Judge Denies Biden Admin’s Bid to Jail Pro-Life Protester

(LibertySons.org) – The Biden administration has tried to lock up a non-violent pro-life protester –- but a federal judge just refused to go along with it. In January, Paul Vaughn was convicted of taking part in a demonstration outside a Tennessee abortion clinic in 2021. The Justice Department was pushing for him to spend time in jail.

Protest Attracts Heavy Charges

In March 2021, pro-life activists held a protest outside a reproductive health clinic in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, which at the time carried out abortions. Police cracked down hard on the demonstration, arresting many of the participants. Eleven of them have now been convicted of offenses under the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act). Among them was Paul Vaughn, a devoutly religious father of 11.

Vaughn and five others were convicted of FACE Act violations in January –- offenses that carry a maximum penalty of ten years in jail and a $260,000 fine. Defense lawyers argued that the protest didn’t justify charges that carried such a serious punishment; federal prosecutors insisted that Vaughn’s behavior deserved a one-year prison sentence.

Vaughn’s sentencing hearing took place on July 2 at a federal court in Nashville in front of US District Judge Aleta Trauger. Despite the Justice Department’s urging, she opted not to jail him or even impose a fine. Instead, she sentenced him to three years of supervised release.

Explaining the sentence, Trauger said that while the protest had “harassed” people, it had been completely non-violent and was “motivated by strongly held religious beliefs.” She added that her decision was also influenced by Vaughn’s military service –- he spent four years in the US Navy –- and the statements of support he got from many prominent Tennesseans. Among those who wrote character references for him were Tennessee Representative Jody Barrett (R) and State Senator Kerry Roberts (R).

The conditions of Vaughn’s supervised release are strict; he’s on home detention but is allowed to leave for work, worship in church, and other approved reasons. He isn’t allowed to go within 100 feet of an abortion clinic or be involved in planning protests at one. On top of that, as a convicted felon, he’s lost his Second Amendment rights as well as the right to vote. However, he won’t spend any time in prison.

Judge Trauger has now sentenced several others who took part in the protest, and she’s been much more lenient than the Biden administration’s DoJ has been calling for. The day after Vaughn’s hearing, she spared two demonstrators, Coleman Boyd and Dennis Green, jail despite prosecutors having called for custodial sentences. A third, Cal Zastrow, was given six months in jail instead of the 27 months the DoJ wanted.

~Here’s to Our Liberty!

Copyright 2024, LibertySons.org