Daleiden, Merritt plead not guilty to 9 felony counts in Planned Parenthood baby body parts case
SAN FRANCISCO, California, February 21, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Pro-life advocates David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt pleaded not guilty on Friday at a court summons to eight felony counts of illegal taping and one of conspiring to criminal record – charges they incurred for exposing Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the organ harvesting of aborted babies.
Daleiden, 30, and Merritt, 64, face 10 years in prison if convicted.
The California district attorney also recently added a count of making and using false ID, but the lawyers for the pro-life investigative journalists have filed to have the charge dismissed, arguing the statute of limitations for making new claims has expired.
They are also filing an appeal under Section 995 of the state’s Criminal Code of San Francisco Superior Court Judge Christopher Hite’s decision to go forward with nine counts of an original 15 felony charges.
The appeal will be heard by another San Francisco Superior Court judge in the coming weeks, while Hite will hear arguments to dismiss the lately added charge, said Peter Breen, senior counsel for the Thomas More Society, which is representing Daleiden.
They plan to take their “995” appeal all the way to the Supreme Court, Breen told LifeSiteNews.
“We’re still fighting all of this.”
Daleiden, founder and project lead of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), and Merritt, a CMP undercover investigator, are charged in connection with the groundbreaking undercover videos CMP began publishing in July 2015 that revealed Planned Parenthood illegally trafficking in aborted baby body parts.
Watching Planned Parenthood executives callously discussing how to dismember babies to procure intact organs and haggling over fees of aborted baby parts shocked the nation. It sparked calls to defund Planned Parenthood. It led to congressional and senate investigations which led Congress to request a Department of Justice investigation into the abortion giant and associated organ harvesting companies.
Planned Parenthood retaliated by suing Daleiden and Merritt, as well as CMP undercover investigator Adrian Lopez, and CMP founding board members Albin Rhomberg and Troy Newman of Operation Rescue.
In November, a jury found the defendants guilty of crimes including fraud and racketeering, and awarded Planned Parenthood $2.3 million in punitive and compensatory damages and legal costs.
The pro-life defendants are appealing.
As for the criminal prosecution against Daleiden and Merritt, it was initiated by former California Attorney-General Kamala Harris in 2016 and continued by current Democrat Attorney-General Xavier Beccera.
Daleiden and Merritt are charged with eight felony counts of violating California law requiring two-party consent for the recording of confidential information, and one count of conspiring to criminally record.
“David is being charged as a criminal for using the same investigative reporting techniques regularly exercised by other journalists,” said Breen in a press release.
“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.”
That’s echoed by Matt Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which has its chief litigation counsel, Horatio Mihet, defending Merritt.
“Sandra Merritt did nothing wrong in this politically-motivated collusion between Planned Parenthood and the Attorney General,” said Staver in a press release.
“No journalist has ever been charged for investigative reporting and the attorney general is allowing politics to drive him rather than the rule of law.”
Hite dropped six of the original 15 charges following a preliminary hearing in September which related to Does 4, 8, 9, 12, 13 and 14 when the judge made factual findings that the recorded conversations were not confidential, Liberty Counsel reported. This means Beccera cannot bring those dismissed charges again, it added.
The lawyers for Daleiden and Merritt are under order not to divulge the names of the Does from the original 15 charges, but the names have been publicly available on the internet since 2017, and can be easily found through online searches.
Many of these names have become infamous in pro-life communities across America.
Defense argued at the preliminary hearing that the law does not consider confidential any conversation that can reasonably be expected to be overheard.
Daleiden and Merritt also claimed a Section 633.5 defense that allows covert recording of confidential communications when done to collect evidence of violent crimes.
Daleiden testified during the preliminary hearing that he planned and executed the 30-month sting operation because he believed Planned Parenthood and organ harvesting companies such as StemExpress and Advanced Bioscience Resources were committing violent crimes against the person — including harvesting organs from babies born alive, and using methods such as labour-induced abortion to get more intact organs.
This was backed by witnesses such as abortionist Forrest Smith, who testified it was beyond doubt the methods used by Planned Parenthood to abort late-term babies by inducing labour resulted in babies born alive, and Dr. Theresa Diesher, who testified that human fetal hearts supplied by Stem Express and used in a Langendorff apparatus in a Stanford study had to be harvested from living babies.
Testimony and evidence during the preliminary hearing also exposed “this completely bogus, sham, politically motivated case” for the “farce that it is,” Daleiden told LifeSiteNews in an earlier interview.
Documents from the case now on public record show Harris “had an in-person meeting at the attorney general’s meeting in Los Angeles with no less than six top-level Planned Parenthood of California executives,” he said.
That meeting took place a couple of weeks before Harris ordered Department of Justice agents to raid his Orange County apartment in April 2016 and seize all his recording materials, including unpublished source documents of his undercover investigation, Daleiden said.