California is lodging 15 felony counts against two pro-life activists behind the landmark 2015 series alleging Planned Parenthood sold the body parts of aborted babies for profit, but the attorney for one of the defendants says a vigorous defense will be offered on multiple fronts.
On Tuesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced 15 felony accounts were filed against Center for Medical Progress President David Daleiden and his colleague, Sandra Merritt. They each face 14 counts for allegedly recording conversations in California without the consent of the other parties. They also face conspiracy charges.
“The [attorney general] is in the back pocket of Planned Parenthood. He got a campaign contribution from Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood President Cecille Richard speaks very highly of him and has mentioned him in glowing terms in a press release,” said Liberty Counsel Chairman Mathew Staver, whose organization is representing Merritt.
“He is an ideologue and ideology has trumped the law in this case,” added Staver.
While these charges are far more numerous and severe than what Merritt fought in Texas last year, Staver says his client is not backing down in the face of the California state government.
“Sandra is certainly resolved to move forward. She didn’t do anything wrong. This is outrageous but whenever you become a target of a criminal lawsuit or a criminal indictment as in this case, not just of one felony but of fifteen felonies, it’s quite daunting,” said Staver.
“We’ll push through this. She’ll stand strong and we’ll get this case dismissed,” said Staver.
He says the first order of legal business is a respectable arraignment.
“It can be done one of two ways. She either gets publicly arrested or she turns herself in. We’re going to work out an arrangement where she doesn’t have to worry that at 1:00 in the morning there’s going to be a knock on the door and there’s going to be somebody there to arrest her and take her down to get booked,” said Staver.
So what will the defense look like? Staver says it will involve multiple angles, starting with precedent allowing secret recording of conversations if there is suspicion of criminal activity.
“One of the defenses is whether or not someone reasonably believes or has a belief that the person being recorded has committed or is about to commit a crime,” said Staver.
He says there’s plenty of evidence to suggest Planned Parenthood was harvesting body parts from aborted babies to sell for profit to research labs like Stem Express.
“It’s a very reasonable understanding to believe, and I think objectively it’s true that Planned Parenthood was engaged in illegal activity,” said Staver.
He says a pending lawsuit against Stem Express is further evidence of Planned Parenthood’s crimes.
“[Stem Express was] buying baby body parts from Planned Parenthood. They were then turning around and selling those body parts. They even created a catalog, like you would have a parts catalog. The catalog that Stem Express created was a baby body parts catalog. They had prices for the different body parts. They even ran monthly specials,” said Staver.
Another important distinction in this case is what defines a private conversation in California. Courts have ruled in other cases that conversations in public places no not qualify as private, although the state of California clearly disagrees.
“These conversations were in the public. Those are not confidential. In fact, Cecille Richard has already testified before various committees that many of these conversations weren’t even confidential,” said Staver.
Other undercover videos received a much different response in California, namely videos showing animal cruelty. The people exposing that activity were praised and those exposed in the videos were investigated.
Staver says there is a clear double standard.
“They are patted on the back for bringing this horrible situation to life. But in this case, instead of being patted on the back for bringing this illegal activity to life of Planned Parenthood and Stem Express and these others, they are the ones targeted for criminal prosecution,” said Staver.
The pro-life community is rallying around Daleiden and Merritt. Live Action President Lila Rose, who has exposed Planned Parenthood many times in her own undercover videos, says the wrong people are being charged.