Two pro-life counselors, Meredith Parente and son, Joseph, have been found not guilty at separate trials stemming from citations issued August 14th, 2004 outside Planned Parenthood/Women's Health Services in Downtown, Pittsburgh.
Officer William Hohos, working a police detail at Planned Parenthood, issued the citations. The officer claims that Mrs. Parente, and shortly thereafter, Mr. Parente obstructed the crosswalk directly in front of the Planned Parenthood building, rendering it impassable to pedestrians. Evidence offered by the defense showed that the crosswalk measures nearly 14 feet, and that no single person could cause the sidewalk or crosswalk to "render(s) impassable without unreasonable inconvenience or hazard" as required according to the Pennsylvania Statutes, Title 18, § 5507. It is important for counselors to be able to use the area in and around the crosswalk as the crosswalk leads directly to the doors of the clinic. It has also been noted that volunteer escorts from Planned Parenthood regularly stand in and around the crosswalk area and have not been similarly charged.
The officer also failed to take into consideration the fact that a construction crew raising a large sign to the top of a building across the street had completely blocked the opposing end of the crosswalk with trucks, a crane, and other equipment. In court, the officer did not "recall" those circumstances, but video shows him on two or more separate occasions across the street conversing with officers monitoring the construction work. The crosswalk may have been rendered impassable, but it was not by those counseling.
A lawsuit has also been filed in Federal District Court against Officer Bryan Sellers for demanding that graphic signs depicting aborted children be removed under threat of arrest.
The long-standing police presence at Planned Parenthood has since been withdrawn. Claims are pending with the Citizen's Police Review Board and the Office of Municipal Investigations against Officer Hohos regarding an incident in which the officer shoved a minor, Nathan Parente, while he attempted to counsel patients entering the clinic. A lawsuit has also been filed in Federal District Court against Officer Bryan Sellers for demanding that graphic signs depicting aborted children be removed under threat of arrest.
Note: After this article was written, the pending lawsuit against the City of Pittsburgh was also won. The judge awarded the plaintiff an undisclosed sum of money in the third judgment of this type in the last two years.