not have taken the easy way out — particularly when dealing with an amateur, part time desperado and zero flight risk (Houck has seven kids) like Houck?

Bottom line it

Here it is, Attorney General Merrick Garland is a political hack who wanted to send a message to the conservative pro-life community there would be political and criminal consequences for opposing the political will of the Biden admin and he would use the full fearful presence of an armed and grossly overpowering FBI to make that point and reinforce it.

Mark Houck will, of course, sue the FBI and the Department of Justice for a great number of unwarranted actions including malicious prosecution and the use of unreasonable and excessive force, and likely win a jillion dollars.

What do you think? Is this weaponization of the DOJ/FBI for political purposes or not?

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car! [Y’all better go clean up those parking tickets before Merrick Garland finds out about you.]