(LifeSiteNews) — Attorneys for David Daleiden and his co-defendants have appealed the multimillion dollar judgment levied against them after they exposed Planned Parenthood’s illegal baby body parts trafficking.
“Defendants did nothing that 20/20, Dateline or animal rights activists haven’t done, and nothing so different from what undercover journalists have been doing since the slavery debate,” Heather Hacker of Hacker Stephens, who represented Daleiden’s journalist group, Center for Medical Progress (CMP), told a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday.
“If the district court’s conclusions are affirmed, there is no way to limit the inevitable fallout the ruling would have on free speech and journalism in this circuit,” Hacker continued.
In 2015, CMP released videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s apparently illegal trade in aborted baby body parts after a 30-month undercover operation. The groundbreaking videos showed top-level Planned Parenthood executives haggling over prices of aborted baby body parts and discussing how to change abortion procedures to obtain more intact organs.
The videos sparked public outrage, congressional and senate hearings, and an ongoing Department of Justice criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood, provoking the abortion giant to sue CMP and its pro-life team.
In November 2019, a San Francisco jury found CMP, David Daleiden, and pro-life associates Sandra Merritt, Albin Rhomberg, and Operation Rescue president Troy Newman jointly liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to Planned Parenthood, tripled to $1.4 million under a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) charge. Combined with compensatory damages, the award totaled more than $2 million.
In December 2020, an additional $13.6 million in attorney fees were awarded to Planned Parenthood.
Last year, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Project Veritas, Live Action, Americans United for Life, Judicial Watch, and the attorneys general of 20 states filed amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs in support of the appeal of the $16 million judgment.
During Thursday’s hearing, Hacker pointed out that the district court had found the pro-life denfendants liable for “infiltration” and “security” damages. She argued that Planned Parenthood’s perceived need for security was due to the repercussions of constitutionally-protected free speech, and not the pro-lifers themselves, since they “never acted in a threatening manner.”
“Rather, Planned Parenthood believed there was a threat from third parties who were reacting to the publication of the video,” Hacker contended.
Katherine Short, who represented Albin Rhomberg, named in Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit as one of the CMP three founding board members, also pointed out during the hearing that “nothing was damaged by defendants’ infiltrations into three hotel-based conferences.”
In addition, she argued, Planned Parenthood had not substantiated its claim that there was a resulting loss of trust of its attendees resulting in “dollars and cents ‘injury to business and property’ as required by RICO…”
Reuters noted that “Chief Judge Mary Murguia, Circuit Judge Ronald Gould and visiting District Judge Nancy Freudenthal of Wyoming did not clearly indicate how they would rule.”