Indictment: 4 face federal charges after threats made at pregnancy centers
MIAMI - Four people face federal charges for spraypainting threats on three Florida reproductive health centers that offer abortion alternatives, according to an indictment unsealed this week.
The crimes happened between May and July 2022 in Hollywood, Hialeah and Winter Haven.
The defendants, Caleb Freestone, Amber Smith-Stewart, Annarella Rivera and Gabriella Oropesa, participated in a conspiracy "to attack reproductive health facilities that provide abortion alternatives" with threats of force and other intimidating messages on the properties of the facilities, according to the indictment.
"If you're going to pick up a brick or a can of spray paint to express your political disagreement with our clients then thankfully Congress has given us recourse to be able to impose certain penalties upon you for doing so," Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for First Liberty Institute, which represents Heartbeat of Miami.
His client and Florida's Attorney General sued the accused.
Heartbeat of Miami offers free counseling, testing and ultrasounds for unexpected pregnancies in Hialeah and other locations. Their lawsuit claims the vandals "have a history of disruptive criminal behavior in the name of political activism, especially towards providers of reproductive services."
The group tagged Heartbeat's building with threats that mirror signatures of ANTIFA and Jane's Revenge, an abortion rights group that has claimed responsibility for similar acts in the past, according to Dys and the lawsuit.
Six months after federal agents began investigating the crimes, Freestone and others hacked their way onto the guest list for a Heartbeat of Miami fundraising gala.
"They stood up and shouted profanities," Dys said. "They leafleted with all kinds of propaganda and then they went out and bragged about it. So, we know who those individuals were and they put it on their own social media."
Those indicted face prison if convicted but they could also lose a combined $310,000 in fines if they lose in civil court.
The plaintiffs also want the suspects to pay state legal fees and stay at least 100 feet away from clinics offering abortion alternatives.
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