David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, pro-life undercover journalists with the Center for Medical Progress, pleaded not guilty on Friday to ten felony counts for their undercover reporting of Planned Parenthood’s role in the trafficking of aborted baby body parts. They were arraigned in the San Francisco Superior Court.
Originally slapped with 15 criminal charges, six of those charges were dropped during a preliminary hearing in September to determine if the case should go to trial. Another charge regarding the pro-life investigators’ use of fake IDs was later added; however, the defense believes the prosecution added it in too late and therefore, they argue, it should be excluded.
In 2013 and 2014, Daleiden and Merritt went undercover to learn if Planned Parenthood was indeed selling the parts of preborn children they had aborted to tissue procurement companies. Posing as representatives of a fake company called BioMax Procurement Services, the two were able to record Planned Parenthood staff as well as procurement specialists and the founder of StemExpress discussing the compensation that Planned Parenthood would get for selling the body parts. The recordings were shocking, as the abortionists discussed how they alter abortions in order to avoid crushing the brain or other organs. Planned Parenthood Medical Director Dr. Mary Gatter even suggested wanting to make a profit in the deal with BioMax. “I want a Lamborghini,” she said, laughing. See the Center for Medical Progress’s videos here.
After a jury awarded Planned Parenthood with over $2 million in damages during the civil trial, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Christopher Hite announced that he believed there was enough evidence for a criminal trial against Daleiden and Merritt.
According to CourtHouseNews, in addition to believing the charge regarding fake IDs will be dropped, the defense also argues that two counts which were based off of one recording of two individuals should be condensed to one charge.
Defense attorney Horatio Mihet said he expects the trial will not occur until late 2020 or perhaps 2021. “If there is a trial, I expect it will be late in the year at the earliest,” he said. “We will tirelessly pursue every avenue to obtain a dismissal.”
According to CourtHouseNews, Daleiden himself did not comment while at the courthouse; however, he later released a statement, saying, “This case is an ill-conceived political favor for Planned Parenthood, and it is going nowhere fast. The record continues to show that every recording was made in situations where third parties could overhear, and made for the purpose of gathering evidence of criminality.”
The fact that Daleiden and Merritt are facing prosecution for undercover journalism should concern anyone who cares about protections for journalists. While Planned Parenthood is arguing that the recordings made by the Center for Medical Progress were an invasion of privacy, animal rights activists who exposed the mistreatment of chickens through undercover reporting during the same timeframe in California have faced no legal charges. Each of the recorded conversations of Planned Parenthood and its partners was done in public locations.
According to The Federalist, defense attorney Peter Breen stated that Daleiden “is being charged as a criminal for using the same investigative reporting techniques regularly exercised by other journalists. These industry practices are often lauded and rewarded, but here in California, Mr. Daleiden is being charged as a criminal and threatened with years in prison for shining his investigative light on the dark secrets of the abortion industry.”
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