Guest Column

Judge drops six counts against journalists for Planned Parenthood videos

Planned parenthood, cmp

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Christopher Hite ruled Friday that The State of CA v. David Daleiden and Sandra Merrit case will go to trial but with reduced charges. The case began in the spring of 2017 with the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) investigators Daleiden and Merritt each facing one claim of conspiracy to violate the law and 14 claims of recording confidential or private conversations. During the preliminary hearing in September, count 8 was dropped because the complainant was unable to testify. On Friday, Judge Hite issued rulings that dropped five more counts and prevented Planned Parenthood attorneys from being on the prosecution team.

Lunch Meeting

Judge Hite said that Does 9, 12, 13, and 14 did not have an objectively reasonable belief that their conversations with the CMP investigators were confidential. These “secret” Does were former Planned Parenthood Senior Director of Medical Services Dr. Deborah Nucatola and three executives at the tissue procurement company StemExpress.

However, Judge Hite did find cause for the recorded conversation with Doe 10 Dr. Mary “I want a Lamborghini” Gatter, President of Planned Parenthood’s Medical Director’s Council and medical director of Planned Parenthood of Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley, and her associate.

Westin St. Francis/National Abortion Federation Conference

Judge Hite dropped count 4 regarding the CMP video of Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Women’s Health. Daleiden recorded a conversation with her in an elevator where a stranger was present, and their conversation continued into the lobby of the hotel. The count regarding Does 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 remain.

This leaves the one count of conspiracy and eight recording claims for a jury to decide on.

Additional Rulings

Before speaking about the counts, the court dealt with a motion by the Attorney General’s office. They requested a redaction of 19 individuals and organizations mentioned during the hearing. Judge Hite denied the motion, telling Deputy AG Johnette Jauron that there was no legal reason to strike that information. Judge Hite also ruled that the Attorney General would be the sole prosecuting agency. Planned Parenthood lawyers had attempted to join in on the prosecution under Marsy’s Law, which Hite ruled does not apply. California’s Marsy’s Law gives certain rights to crime victims concerning public proceedings.

After going through the counts, Jauron attempted to seal the exhibits from public record. She called the videos “contraband” and “evidence of a crime,” which dumbfounded Judge Hite. The lunch videos, he explained, were already in the public domain and shown during the public trial, and only one of the videos (The Gatter video) remained as part of the case. Only the enjoined National Abortion Federation videos, which are subject to a Federal injunction, would remain under wraps. Jauron claimed that his order would release footage that wasn’t previously online, which was patently false. The defense team rebutted that, saying the full conversations have been online for years.

Defense attorney Brentford Ferreira argued that the Doe identifiers, which prevent Daleiden and his legal team from speaking about the people they recorded, should be thrown out.

READ: Pro-life journalists in Planned Parenthood undercover sting face a glaring double standard

“Doe 5 [abortionist Lisa Harris] published an op-ed in The New York Times,” he argued. “We have a right to respond with the videos [Daleiden] made.” Defense attorney Horatio Mihet joined in on that request.

“The public has a right to know what defendants are being taken to trial on,” he said.

Ferreira reminded Judge Hite that Doe 9 (Nucatola) and Doe 10 (Gatter) testified in civil court with their real names and that court transcripts were given to the press.

“It’s nothing but supposition that they’re in danger,” he said. Hite, however, decided to keep the Doe identifiers for the time being, including for the discharged counts. Daleiden and Merritt will be arraigned on the information in the case on January 30, 2020.

Editor’s Note: Terrisa Bukovinac is the founder and executive director of Pro-Life San Francisco. 

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