Oakland, CA -- A California pro-life advocate has been found guilty of violating what pro-life attorneys call an unconstitutional city law that is used specifically to prevent providing information to women outside abortion centers. Oakland officials had enacted the law that appeared to be directed at Walter Hoye, a black pastor.
Hoye says the new law is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech and he was charged under it earlier this year.
At a pre-trial hearing in Oakland Superior Court last month, city officials demanded that Rev. Hoye plead guilty to one misdemeanor count and agree to stay away from local abortion centers for an unspecified period of time in exchange for dismissing three other criminal charges against him.
Hoye refused and now a jury has found him guilty of violating the new law, which prohibits contact within eight feet of women entering abortion businesses without their consent.
Allison Aranda, an attorney with the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which is representing Hoye, tells LifeNews.com that the jury convicted Hoye despite a video tape the defense presented at trial showing that prosecution witnesses conjured up phantom patients whom Hoye had allegedly harassed.
The tape also showed that Hoye had not threatened two abortion facility escorts or its director, as had been alleged.
"This is a miscarriage of justice and we will appeal this verdict," Aranda said.
"After speaking with several jurors after the verdict was read, it is clear that the court's failure and outright refusal to instruct the jury regarding the key elements of the crime led to the erroneous conviction of Rev. Hoye," she added.
Hoye, who is African-American, feels a special calling to work for the end of the high number of abortions taking place in the black community.
As part of his efforts, he stands in front of an abortion business in Oakland with leaflets about abortion alternatives and a sign offering help for women.
LLDF attorneys say the "clinic escorts" are upset by Hoye's presence and they surround him to impede his movement, block his sign with large sheets of blank cardboard, and make raucous noise to drown out his quiet offers of assistance.
Because their actions didn't deter Hoye, the Oakland city council approved the new law. The penalty for illegally approaching a person to talk or hand out a leaflet is one year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.
At the pre-trial hearing, Hoye's LLDF attorneys cross-examined the victims.
The escorts admitted that Hoye never used force against them, threatened them, or blocked them. They proudly testified that they routinely block Hoye to prevent women from seeing his sign.