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2 charged with threatening Florida reproductive health facilities

Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Two people have been charged with being part of a conspiracy that threatened several reproductive health facilities in Florida, federal prosecutors said.

The Justice Department announced in a statement Tuesday that a federal grand jury has charged Caleb Freestone, 27, and Amber Smith-Stewart, 23, with engaging in a conspiracy to prevent employees of reproductive health services facilities from providing such services.

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The indictment states the pair along with other co-conspirators spray-painted threats on pregnancy resource facilities in the Florida cities of Winter Haven, Hollywood and Hialeah.

"If abortions aren't safe than neither [sic] are you," the indictment states one of the spray-painted threats said. "WE'RE COMING for U," read another, according to the charging document.

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Federal prosecutors said the threats are a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, better know as the FACE Act, which prohibits threats of force, obstruction and property damage intended to interfere with reproductive healthcare.

The indictment accuses the pair of violating the act by threatening a reproductive health services facility in Winter Haven as well as intentionally damaging and destroying the facility's property over the services it offered.

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If convicted, Freestone and Smith-Stewart each face up to a maximum 12 years' imprisonment, three years of supervised release and up to $350,000 in fines.

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The announcement comes after the FBI last week offered a $25,000 reward for information on attacks and threats targeting reproductive health services facilities nationwide.

"Today's announcement reflects the FBI's commitment to vigorously pursue investigations into crimes against pregnancy resource centers, faith-based organizations and reproductive health clinics across the country," FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a Thursday statement. "We will continue to work closely with our national, state and local law enforcement partners to hold responsible anyone who uses extremist views to justice their criminal actions."

Wray issued the statement following a series of threats directed at such facilities, including on Jan. 15, when police in Peoria, Ill., reported an arson attack at a Planned Parenthood facility.

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According to the National Abortion Federation, such attacks have been on a drastic rise.

In June, the organization released statistics on violence and disruptions targeting abortion facilities, showing "a significant increase" in 2021 compared to a year prior.

It said instances of stalking jumped 600%, the number of blockades increased 450%, the delivery of suspicious packages or devices climbed 163%, invasions soared 129% and assault and battery incidents rose 128%.

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