SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — A superior court judge in California has declined to dismiss charges against two pro-life investigators who recorded their undercover conversations with Planned Parenthood representatives and released them to the general public to expose the company’s abortion practices.
As previously reported, in June, San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Christopher Hite initially agreed to dismiss the 14 felony counts of recording confidential conversations against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, stating that they lacked specificity. However, he also gave California Attorney General Xavier Becerra permission to amend his complaint, and to enumerate exactly which videos are at issue.
On June 30, Becerra refiled the charges, and Daleiden and Merritt requested that they be dismissed. On Thursday, Hite denied the motion. However, he will allow the pro-lifers to present affirmative defenses during an upcoming probable cause hearing. The two are also facing one count of conspiracy to invade privacy.
Daleiden entered a not guilty plea following the decision, while Merritt postponed a plea at this time. Her arraignment is scheduled for October.
“An absolute defense to that law is that you can record anything you want in a public place, and all of these recordings were made in extremely public places: the St Francis Hotel, restaurants, hallways, meetings rooms of the hotel,” Daleiden’s defense attorney, former Los Angeles District Attorney Brent Ferreira, said at a press conference following the hearing. “There’s no case here.”
“Our former attorney general, now Senator Kamala Harris, and current Attorney General Xavier Becerra have and are advancing an ill-motivated, improperly-motivated, politically-motivated criminal prosecution against someone who was doing nothing but expose crime as he is entitled to do in this country as long as the First Amendment prevails,” also said co-defense attorney Steve Cooley.
“We will prevail. It will take time,” Ferreira declared. “We have an innocent client and we will prevail.”
As previously reported, State Attorney General Becerra filed the charges against Daleiden and Merritt in March in asserting that they had wrongfully recorded the Planned Parenthood representatives without their consent.
“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-lifers’ First Amendment rights—that is, their freedom to conduct investigative journalism.
“What Sandra and I both did is no different from what local news sources and local news outlets do every single day here in the state of California when they go undercover and publish undercover hidden camera news stories,” Daleiden said during Thursday’s press conference.
“The only difference is that we went after and we recorded and we exposed the sacred cows of the California political establishment: Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation and their allies and proxies in the abortion industry—the political backers of the organs of power in the state of California,” he stated.
He said that he finds it interesting that his court hearings are often attended by members of Planned Parenthood.
“Ultimately, this isn’t about me, this isn’t about Sandra, this isn’t about the undercover investigators. This is about the videos, … half of which still have never seen the light of day, and yet the attorney general purports to use them to prosecute me and Sandra even though the public can’t see the evidence and can’t see the videos,” he said.
“But Planned Parenthood knows they are one vote away in the U.S. Senate from losing half a billion a year in taxpayer subsidies a year and from seeing their abortion empire crumble. … They are one awful sting video away from that vote happening.”
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.