CRIME

Pair Behind Fake Anti-Abortion Videos Charged With 15 Felonies

California is charging Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden with 15 felonies.

CRIME
David Daleiden — Getty Images
Mar 29, 2017 at 10:37 AM ET

David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, whose heavily edited undercover videos of Planned Parenthood executives and employees purported to show that they were trying to sell body parts of aborted fetuses, face a new slew of criminal charges resulting from their clandestine activities.

California is the latest state to charge the two “citizen journalists” in relation to their videos, announcing on Tuesday that the pair have been charged with 15 felonies, all relating to videos filmed in that state without the knowledge or consent of some of the people in them. California is one of 11 states that requires all parties involved in an audio conversation (which includes a video with sound in it) to be aware and agree to being recorded.

Daleiden and Merritt were charged with 14 counts each of violating Section 632(a) of California’s penal code, which prohibits secretly recording conversations. The punishment per charge is a fine of up to $2,500 and a year in prison. The fifteenth charge is for conspiracy to commit a felony, which is also punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and a year in prison.

“We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations,” California attorney general Xavier Becerra said.

The Center for Medical Progress, which Daleiden founded, responded to the charges by calling them “bogus” and “fake news,” although it is demonstrably true that they have been charged with 15 felonies (therefore not, in fact, fake news). It also noted that charges filed against Daleiden and Merritt in Texas were eventually dropped. But those charges — tampering with government documents and attempting to purchase fetal organs — were different, and came from a state with a decidedly different stance on abortion and Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards briefly commented on the news on Twitter, thanking “Planned Parenthood docs & clinicians who continued thru it all to provide care, no matter what.”

The Center also promised that it had plans to release even more videos of Planned Parenthood allegedly selling “baby body parts.” In 2015, the Center released several strategically edited videos that it said showed that Planned Parenthood selling off tissue that came from fetuses aborted at the clinics. In reality, the tissue had been donated by the patients for medical research purposes, and Planned Parenthood was offering it to what it thought was a research laboratory and asking for only what it said was the cost of storing and shipping the tissue in return — which is legal. After the videos were released, Planned Parenthood announced it would no longer accept any money at all for fetal tissue. Regardless, abortion opponents used the videos to launch investigations into Planned Parenthood in several states as well as a congressional inquiry from the Republican-led House of Representatives. No charges have been brought against Planned Parenthood so far.

Daleiden’s California home was raided by state law enforcement agents in 2016, who took footage used to make the sting videos. Investigators used that footage to identify alleged cases of the secret recordings, the criminal complaint said.