The attorney general of Florida, together with a religious liberty legal group, is suing Jane’s Revenge for targeting and attacking pro-life pregnancy resource centers.
“If you use violence to injure or intimidate … pregnancy care centers across the country, you will be held accountable,” says Jeremy Dys, special counsel for litigation and communications at First Liberty.
First Liberty has joined a lawsuit filed by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody against Caleb Freestone and Amber Smith-Stewart. According to Moody, Freestone and Smith-Stewart are members of the far-left group Antifa and the radical pro-abortion group Jane’s Revenge.
The Plano, Texas-based national legal group and Moody contend that Freestone and Smith-Stewart violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, accused of vandalizing three Florida pregnancy help centers after the leak last May of the draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade on abortion in late June.
“We believe that violence is never a lawful response to political disagreement,” Dys says, adding that the “law compels this lawsuit to hold them accountable.”
The suit is seeking $170,000 in penalties against each defendant who stands accused of vandalizing three Florida pregnancy resource centers.
Dys joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to explain how the members of Jane’s Revenge were identified and the consequences they could face.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: First Liberty special counsel for litigation and communications and host of the “First Liberty Briefing” Jeremy Dys joins us here today. Jeremy, thanks so much for being here.
Jeremy Dys: Thanks for having me. Good to be with you.
Allen: Jeremy, following the leak at the Supreme Court of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the draft opinion there last May, vandals have attacked more than a hundred pro-life pregnancy centers and churches across America. And one of the groups who’s responsible for carrying out those attacks is Jane’s Revenge, and First Liberty is suing Jane’s Revenge. So, Jeremy, let’s break down this lawsuit a little bit. What are you-all seeking in this lawsuit?
Dys: Well, we believe that violence is never a lawful response to political disagreement. And the unfortunate violence we have seen across most of the Eastern Seaboard with pregnancy care centers being spray-painted with threats of “If abortion’s not safe, then neither are you” and “We are everywhere” and “We’re going to get you” signed by Jane’s Revenge and other anarchist groups—the law compels this lawsuit to hold them accountable.
If you’re going to pick up a brick or a can of spray paint to express your disagreement, then you need to be prepared to bear the consequences. And thankfully, Congress has given us the tools, and most importantly, the attorney general of the state of Florida, the tools to be able to hold those vandals accountable. And that’s exactly what we’re going to seek to do, at least for our client.
And we hope that that deters any further types of violence against these centers who just want to help women facing unplanned pregnancies by giving free baby formula and baby diapers to the families.
Allen: And talk a little bit about who your client is, what happened to them, and why they chose to take a stand here.
Dys: We represent Heartbeat of Miami, one of the oldest pregnancy care centers in the state of Florida, right there in Miami. Hialeah was the center that was targeted by some vandals. And on July 3, 2022, some vandals came across the middle of the night, knocked out the security cameras, scrolled threats on the walls of their building, and engaged in other acts of vandalism.
And then a couple weeks later, in September, they hacked their way into our client’s system, put themselves on the guest list of their annual gala, and interrupted that gala by shouting all kinds of obscenities and profanities, leafleting the entire crowd of volunteers and supporters with propaganda with their own take on the situation.
They had to be trespassed out of that. They were arrested for that behavior as well. But the damage has been done that our clients had been doxxed, they’ve been threatened with their safety, all for doing the simple thing of caring for women during the time of unplanned pregnancy. And that type of behavior is absolutely unacceptable.
If you disagree with something, that’s fine. We’re in America, we’re allowed to disagree. What you’re not allowed to do is to express that disagreement at the end of a crowbar or a can of spray paint.
Allen: And Jane’s Revenge has largely maintained anonymity. We have obviously seen consistency among the messages of spray-painting, “Jane was here,” or, “If abortion ain’t safe, you ain’t safe,” outside of pregnancy resource centers, but we often haven’t known who the individuals are who are carrying out these attacks specifically. So how, in this instance, did you all discover the people behind the attacks so that you could go about filing this lawsuit?
Dys: Yeah. Thankfully, and to the good credit of the United States Department of Justice, at least the U.S. attorneys in the Middle District of Florida, they’ve filed charges against four different individuals now under two different indictments that have come down from a grand jury, a federal grand jury in Florida.
And they have charged four individuals with this violation of what’s called the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which means you cannot injure or interfere with or intimidate access to a reproductive health care facility. That includes those pro-life reproductive health facilities like our client is.
And so, with that kind of provision of their names, we have filed lawsuits on behalf of our client against those four named defendants as well as Jane’s Revenge.
We’re going to find out if Jane’s Revenge is nothing more than a paper tiger spray-painted on the walls across the country or if they are an actual network of underground criminals seeking to injure or intimidate or interfere with access to life-affirming reproductive health care facilities.
And if we find out who they are, you can be sure that we, along with Attorney General Ashley Moody of the state of Florida, we will hold them accountable under the law. They will be paying the penalties that Congress has authorized for those who seek to injure or intimidate or interfere with access to life-affirming reproductive health care facilities.
Allen: So then does that mean that the lawsuit that you all have filed, that you have joined with Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, that this is the first, potentially, of many lawsuits?
Dys: It could be the first of many defendants that are going to be added to this lawsuit. And my hope is that, as we learn about more of these criminals that have engaged in this behavior across the country, that other attorneys general will follow the lead of Ashley Moody.
This is the first time, by the way, that a state attorney general has used the FACE Act to defend a pro-life reproductive health care facility. This is monumental and frankly, history in the making that Ashley Moody has taken the step to hold accountable those who … use criminal behavior against these pro-life reproductive health care facilities.
We’re learning that other people have been arrested for similar acts up in Wisconsin. Thankfully, that’s taking place in the criminal measures up there. Perhaps the attorney general of the state of Wisconsin would like to follow her lead.
I know from back in last September, October, we had to send a letter back to the attorney general of Massachusetts. That time, she was the attorney general, now she’s the governor of Massachusetts. She had sent letters to our clients’ reproductive health care facilities, these pro-life centers up in Massachusetts, accusing them of deceptive trade practices. And we pushed back on that, saying, “Excuse me, you have a duty also to protect our clients.”
And we were shocked that she would not do as much as put out a tip line to get information leading to the arrest of people who had vandalized our facilities up there. That vandalism included broken windows, shattered walls, more spray paint, vandalism of the statue of the Virgin Mary, and many more egregious activities that were taking place up there. And yet that attorney general turned a blind eye and accused them of engaging in deceptive trade practices.
I hope more people will be like Attorney General Ashley Moody to defend everyone against acts of violence in her state.
Allen: So for First Liberty, if you-all were to add more names to the lawsuit, would that have to be just individuals who had carried out attacks in Florida or could that be from other states, or would those need to be separate lawsuits if you were pursuing lawsuits against individuals who had carried out attacks on pregnancy centers who had done so in other states?
Dys: We probably have to have separate lawsuits. In order to have jurisdiction in each one of the courts, you have to have geographic locality to those things. So if a vandalism occurred in Virginia, for instance, or in Massachusetts, we would have to file a lawsuit in the appropriate federal court in Virginia or Massachusetts.
But look, I’m not against that. If we can find them and if the Department of Justice would identify them for us, or if we are able to have a private detective tell us that these are the likely names of those who have vandalized our clients, then we’d be more than happy to bring those lawsuits.
Congress has authorized those lawsuits on behalf of our clients and they’ve imposed civil penalties against those who would use violence to intimidate or injure or interfere with access to these pregnancy care centers. And so, we’re happy to file those lawsuits as often as we possibly can to send the message, again, that if you’re going to pick up a brick or use a can of spray paint to express your political disagreement, you’re going to face the full penalties of the law.
Allen: Have the members of Jane’s Revenge who you-all have filed these lawsuits against, have they responded at all to the lawsuit?
Dys: Not yet, but we’re in the very early stages of that lawsuit, obviously.
Now, there have been some articles more recently that are maybe third-rate publications that are out there bemoaning the fact that this clinic, our clients would dare utilize the resources that Congress has provided to them to hold these individuals accountable.
And they’re very upset that these criminal defendants, that these vandals have been victimized by people like our clients daring to hold them accountable under the law, which just shows you the topsy-turvy, upside-down world that we find ourselves in, where our clients are the victims of literal crimes and have been now accused of victimizing the people who actually violated their properties.
And so, again, this is an insane world that we live in right now. I think we all recognize that. But again, I’m thankful that Congress has given us the tools that we need to restore our clients to where they need to be, to hold accountable those who have engaged in this wrongful behavior, and to send a message to all other would-be criminals. If you use violence to injure or intimidate our clients or pregnancy care centers across the country, you will be held accountable. You may go to jail, but you will certainly go bankrupt.
Allen: And what are you-all asking the judge for?
Dys: We’re asking for the maximum civil penalties that the FACE Act allows. We’ve also added some provisions concerning racketeering and conspiracy. We believe that they have violated the state RICO laws there in Florida. And more importantly, and on top of all of that, we’re asking for injunctions that would restrain these individuals from coming within 100 yards of our clients. They don’t deserve to be anywhere near our clients and they need to be restrained from coming too close.
Allen: And what’s the timeline that we’re looking at here? How soon could this case be heard?
Dys: I wish I had a crystal ball. I mean, litigation takes a long time to grind through. And as they say, the wheels of justice move slowly, but they move inevitably toward justice, and that’s exactly where we’re headed.
Allen: And you mentioned, of course, earlier that you-all are working on this lawsuit hand in hand with Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, seeking, really, justice here in this instance. What are you hearing from the attorney general about why she took these steps to move forward and hold these individuals accountable and what her plans are moving forward to maybe file similar lawsuits?
Dys: She is committed to ensuring that all the citizens that she represents in the state of Florida are safe in their person and in their expression of their religious beliefs. And since Congress has authorized her with the ability to use the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, the FACE Act, to hold these individuals accountable for their unlawful deeds, she’s committed to doing that very thing.
And frankly, I think it would be the case no matter what side of the ideological equation that these individuals were on. No one is permitted to use violence to express political disagreement. The law compels this lawsuit to make sure that those who would use that violence in an effort to intimidate or express disagreement in any way are held accountable.
Thankfully, the United States Department of Justice has taken care of that on the criminal side. Attorney General Ashley Moody is just simply picking up the tools that Congress has given her and put in her hand to protect those pregnancy care centers in her state who have been needlessly and wrongfully attacked.
Allen: Let’s take a couple minutes and talk about the FACE Act because we’ve heard a lot about it in the news recently and we’ve largely heard about it as far as its use against those who are pro-life to prosecute individuals who hold to a pro-life view. How, though, is this act just as much in place to protect the pro-life organizations across America?
Dys: Yeah. The law really makes no distinction. And an interesting little point of fact, it also includes protecting churches from such attack. So if someone were to just crash Sunday morning services or violate the sanctity of the sanctuary, the FACE Act could apply to them as well.
But with specific regard to pro-life pregnancy care centers or even abortion clinics, they are all under the definition of reproductive health care facilities. And since both provide reproductive health care—our clients certainly do. They provide ultrasounds and pregnancy tests, and they refer for counseling, and all the things that a reproductive health care facility actually does.
They are equally deserving of protection under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, the FACE Act, as Planned Parenthood would be or anywhere else.
And frankly, if they engaged in this type of behavior against other clinics, I would expect the law to be applied to those vandals who try to intimidate even abortion clinics. As much as I would disagree personally with their activities, I would support and applaud those who would hold vandals accountable under the law who tried to intimidate or injure, interfere with access physically to those centers as well.
So I’m just glad that Congress has given us the tools, including to my client, to be able to hold them accountable. And it comes with civil penalties. So the attorney general has five figures worth of civil penalties that she can impose upon each different act that has a multiplier effect to each one of those acts, so it gets up into the six figures per defendant for those cases in this situation.
We have much less to achieve with that. It’s in the four figures amount that we’re able to achieve. But look, every little bit reminds everybody else, those who would seek to interfere with access to these clinics, that their pocketbook is going to hurt if they choose to express their disagreement through means of violence.
Allen: And could they also face prison time?
Dys: That would be in the several prosecution brought by the United States Department of Justice. But yes, there is a criminal provision that authorizes the United States Department of Justice and the attorney general of the United States and is U.S. attorneys to seek criminal prosecution under the FACE Act.
And they have actually done that in this case, at least against the three facilities there in the state of Florida or against the vandals that attack those facilities anyway. And as I understand it, there are four individuals who have been criminally indicted by a federal grand jury and they’re going to face charges that could yield quite a bit of jail time for them as well.
Allen: Jeremy, before we let you go, can you share a little bit about the work of First Liberty and how your action in this instance with this lawsuit ties into your mission?
Dys: Our duty at First Liberty Institute is to defend religious liberty for all Americans, whether that means a football coach who’s fired for praying after a football game, taking one knee in silent prayer. We defended him all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. Or maybe it’s a postal worker, like we’re going to defend in two weeks at the Supreme Court, who was fired after declining to work on the Lord’s Day. Or if it means protecting pregnancy care centers and other faith-based organizations who gather together to express their faith in tangible means of mercy and compassion toward their fellow man.
We are here to defend religious liberty in the way that all Americans choose to express that religious liberty. And so, you can learn more about us at firstliberty.org and all the great work and the cases we’re working on across the country.
Allen: Jeremy Dys of First Liberty. Jeremy, thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate it.
Dys: My pleasure. Thank you, Virginia.
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