SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — A federal judge has ordered pro-life activist David Daleiden, who is known for his undercover investigation into Planned Parenthood’s provision of aborted baby body parts to biomedical companies, along with his attorneys to pay nearly $200,000 to the National Abortion Federation (NAF) for releasing video footage from the organization’s annual conventions despite a court order.
On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick leveled $195,359.04 in civil sanctions against Daleiden and his criminal defense attorneys, Steve Cooley and Brentford Ferreira, for the Federation’s security and personnel costs, as well as attorneys’ fees surrounding efforts to have the undercover video removed.
“In setting this amount, I have considered the magnitude of ‘the harm threatened by continued contumacy, and the probable effectiveness of any suggested sanction in bringing about the result desired,'” he wrote. “CMP, Daleiden, Cooley, and Ferreria are jointly and severally liable for this amount to be paid to NAF.”
As previously reported, the NAF sued Daleiden in July 2015 to prevent footage recorded undercover at its 2014 and 2015 from being made public, claiming that it could jeopardize the safety of its members. Orrick sided with the organization, issuing a preliminary injunction in February 2016 banning Daleiden from releasing any videos recorded at the NAF’s annual conventions.
He noted that the Federation requires attendees to sign confidentiality agreements, promising not to disclose the contents of the event.
“Confidentiality agreements are common to protect trade secrets and other sensitive information, and individuals who sign such agreements are not free to ignore them because they think the public would be interested in the protected information,” Orrick wrote.
Also opining that “the majority of the recordings lack much public interest,” Orrick said that the Federation’s rights to privacy and safety outweighed any public interest in the videos.
“Weighed against that public interest are NAF’s and its members’ legitimate interests in their rights to privacy, security, and association by maintaining the confidentiality of their presentations and conversations at NAF Annual Meetings. The balance is strongly in NAF’s favor,” he wrote.
However, in May 2017, Daleiden released a video that he called a “preview” of a longer forthcoming investigation, which featured clips of various Planned Parenthood officials and other abortion advocates making nonchalant statements about the abortion process, including that the baby’s eyeballs fell into their lap or that they had to tear off a leg to avoid technically performing a partial-birth abortion.
The recording was quickly removed by YouTube shortly after its publication.
In July, Orrick ruled that Daleiden violated the court’s injunction when he released the video. Orrick also found Daleiden’s criminal defense attorneys in contempt as well.
According to reports, the men believed the footage needed to be released after California Attorney General Xavier Becerra charged Daleiden with 14 counts of covertly recording confidential conversations and one count of conspiracy to invade privacy.
Daleiden has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to lift Orrick’s order prohibiting him from releasing the videos.
“[W]hat is ultimately at stake here is whether those who ‘blow the whistle’ on illegal or inhumane misbehavior in any industry may be silenced and even punished for telling the truth to the public at large and to those charged with enforcing criminal and regulatory bans on nefarious practices,” Tom Brejcha of the Thomas More Society, which is representing Daleiden in the civil matter, said in a statement last month.
“Whether America will remain an open or closed society hangs in the balance,” he opined. We trust that the justices will stand by our traditional disapproval of ‘prior restraints on free speech,’ hear Daleiden’s appeal, vindicate his First Amendment rights, and reverse the lower courts’ egregious mistakes.”
Orrick’s wife has reportedly posted statements online that are favorable to Planned Parenthood, and Orrick had previously served on the board of an organization that permitted a Planned Parenthood facility to operate on its property.