by WorldTribune Staff, June 23, 2017
The San Francisco Superior Court dismissed 14 of 15 criminal counts against a pair of pro-life activists who filmed undercover conversations with Planned Parenthood representatives who discussed the selling of fetal body parts to biotech firms.
The court on June 21 ruled that the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of The Center for Medical Progress were “legally insufficient,” according to LifeNews.
The pair remains charged with one count of conspiracy to invade privacy.
The criminal counts in California mirrored charges filed against Daleiden and Merritt by prosecutors in Houston. Those charges were dismissed in July 2016.
Pro-life advocacy group Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) celebrated the dismissal, noting in a press release obtained by The Christian Post that they have always maintained the charges were without merit.
“David and Sandra got on the wrong side of Planned Parenthood and its cronies, but they are clearly on the right side of the law,” said Alexandra Snyder, executive director of LLDF.
Daleiden and Merritt were said to have illegally recorded during their undercover conversations with Planned Parenthood representatives. The conversations often included “grisly descriptions of abortion procedures and methods the doctors employed to harvest the desired body parts like livers and brains as well talk of the money that could be made from selling those organs,” the Christian Post report said.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s decision to prosecute Daleiden and Merritt was even criticized by liberal publications like the Los Angeles Times who, although supportive of Planned Parenthood, in an editorial called Becerra’s actions “disturbingly aggressive” and “misplaced.”
The San Francisco court dismissed the charges with leave to amend, which means that they could be re-filed if Becerra chooses to do so. Judge Christopher Hite gave the attorney general until mid-July to issue a revised complaint.
The Center for Medical Progress noted on its Facebook page on June 21 that the judge also denied Becerra’s request for contempt sanctions against Daleiden’s defense counsel, and agreed that a federal gag order issued by another judge in an accompanying civil lawsuit should not prevent Daleiden and Merritt from using the videos in their defense.
The undercover videos, which were filmed over a two-year period, have often been described as “deceptively edited” by abortion rights advocates.
In April of last year Daleiden’s apartment was raided to obtain his laptop and hard drives of the undercover footage, some of which had not yet been released, under the direction of Becerra’s predecessor, Kamala Harris. Harris now represents California in the U.S. Senate and has received thousands of dollars in donations from Planned Parenthood’s political arm, the Christian Post report said.
Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, who represents Merritt, told LifeNews that the dismissal of so many charges this week is “a huge victory.”
“We will now turn our attention to dismissing the final count,” he said.
“Sandra Merritt did nothing wrong. The complaint by the California attorney general is unprecedented and frankly will threaten every journalist who provides valuable information to the public. This final count will also fall.”