Michigan residents federally charged with blocking doors to reproductive health clinic in Tennessee

DOJ charges 11 in ‘civil conspiracy’ to keep patients from entering clinic in 2021

FILE - This May 4, 2021 file photo shows a sign outside the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice building in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (Patrick Semansky, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Three Michigan residents are being federally charged alongside eight other people for blocking access to a reproductive health care facility in Tennessee last year.

Eleven people are being accused of physical obstruction and intimidation to block patients from entering a clinic that provides reproductive health care on March 5, 2021, in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. On that day, at least one patient was harassed in a hallway leading up to the clinic, where several people were standing and blocking the entrance doors, according to court documents.

One of the accused individuals, Coleman Boyd of Mississippi, live streamed the group’s efforts to prevent anyone from entering the facility. In the video, individuals can be seen blocking the doorway into the clinic and refusing to move when a patient arrived for care. Others attempted to talk with the patient, as well.

Boyd can be heard calling the patient a “mom coming to kill her baby.” The patient, unable to enter the clinic, left the building.

Another charged individual, Chester Gallagher of Tennessee, also live streamed the incident, which authorities reference often in the charging documents. You can find more details in the indictment below.

Following an FBI investigation, the Department of Justice is charging 11 people who participated in the blockade, including three people from the state of Michigan. In fact, only three of the people charged are actually from Tennessee; the others are from Mississippi, Virginia, South Carolina, Missouri, Arkansas and Michigan, and allegedly traveled to convene for the blockade event.

The three accused individuals from Michigan are: Heather Idoni, Calvin Zastrow and Caroline Davis. All 11 individuals were each charged Monday, Oct. 3, with violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and are accused of engaging in “a conspiracy to prevent the clinic from providing, and patients from receiving, reproductive health services,” a DOJ press release reads.

Idoni, Zastrow and Davis were also charged with a civil rights conspiracy, alongside four others, officials said. Idoni is accused of organizing the blockade with Gallagher and “others.” Court documents show that more individuals are believed to have been involved in the blockade event outside of the 11 federally charged.

Gallagher is accused of coordinating a “series of anti-abortion events on Facebook, where the other participants interacted and coordinated their travel to the Nashville area. Gallagher reportedly referred to the blockade as a “rescue,” court documents say.

If convicted of all offenses, the seven defendants accused of civil conspiracy -- including the Michigan residents -- each face a “maximum of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines of up to $350,000,” officials said. The remaining co-conspirators would each face a “year in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of up to $10,000,″ if convicted.

Read the entire indictment below.

Related reading: White House keeps focus on abortion as midterms approach

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.