HOUSTON, January 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The district attorney's office has sent contradictory messages about whether the charges against pro-life investigators might be dismissed, something their attorneys say would be the best use of taxpayers' resources.
Last night, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson replied to concerns about the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt in a two-and-a-half minute video that strongly defended every aspect of their prosecution.
Daleiden and Merritt “will have their day in court,” Anderson concluded.
However, her spokesman, Jeff McShan, told the New York Times yesterday, “Sometimes justice is served by dismissing cases.”
“We believe that the charges are baseless,” Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, told LifeSiteNews exclusively on Tuesday. “It is our understanding that at any time the district attorney can move that these charges be dismissed, and we respectfully urge that they should be.”
As of this writing, more than 87,000 people have signed a LifeSiteNews petition making the same request.
Anderson's video responded to charges made by two of the pro-life advocates' lawyers, who blasted the actions of “a runaway grand jury that has acted contrary to the law.” Attorneys Jerry Woodfill and Terry Yates held a press conference in Texas on Wednesday afternoon.
The DA replied that she respected the grand jury process and would not ask a different group of jurors to look at the Planned Parenthood case again, something she said amounted to “grand jury shopping.”
“Anyone who pays attention knows that I’m pro-life,” Anderson said early in the video.
Nonetheless, she said the felony charge for “tampering with a governmental document” is appropriate for the use of false identification – although under state law, a jury may only charge someone with a second-degree felony “if the actor's intent in committing the offense was to defraud or harm another.” If convicted, Daleiden and Merritt could face between two and 20 years in prison.
Concerns that an assistant district attorney in her office had ties to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, the group under investigation, were also waved aside.
Harris County ADA Lauren Reeder is a board member of PPGC and has been a public supporter of the abortion provider for years. PPGC has posted a photo of Lauren Reeder appearing at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser wearing a halter top and hot pants on its Facebook account.
Anderson said, “in order to avoid any appearance of impropriety,” she took steps to make sure Reeder was “not involved in any matter of this investigation. And that is what happened.”
She dismissed Reeder, who joined the criminal law division in 2014, as “a fairly new prosecutor who would never be assigned to an investigation of this magnitude” – one of 300 prosecutors in her office, Anderson said.
“The two defendants are represented by counsel and will have their day in court,” Anderson concluded.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson's statement read in full:
The inconvenient truth of a criminal investigation is that it doesn’t always lead where you want to go.
Anyone who pays attention knows that I’m pro-life. I believe abortion is wrong, but my personal belief does not relieve me of my obligation to follow the law.
I would like to address some of the comments that have been made in the last few days.
First, at a press conference today, the defense attorneys asked me re-present the investigation to another grand jury. I am not going to do that. We have a long standing policy against grand jury shopping. That means when a grand jury comes back with a decision we don’t like we don’t go and find another one to get the result we want. That violates the integrity of the whole system. The only time we re-present is if new evidence comes to light. Twelve Harris County citizens have spoken and I respect their decision even if it conflicts with my personal beliefs.
The defense attorneys also said today that the Tampering with a Governmental Record cases should not have been charged as a felony since young people who are caught with fake ID’s typically face misdemeanor charges. But under Texas Law, if a person uses a fake ID from another state, it is a felony charge. That’s the law.
There is an allegation that one of our prosecutors, who happens to be on the board of Planned Parenthood, was involved in this investigation and the presentation to the grand jury. That is simply not true.
In August, the day after our Lt. Governor asked me to investigate the allegations of misconduct by Planned Parenthood, this prosecutor notified me of her affiliation with this organization. We immediately sent out a press release revealing her relationship to the public.
At that time I said, in order to avoid any appearance of impropriety; I am taking steps to make sure she is not involved in any matter of this investigation. And that is what happened.
She is a fairly new prosecutor who would never be assigned to an investigation of this magnitude anyway.
And for the record we have 600 employees, 300 of whom are prosecutors in our office.
As the District Attorney of Harris County, I will never let my personal beliefs conflict with my obligation to follow the laws of our state.
In this case, an independent grand jury concluded that laws were broken and indictments followed.
The two defendants are represented by counsel and will have their day in court.