Tag Archives: David Daleiden

Planned Parenthood video maker refuses probation, wants to use trial as public platform

An anti-abortion activist’s plan to reject a plea deal offering probation for charges related to making undercover Planned Parenthood videos likely means his goal is to use a trial as a public platform to criticize the nonprofit.

David Daleiden surrendered to authorities, posted $3,000 bond and made two court appearances on the felony and misdemeanor charges he faces before prosecutors offered him pretrial diversion, a form of probation that would keep him out of prison and ultimately have the charges dismissed.

But Terry Yates, one of Daleiden’s attorneys, said Daleiden isn’t interested in accepting the plea offer and is prepared to head to trial if he can’t quash the indictment.

“The only thing we’re going to accept right now is an apology,” he said.

The pretrial diversion, also offered to Daleiden’s co-defendant and fellow activist Sandra Merritt, is the “right thing to do” and a common offer for first-time nonviolent offenders, Harris County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Jeff McShan said.

But he also said prosecutors are ready to proceed to trial and that “our case is strong.”

Attorneys for Merritt, who was freed on $2,000 bond, have not indicated whether the 62-year-old would take the probation offer. One of them, Dan Cogdell, didn’t reply to phone calls seeking comment.

After his court appearances, Daleiden briefly spoke to about 30 cheering supporters who had gathered at a rally outside the courthouse in Houston, thanking them for their support and saying there will come a day “when there is no longer a price tag put on human life.” The 27-year-old, who’s described himself as a “citizen journalist,” also criticized Texas authorities for not prosecuting Planned Parenthood.

The decision by Daleiden and his legal team to not accept the plea offer likely means the activist wants to use a trial to promote his cause, said Joel Androphy, a Houston defense attorney not connected to the case.

“If they take a plea, then their whole purpose of doing this goes down the tubes,” he said. “This is about a mission. The mission is to show Planned Parenthood did something wrong. Even though they are on trial, they are going to be prosecuting Planned Parenthood during their defense.”

Most defendants who are offered pretrial diversion would likely accept such an offer, said Melissa Hamilton, a visiting criminal law scholar at the University of Houston Law Center, “but the case here is a little different.”

“At least what the individuals have been saying is they want this to be their new platform to battle the system,” she said.

Androphy said while Daleiden wants a trial, prosecutors probably want to settle the case as quickly as possible.

“This is a purely political issue and they don’t want to get involved in it, I’m sure,” he said.

Planned Parenthood spokesman Eric Ferrero said “the wheels of justice have only begun to roll,” and that the group doesn’t “expect this to be the last time these extremists are booked and fingerprinted.”

He also said Planned Parenthood hopes other law enforcement agencies pursue charges as well.

Both Daleiden and Merritt, who are from California, were indicted on Jan. 25 on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Daleiden also was indicted on a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs that carries up to a year in prison.

Attorneys say the pair plans to plead not guilty. Daleiden and Merritt are each set to appear in court on March 28.

The district attorney’s office initially launched a grand jury investigation to look into Planned Parenthood after the undercover videos, released in August 2015, indicated that the women’s reproductive health organization was illegally selling fetal tissue to make a profit.

The grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of misusing fetal tissue, opting instead to indict Daleiden and Merritt, who made the videos and are accused of using fake driver’s licenses to get into a Houston clinic.

The video footage showed them posing as representatives of a company called BioMax, which purportedly procured fetal tissue for research. Planned Parenthood has said the fake company offered to pay the “astronomical amount” of $1,600 for organs from a fetus. The clinic said it never agreed to the offer.

Anti-abortion activists indicted over phony videos targeting Planned Parenthood

A Houston grand jury has indicted anti-abortion activists who released a phony undercover video making it appear as if Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue to researchers for a profit — a violation of federal law. The video stirred Republican outrage and led to investigations and defunding of the group in many states, including Wisconsin.

Planned Parenthood provides reproductive and sexual health care to poor women.

The grand jury indicted David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs. Another activist, Sandra Merritt, was indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

At the same time the anti-abortion activists were indicted, Planned Parenthood was exonerated of any wrong doing, although it’s unlikely the “pro-life” movement will believe the findings or let up in their obsessive crusade to destroy the group.

The Texas jury was the first to charge the hoaxsters criminally since the videos were released last year, setting off a maelstrom on the fringes of the religious right.

The footage from a clinic in Houston showed people pretending to be from a company called BioMax that procures fetal tissue for medical research. Fetal tissue research led to the vaccine for polio and other major medical advancements. It’s currently helping to make gains against Alzheimer’s, cancer and other major diseases.

Planned Parenthood has previously said that the fake company sent an agreement offering to pay the “astronomical amount” of $1,600 for organs from a fetus. The clinic said it never entered into the agreement and ceased contact with BioMax because it was “disturbed” by the overtures.

In a statement announcing the indictment, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson did not provide details on the charges, including what record or records were allegedly tampered with and why Daleiden faces a charge related to buying human organs. Her office said it could not disclose more information and a court spokesman said it was unclear whether copies of the indictments, which typically provide more insight, would be made public.

“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” Anderson, an elected Republican, said in her statement. “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us.”

Daleiden issued a statement saying that his group “uses the same undercover techniques” as investigative journalists and follows all applicable laws.

“We respect the processes of the Harris County District Attorney, and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well,” he said.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has his own ongoing investigation into Planned Parenthood, said Monday that the “the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life.”

The Texas video was the fifth released by the Center for Medical Progress.

Planned Parenthood has said a few clinics in two states used to accept legally allowed reimbursements for the costs of transporting tissue donated by some of its abortion clients to labs. In October, Planned Parenthood announced that it would no longer accept reimbursement and would cover the costs itself.

The group called Monday’s indictments the latest in a string of victories since the videos were released, saying that by its count, 11 state investigations have cleared the nation’s largest abortion provider of claims that it profited from fetal tissue donation.

“This is absolutely great news because it is a demonstration of what Planned Parenthood has said from the very beginning: We follow every law and regulation and these anti-abortion activists broke multiple laws to try and spread lies,” said spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.

Before the Texas video was released, Melaney Linton, president of the Houston Planned Parenthood clinic, told state lawmakers last summer that it was likely to feature actors — pretending to be from a company called BioMax — asking leading questions about how to select potential donors for a supposed study of sickle cell anemia. Linton said the footage could feature several interactions initiated by BioMax about how and whether a doctor could adjust an abortion if a patient has offered to donate tissue for medical research.

Despite the lofty name of the Center for Medical Progress, public filings suggest only a small number of people are affiliated with the nonprofit, none of whom are scientists or physicians engaged in advancing medical treatments. The people named as its top officers are longtime anti-abortion activists with a history of generating headlines.

Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood sued the center in a California federal court, alleging extensive criminal misconduct. The lawsuit says the center’s videos were the result of numerous illegalities, including making recordings without consent, registering false identities with state agencies and violating non-disclosure agreements.

Associated Press Writers Juan A. Lozano in Houston, Will Weissert in Austin and David Crary in New York contributed to this report.

Colorado gunman: ‘No more baby parts’

“No more baby parts.”

Those were the words terrorist Robert Lewis Dear spoke to a law-enforcement official on Nov. 28 shortly after he was taken into custody for allegedly staging a long and deadly shooting attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Clinic.

The official could not elaborate about the comment and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

Afer a long, brutal standoff on a snowy afternoon during which portions of Colorado Springs were on lockdown, those words seemed to answer at least one question about the incident in which 12 citizens and police officers were shot and three, including a police officer, killed: Why?

Witnesses to the shooting have also told media sources and Planned Parenthood staff that the shooter was clearly motivated by opposition to choice.

At a vigil held at All Souls Unitarian Church on the evening of the shootings, the Rev. Nori Rost called the gunman a “domestic terrorist.” In the back of the room, someone held a sign that said: “Women’s bodies are not battlefields. Neither is our town.”

Vicki Cowart, the regional head of Planned Parenthood, drew a standing ovation when she walked to the pulpit and promised to quickly reopen the clinic. “We will adapt. We will square our shoulders and we will go on,” she said.

Cowart also said that all 15 clinic employees survived and worked hard to make sure everyone else got into safe spaces and stayed quiet.

Demonstrating the divisiveness of the issue even in friendly territory, after Cowart’s remarks, a woman in the audience stood up, objected to the vigil becoming a “political statement” and left.

The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, like virtually all of the group’s clinics, has long been the site of regular anti-abortion protests. Colorado Springs is home to a very large population of born-again Christians. The anti-gay hate group Focus on the Family is headquartered there.

A Roman Catholic priest who’s held weekly Mass in front of the clinic for 20 years, distanced himself from Dear, saying that he wasn’t part of his group. “I don’t know him from Adam,” said Rev. Bill Carmody. “I don’t recognize him at all.”

The public might learn more about Dear’s motives on Monday, when he makes his first court appearance. Officially, police have not yet presented a motive to the public, although it seemed obvious. As Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers put it, people can make “inferences from where (the shooting) took place.”

Planned Parenthood has been under increased physical and verbal attacks since July, when an undercover video released by anti-choice activists appeared to show PP personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs. It was later determined that the video had been misleadingly edited. The truth is that the group only recouped preservation and shipping charges for fetal tissue that women ending their pregnancies asked to have donated to science, which is legal. Since the controversy, however, Planned Parenthood has taken the extra step of no longer recouping costs but rather paying the associated costs on its own.

Dears’ comment about “baby parts” likely refers to the controversial video.

Fetal tissue research has been responsible for some of the greatest medical treatment achievements of the last several decades, including the development of a polio vaccine.

In the wake of the killings, David Daleiden, who heads the Center for Medical Progress, the group that released the manipulated videotapes of Planned Parenthood, said he opposed the violence.

“The Center for Medical Progress condemns the barbaric killing spree in Colorado Springs by a violent madman. We applaud the heroic efforts of law enforcement to stop the violence quickly and rescue the victims, and our thoughts and prayers are with the wounded, the lost, and their families,” Daleiden said in a statement.

No wrongdoing

Multiple investigations in red states have uncovered no wrongdoing on PP’s part in charging storage and transportation fees for fetal tissue. But that hasn’t stopped politicians, especially GOP presidential candidates, from invoking the tapes often on the campaign trail in an effort to draw the support of fundamentalist Christian voters, who likely will determine the winner of the first-in-the-nation nominating caucuses in Iowa in February.

Demonizing rhetoric about Planned Parenthood has become a sure-fire way to inspire cheers and applause at conservative Republican events.

Eager to get in on that action, Republicans in Congress, who have a 9 percent approval rating among their own party’s voters, staged a Congressional hearing on the tapes to rally conservative support. That investigation, too, found no wrongdoing.

“We demand an end to the incendiary rhetoric from anti-abortion activists and lawmakers that demonizes Planned Parenthood doctors and patients,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The smear campaign and false accusations that motivated the attack in Colorado Springs must stop.”

Following the shooting, Ted Cruz was the first GOP presidential candidate to offer condolences to the loved ones of the victims.  

At a campaign stop, Cruz responded angrily to a reporter’s question linking Dear with the anti-choice movement, according to the Texas Tribune

“It’s also been reported that (Dear) was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist,” Cruz shot back. “If that’s what he is, I don’t think it’s fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer.”

Cruz is heavily backed by some of the nation’s most extreme anti-choice activists.

Ironically, although Cruz took exception to what he called attempts by the left to use the shooting to taint all abortion foes, he and others on the right have pointed to the terrorist attacks in Paris to denounce President Obama’s plans to allow Syrian refugees to settle in the United States — despite the lack of evidence that any Syrians participated in those attacks.

In recent months, as right-wing candidates and officials have tried to make political gains off the discredited tapes, the National Abortion Federation, an association of service providers, has seen a rise in threats at clinics nationwide. In a statement to Media Matters, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue suggested that all the anti-choice rhetoric quoted recently in the media and on display at GOP presidential debates and appearances was fueling the violence.

She wrote: “Instead of treating these (attacks on clinics) as the real and present danger to innocent civilians that they are, Congress is inviting anti-abortion extremists to testify at hearings, the Department of Justice has yet to announce a full investigation, and the news media remains silent. Where is the outrage?”

Since September, there have been four attempted arsons at Planned Parenthood clinics across the nation, three of which have caused significant damage.

At least eight murders of doctors and workers at abortion clinics have occurred in the United States since 1990. Since 1977, there have been 41 bombings and 173 arsons at clinics.

In recent years, the Republican Party has made it a top legislative priority to whittle away at abortion rights in the U.S., with the ultimate goal of overturning Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision making it legal for a woman to determine whether to have a baby.

Wisconsin, where Republicans are in control of every facet of state government, including the Supreme Court, is at the vanguard of those efforts. Gov. Scott Walker recently appointed Rebecca Bradley, a strong opponent to choice, to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, even though her career as a judge began less than four years ago, when he first appointed her to the bench.

Wisconsin has adopted among the most stringent anti-choice laws in the nation.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to review a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The law, which does not benefit women’s health due to the extreme rarity of complications and the nearby availability of other hospitals to handle any such cases if they arose, was found unconstitutional by a federal appeals court panel.

The Wisconsin case centers on a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services. The groups argue that the 2013 law amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on abortion.

Only about 3 percent of services provided by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin involve ending pregnancies. The organization provides a variety of sexual health services for poor women, including PAP smears, STD and breast screenings, contraceptive services and prenatal care.

AP contributed to this report.

Response to the shooting from Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America

To those who go to unimaginable extremes to close our doors:

We deplore your violence.

We reject your threats.

We fight your legislation to limit reproductive rights and health care in every corner of our country.

We believe your actions and words hurt women — whether by making it impossible to seek health care or by creating a climate of disrespect and hostility that fosters extremist violence.

We demand an end to the incendiary rhetoric from anti-abortion activists and lawmakers that demonizes Planned Parenthood doctors and patients. The smear campaign and false accusations that motivated the attack in Colorado Springs must stop.

We aren’t going anywhere. Planned Parenthood has been here for nearly 100 years, and we will keep being here as long as women, men, and young people need health care with dignity.

To those who go to shocking extremes to close our doors, know this:

These doors stay open.

Click here to contribute to Planned Parenthood

See also Gunman had been charged with animal cruelty, domestic abuse