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SAN FRANCISCO, August 21, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Pro-life investigative journalist David Daleiden must raise $600,000 in less than two weeks to pay an appeal bond or Planned Parenthood can begin seizing his assets and those of his organization, the Center for Medical Progress, according to a San Francisco judge’s ruling.
United States district judge William H. Orrick’s Wednesday judgment is the latest turn in Planned Parenthood’s retaliatory lawsuit against Daleiden and four others, which it launched after the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released undercover videos in 2015 exposing the abortion giant’s trafficking in aborted baby body parts.
(Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, then California attorney general, also began a criminal prosecution of Daleiden and CMP investigator Sandra Merritt that led to multiple felony charges against them under the state’s anti-eavesdropping law.)
In November, after a six-week civil trial with Orrick presiding, a jury took less than two days to find CMP and its investigators guilty of multiple crimes, including violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, wiretapping, and engaging in civil conspiracy.
They also rendered a judgement of $2.3 million in damages against the defendants, who include Daleiden, Merritt, CMP investigative journalist Geraldo Adrian Lopez, and CMP founding board members Troy Newman of Operation Rescue and veteran pro-life activist Albin Rhomberg.
Orrick concurred with the jury’s verdict in a April 29 decision that found the defendants “jointly and severally” liable for $1,555,084 and for punitive damages assessed individually that total around $800,000.
Lawyers for the defendants then filed post-trial motions with Orrick asking for a new trial, a reduction of all charges, and an end to the injunction banning the pro-life defendants from going undercover at Planned Parenthood conferences.
“We challenged everything,” said Peter Breen, senior counsel for the Thomas More Society, which is defending Daleiden.
Moreover, he ordered defendants to pay a $600,000 bond within 14 days as a surety to secure their right to appeal.
The consequences for Daleiden and CMP if the appeal bond condition is not met will be disastrous, Breen told LifeSiteNews in a telephone interview.
“If we cannot post a $600,000 bond in this 14-day period, Planned Parenthood’s high-priced collections lawyers can come after David with asset seizures, garnishments and strip him and the Center for Medical Progress bare” and “cripple” his pro-life work, Breen said.
“They can take everything. They can take all of his possessions. They can even come get his car. When we’re able to travel again, how would he even have the money to travel? You can’t even imagine the tools that shrewd collections lawyers have at their disposal to take every dime you have, or nearly every dime you have, in situations like this.”
The Thomas More Society is helping Daleiden raise money to pay the bond, which will “secure our right to go on appeal and get this jury verdict overturned,” Breen told LifeSiteNews.
“The alternative is to abandon the Central for Medical Progress and David Daleiden to the wolves.”
Moreover, “if this jury verdict is allowed to stand, it upends decades of jurisprudence,” including the 1999 Food Lion v. ABC ruling, which established that “when you’re dealing with undercover journalism, the truth can’t be a source of monetary damages,” Breen added.
“And in this case, it is crystal clear Planned Parenthood didn’t even know that David had gone undercover until the videos emerged and the nation was outraged immediately.”
Daleiden was the mastermind behind a 30-month-long undercover sting operation during which he, Merritt, Lopez, and others secretly recorded gatherings of abortionists and organ-harvesting companies.
After Daleiden took his evidence to law enforcement agencies to limited effect, CMP began releasing the videos in July 2015.
The footage of 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, and of abortion facility staff picking through pie trays of baby parts, sparked public outcry, House and Senate hearings, and an ongoing Department of Justice criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood.
“Planned Parenthood certainly was harmed by David Daleiden revealing the truth. But that’s all that he did, he uncovered the truth of what they were doing,” Breen told LifeSiteNews.
Moreover, during the civil trial, Planned Parenthood “abandoned any sort of legal claim that there was falsity in the videos, and they even admitted at the end of trial that everything depicted on the videos were the words of their employees,” he added.
At same time, Orrick “stood by his decision to conceal from the fact-finders, the jury, the truth that caused the American people to be so outraged.”
Breen described the jury’s verdict as an “existential threat to undercover journalism” and as turning “the First Amendment and the right of the American people to receive information from journalists on its head.”
Undercover journalism “has shed incredible light on bad practices over the last century” regarding a myriad of issues, such as animal rights and political corruption.
But if the jury decision in the Planned Parenthood vs. CMP lawsuit stands, “the bad actor can now sue if the truth disclosed was harmful enough to that bad actor,” he observed.
“We’re very hopeful that the Ninth Circuit will take a good fresh look at this case and the incredible First Amendments implications that it presents,” Breen said.
If the verdict is not overturned on appeal, Daleiden’s lawyers are ready to go to the Supreme Court.
But the critical order of business is to raise the $600,000 appeals bond by September 2.
People have begun to donate generously, and the Thomas More Society has an emergency fundraising webinar in the works, but “we still have a lot to go and we are on a very short clock,” Breen said.
Those wishing to donate can do so here and specify that it is for Daleiden’s legal defense.