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Anti-abortion activists found guilty of resisting arrest, other charges in Genesee County clinic protest

Men holding anti-abortion rights signs
Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio file photo
Anti-abortion rights protesters hold signs that call for Roe v. Wade to be overturned at a rally in May in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Four anti-abortion activists are facing prison time after being convicted Wednesday on all counts related to a 2019 protest in Genesee County.

It took the jury two hours to deliver guilty verdicts on resisting arrest, trespassing and disturbing the peace against the four defendants.

For two days, the jury watched video from inside the Women’s Center of Flint, recorded on June 7, 2019.

One the video, defendants William Goodman, Lauren Handy, Matthew Connolly and Patrice Woodworth-Crandall can be seen sitting the lobby of the clinic. Michigan State Police and Flint Township police officers are seen advising the protesters they are trespassing and must leave, but the four activists remain seated. Eventually, police place the four under arrest and carry them out of the building.

The four defendants argued their religious beliefs prevented them from leaving the clinic.

“This case is not about religion,” Assistant Genesee County Prosecutor Matthew Smith told the jury in his closing argument, “It’s about the law.”

But Defense Attorney Robert Muise countered the prosecution was turning “faith, love and caring into crimes.”

The defendants believe they did not get a fair trial, since Circuit Court Judge David Newblatt did not allow their attorney to argue they were acting to defend unborn fetuses.

The four are scheduled for sentencing in September. They could face up to two years behind bars on the most serious charge.

Still, defendant Lauren Handy said she does not regret taking part in the protest.

“Do I regret it in light of guilty convictions, obviously not,” said Handy, “Because the question is, how much is a life worth? How much suffering am I willing to endure? And I’m willing to endure up to death.”

Coincidentally, as the jury was delivering its verdict inside the Genesee County courthouse, a small group of abortion rights activists were demonstrating outside.

The protest was in response to last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down Roe v Wade.

Protest organizer Ariel McCollum was unaware of the trial going on inside the courthouse.

McCollum said this week’s local court decision doesn’t give her any hope the courts will be on the side of abortion rights activists in the future.

“It’s been proven to us that we have to stand up for ourselves at this time,” McCollum said, “No one’s going to do it for us.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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