SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — A superior court in California has temporarily dismissed 14 of 15 charges filed against David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress, but with leave to amend—that is, allowing the prosecution to refile their complaint with more specificity.
“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,” outlined the California Department of Justice in a statement on Wednesday.
“The California Department of Justice has 10 days to amend the complaint and will be making the requested changes,” it said.
As previously reported, State Attorney General Xavier Becerra alleges that Daleiden and his associate Sandra Merritt wrongfully recorded Planned Parenthood employees and others without their consent in conducting an undercover investigation into their abortion practices.
In March, he charged both Daleiden and Merritt with 14 counts of covertly recording confidential conversations—one for each person—and one count of conspiracy to invade privacy.
“The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society,” Becerra said, according to the LA Times. “[We] will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”
But the Center for Medical Progress believes that the charges are politically motivated and violative of the pro-lifer’s First Amendment rights—that is, his freedom to conduct investigative journalism.
“This is a politically motivated prosecution,” Daleiden told reporters on Wednesday. “And this is discriminatory against pro-life Americans and a rally against Californians who happen to have a different point of view.”
Becerra had been previously praised by Planned Parenthood and received campaign donations from the organization for many of his House re-election bids.
“Rep. Becerra is a long-time champion for women’s reproductive rights and health,” said President Cecile Richards in a statement after Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to replace now U.S. Senator Kamala Harris. “As a former California deputy attorney general, he understands the importance of a woman’s right to access the full range of health care, including safe, legal abortion.”
Information from the Center for Responsive Politics also reveals that Planned Parenthood donated to Becerra’s political campaigns on several occasions, as early as 1998. The organization gave $1,000 in 2014, $2,000 in 2012, $500 in 2004, $1,000 in 2002, and $1,035 in 1998.
As the criminal matter went to court this week, attorneys for Daleiden and Merritt presented demurrer motions, which were granted.
The religious liberties group Liberty Counsel, which is representing Merritt in court, said that it argued that “the criminal complaint for illegally recording supposedly ‘private’ conversations (in restaurants, hotel lobbies and other public places) … was legally deficient for numerous reasons, not the least of which was the attorney general’s decision to prosecute Merritt in secret proceedings, without identifying even the names of her accusers or purported ‘victims.'”
San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Christopher Hite agreed that the 14 counts of recording confidential conversations lacked specificity and dismissed them all. However, he also gave Becerra permission to amend his complaint against the pro-lifers, and to enumerate exactly which videos are at issue.
“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,” the Center for Medical Progress additionally outlined on social media.
As previously reported, Planned Parenthood had claimed following the release of Daleiden’s videos, which were first posted online in 2015, that the footage had been deceptively edited, but Daleiden had also publicly released the hours-long recordings in their entirety in addition to his concise video highlights. All the videos may be viewed in their entirety on the Center for Medical Progress YouTube page.