A superior court in California has dismissed 14 of 15 felony charges against the video journalists who exposed alleged profiteering from the sale of body parts of aborted babies within Planned Parenthood and its partners in the biomedical procurement industry.
The charges were dismissed against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) – with leave to amend, meaning California Attorney General Xavier Becerra may refile those charges, if he includes more specific facts.
Judge Christopher Hite also denied the attorney general’s request for contempt sanctions against Daleiden’s criminal defense counsel, former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley & Associates (SCA) and his associate, former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Brentford J. Ferreira.
“We were pleased with Judge Hite’s rulings over all,” Cooley and Ferreira said in a statement sent to Breitbart News. “We look forward to further pre-trial litigation.”
CMP itself broke the news on Facebook Wednesday:
BREAKING: State judge GRANTS most of defendant Daleiden’s and Merritt’s demurrer motions, knocking out the 14 recording charges until the CA AG amends their complaint. The judge also denied the AG’s request for contempt sanctions against David’s defense counsel, and agreed Judge Orrick’s federal gag order in the civil lawsuit should not prevent defendants from using the videos in our defense.
Christian News reports the California Department of Justice’s statement on the dismissal:
Following the defense’s complaint that there are too many surreptitious recordings to know which ones the California Department of Justice is relying on, the judge requested more specificity in the charging document, specifically to identify the videos that are the basis of the charges. The California Department of Justice has 10 days to amend the complaint and will be making the requested changes.
Becerra’s office alleged that Daleiden and Merritt recorded 14 individuals connected to the abortion and fetal tissue industries in Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Francisco, and El Dorado, without their consent.
“This is a politically motivated prosecution,” Daleiden told reporters Wednesday. “And this is discriminatory against pro-life Americans and a rally against Californians who happen to have a different point of view.”
The explosive videos of the individuals, allegedly discussing how they obtain the highest quality fetal body parts during abortions in order to maximize sales to biotech companies, rocked the nation and set off multiple congressional investigations into the abortion and fetal tissue procurement industries.
Becerra, a former Democratic congressman who became attorney general after his predecessor, Kamala Harris, was sworn in as a U.S. senator, said his office “will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations,” reported the Los Angeles Times.
“The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society,” Becerra added.
The Los Angeles Times’ editorial board took issue with Becerra’s actions:
It’s disturbingly aggressive for Becerra to apply this criminal statute to people who were trying to influence a contested issue of public policy, regardless of how sound or popular that policy may be. Planned Parenthood and biomedical company StemExpress, which was also featured in the videos, have another remedy for the harm that was done to them: They can sue Daleiden and Merritt for damages. The state doesn’t need to threaten the pair with prison time.
According to OpenSecrets.org, Becerra received a total of $5,535 from Planned Parenthood during his congressional election bids between 1998 and 2014.
Harris is on record as having received $2,600 in 2016 from Planned Parenthood for her Senate race campaign. Additionally, Harris was the recipient of $39,855 from the Abortion Policy/Pro-Abortion Rights lobby group, according to OpenSecrets.org. ElectionTrack.com reported Harris received $15,000 from Planned Parenthood for her attorney general campaign bids.
As Breitbart News reported, emails obtained by the Washington Times in September of 2016 showed that Harris’s office collaborated with Planned Parenthood to produce the California legislation criminalizing undercover journalists for publishing and distributing recordings of private communications with abortion providers.
According to the Times:
The documents are another indication of Ms. Harris‘ close relationship with Planned Parenthood and call into question the impartiality of her ongoing investigation of Mr. Daleiden, legal experts said.
The emails show Beth Parker, chief legal counsel for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, sending multiple drafts of AB 1671 to Jill Habig, who was at the time special counsel to the attorney general.
“Attached is the language for AB 1671, proposed amendments to Penal Code section 632,” Ms. Parker wrote in an email marked March 8. “I look forward to your thoughts about this.”
Ms. Parker sent a revised draft of the legislation to Ms. Habig on March 16. “Here’s the rewrite of the video tape bill,” she wrote. “Let me know what you think.”
Charges brought against Daleiden and Merritt in Harris County, Texas – under suspicion of bias – were ultimately dropped, however. One of Planned Parenthood’s biotech partners – StemExpress – also backed off a lawsuit against the videomakers.
When the felony charges in California were filed, Daleiden said:
The bogus charges from Planned Parenthood’s political cronies are fake news. They tried the same collusion with corrupt officials in Houston, TX and failed: both the charges and the DA were thrown out. The public knows the real criminals are Planned Parenthood and their business partners like StemExpress and DV Biologics—currently being prosecuted in California—who have harvested and sold aborted baby body parts for profit for years in direct violation of state and federal law. We look forward to showing the entire world what is on our yet-unreleased video tapes of Planned Parenthood’s criminal baby body parts enterprise, in vindication of the First Amendment rights of all.
Though Planned Parenthood has denied any wrongdoing in its alleged sale of body parts, it also announced in October 2015 that it would no longer accept payments for aborted fetal tissue.
The organization and its media and political allies continue to insist the CMP videos were “deceptively edited.” However, a Democrat opposition research firm named Fusion – hired by Planned Parenthood itself to review the videos – said while their analysts observed the videos had been edited, “the analysis did not reveal widespread evidence of substantive video manipulation.”
Additionally, Fusion noted, “[A]nalysts found no evidence that CMP inserted dialogue not spoken by Planned Parenthood staff.”
An analysis by Coalfire, a third-party forensics company hired by Alliance Defending Freedom, found that the videos were “not manipulated” and that they are “authentic.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Select Investigative Panel have referred Planned Parenthood Federation of America, several of the largest Planned Parenthood affiliates in the country, and three of their business associates in the fetal tissue procurement industry to the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.