(January 30, 2024 – Nashville, Tennessee) Thomas More Society attorneys are expected to announce that they will appeal the conviction of pro-life advocate Paul Vaughn, after prosecution by the Biden Department of Justice for his participation in a peaceful life-affirming gathering at a Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, abortion facility. The guilty verdict was announced January 30, 2024, after a six-day federal trial at the Fred D. Thompson U.S. Courthouse in Nashville, Tennessee. The case of Paul Vaughn, a devout Christian father of eleven, and several other pro-life advocates, has drawn national attention in the wake of the Biden Department of Justice’s virulent prosecution of pro-life activists—which began in the months following the United States Supreme Court June 2022 overturn of Roe v. Wade.
Immediately following the guilty verdict, the pro-life defendants, along with family and friends, gathered in front of the Courthouse to pray and sing hymns together.
Convicted along with Vaughn were five other defendants. Vaughn and five other pro-life advocates were charged with two felony counts for their participation in the March 2021 prayer event, witnessing to life at the abortion business about 20 miles outside of Nashville. The charges included one count of violating the FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) Act and one count of engaging in a “conspiracy against rights”—charges that together carry a sentence of up to 11 years. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for July 2.
Four remaining defendants are scheduled to subsequently stand trial for misdemeanor violations of the FACE Act. An additional original defendant turned state’s witness and was not prosecuted.
“We are, of course, disappointed with the outcome,” stated Steve Crampton, Thomas More Society Senior Counsel and attorney for Paul Vaughn. “This was a peaceful demonstration by entirely peaceable citizens—filled with prayer, hymn-singing, and worship—oriented toward persuading expecting mothers not to abort their babies. Unfortunately, the Biden Department of Justice decided to characterize Paul Vaughn’s peaceful actions as a felony ‘conspiracy against rights,’ to intimidate and punish Paul and other pro-life people and people of faith.”
The Thomas More Society legal team pointed to several key factors that the prosecution relied on to leverage their attack against Vaughn:
· The prosecution relied heavily on a primary witness, Caroline Davis, who participated in and was arrested for the Mt. Juliet prayer event with Vaughn, but later turned state’s evidence.
· The government attempted to paint Paul as willfully deceiving the police during the gathering at the Mt. Juliet prayer event, despite witness testimony from a police negotiator who testified that Paul had been both helpful, collaborative, and peaceful.
· The government also attempted to portray Paul as intending to interfere with the operation of the Mt. Juliet facility using paper-thin evidence, and as a member of a criminal conspiracy despite no evidence of prior knowledge of the event.
· The government also presented an abortion-determined woman who apparently had scheduled an appointment for an abortion but said that she left “because of the protesters.”
· Federal attorneys included an abortion business employee who claimed to be “trapped inside the building during the incident,” despite video that showed traffic clearly passing down the hallway to and from the abortion venue.
“This is a frustrating setback, for Paul, for his family, and for the extended pro-life community, which has rallied support for Paul from the day of his arrest in front of his wife and children by heavily armed FBI agents, on through the trial,” observed Crampton. He noted the fact that the persecution of Vaughn and his co-defendants clearly demonstrated the Biden Department of Justice’s forceful attempt to silence its ideological opponents.
“The Biden Department of Justice’s pattern of arresting and prosecuting peaceful pro-life advocates is disturbing,” shared Crampton, adding that it is especially so when the FBI’s pursuit of those who have violently attacked pro-life pregnancy centers has been criticized by some as being less than vigorous.
An expected appeal in the matter would be filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The United States of America v. Gallagher was heard before a jury, in a trial that began with jury selection on January 23, 2024, and ran through January 30, 2024, at the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville.
Find additional information about the Thomas More Society’s defense of Paul Vaughn following his arrest and prosecution by the Biden Department of Justice, in United States of America v. Chester Gallagher, et al., here.