Two anti-abortion activists who secretly filmed themselves trying to buy fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood were charged Tuesday with 15 felonies by California prosecutors who say that their videos invaded the privacy of medical professionals by filming without their consent.
The Associated Press reports that the allegations against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, who run the Irvine, CA-based Center for Medical Progress claimed that the pair “filmed 14 people without permission between October 2013 and July 2015 in Los Angeles, San Francisco and El Dorado counties.” One felony count was filed per person and with an additional count for criminal conspiracy to invade privacy.
State Attorney General Xavier Becerra brought the charges against Daleiden and Merritt; he said they used a fake bioresearch company in order to gain access to Planned Parenthood and secretly record them. The videos in question led to an uptick in threats, harassment and intimidation at Planned Parenthood facilities across the country.
In January 2016, Daleiden and Meritt were indicted by a Texas grand jury for tampering with a public record —charges that were later dismissed by a Texas judge in July, saying that the grand jury had “overstepped its authority.” In April of last year, Daleiden’s home was raided by California authorities, who seized laptops and hard drives.
In a statement to the AP, Daleiden called the charges “bogus,” saying that they came from “Planned Parenthood’s political cronies,” while claiming that the “public knows the real criminals are Planned Parenthood and their business partners.”
The Sacramento Bee reports that Becerra’s message with these charges was exceedingly clear. In a statement released Tuesday, he said “The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society. We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”
Update (March 29, 12:28 a.m.):Here’s Planned Parenthood’s statement from PPFA’s interim Vice President of Communications Mary Alice Carter.
“As we have said from the beginning, and as more than a dozen different state investigations have made clear: Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong, and the only people who broke the law are those behind the fraudulent tapes. The California Attorney General filing criminal charges sends a clear message that you cannot target women and you cannot target health care providers without consequences. We look forward to justice being served.”
Update (March 29, 3:40 p.m.): Daleiden’s attorney, Tom Brejcha, provided Jezebel with the following statement:
“When it comes to felony charges against our client, David Daleiden, history is on our side. When David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were falsely charged in Texas, after they mounted a vigorous defense, the charges were abruptly dropped. We expect that the same will prove true in California.
“The world knows that Planned Parenthood’s business partners, DaVinci Biosciences and DV Biologics, have been sued by Orange County, California. The lawsuit alleges that they illegally profited from the sale of human baby body parts from abortions. This confirms the truth of what has been depicted in Daleiden’s videos.
“David Daleiden and his co-defendant, Sandra Merritt, will be vindicated. They will assert robust defenses to these charges. Their efforts led to numerous criminal referrals by both Senate and House investigative committees. Their efforts were furtherance of First Amendment values and are clothed with the same Constitutional protection that all investigative journalists deserve and must enjoy. Undercover journalism has been a vital tool in our politics and self-governance.“