California AG files felony charges against pro-life activists
Abortion | The 15 counts against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt stem from their undercover investigation into Planned Parenthood
by Bonnie Pritchett
Posted 3/29/17, 02:36 pm
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed 15 felony charges against pro-life activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt yesterday, alleging they illegally recorded conversations during their 2015 undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood and its connection to the fetal tissue trade.
In April 2015, authorities raided Daleiden’s home and seized thousands of video files related to the undercover investigation by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). An investigator who viewed 2,300 of the files determined Daleiden and Merritt illegally recorded the conversations of 14 individuals between 2014 and 2015 and committed one count each of conspiracy to invade privacy. In a statement on the CMP website, Daleiden called the charges “bogus.”
But a conviction could come with a $35,000 price tag and up to a year in prison for each defendant.
The investigation of the pro-life activists began after the 2015 release of secretly recorded videos of meetings Daleiden and Merritt held with abortionists and fetal procurement companies in California and Texas. Using false identities and claiming to represent a fictitious business, Daleiden and Merritt gleaned recordings implicating Planned Parenthood and the biomedical companies in the illegal sale of fetal remains.
Planned Parenthood has skirted federal charges but faces the loss of federal funding due to outrage among conservative lawmakers over the videos. Some of the biomedical companies currently are under investigation or facing charges for illegal profiteering.
California is a two-party state, requiring all parties involved to give consent to the recording of what could be “reasonably” considered a confidential conversation. But the law “excludes a communication made in a public gathering” or “in any other circumstance in which the parties to the communication may reasonably expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded.”
Of the 14 secret recordings, six took place in restaurants while eight took place on the exhibition floor of a 2014 National Abortion Federation (NAF) conference held in San Francisco. None of the subjects knew they were being recorded.
Due to claims of death threats against some of the individuals featured and named in the recordings, the court agreed to conceal their identities in case files. The complaint refers to them as Doe 1-14. But the complaint gave no anonymity to Daleiden and listed his home address.
According to Doe 2, who was recorded at the NAF conference, she believed the conversation was “absolutely” confidential because conference attendees were vetted “so attendees do not have to worry about issues such as being secretly recorded.”
Two other recorded conference participants stated they believed the conference was a private event and therefore “felt” their conversations were confidential, even though they took place in the midst of other conference participants.
The release of CMP’s undercover videos led to an investigation last year of a Houston Planned Parenthood facility. But a Harris County grand jury stunned pro-life activists when, instead of bringing charges against the abortion giant, it indicted Daleiden on charges of attempting to purchase aborted fetal remains and presenting a false identification. The court eventually dropped those charges.
“The public knows the real criminals are Planned Parenthood and their business partners like StemExpress and DV Biologics—currently being prosecuted in California—who have harvested and sold aborted baby body parts for profit for years in direct violation of state and federal law,” Daleiden said in a statement posted on the Center for Medical Progress website.
The day before Becerra filed charges against Daleiden and Merritt, a California Superior Court Judge in Orange County denied the request by DV Biologics owners Estefano Isaías Sr. and Estefano Isaías Jr. to exclude them from charges brought against their company.
The complaint, filed after the release of the undercover videos, charges that between 2009 and 2015, DV Biologics and DaVinci Biosciences “obtained aborted fetus donations from Planned Parenthood and turned those donations into a profit-driven business. They did so by selling tissues and stem cells from the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, intestines, skeletal muscle, and bones of the aborted fetus donations.”
The complaint said “business was lucrative,” earning the owners a “10-fold, or higher, mark-up over the minimal costs there were required to handle, process, and distribute the products for sale.” The complaint also alleges the companies operated as “fraudulent” businesses due to failure to pay requisite state taxes and fees.
Bonnie reports on First Amendment freedoms for WORLD Digital.