SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The defense team for pro-life activist David Daleiden alleges that public records reveal collusion between Planned Parenthood and the California attorney general’s office, casting more doubt on the integrity of the state’s criminal case against Daleiden.
In the view of many observers, the felony case against Daleiden and Sandra Merritt for their undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood has been politically influenced from the outset.
But a day after the Center for Medical Progress released another shocking video, and the law firm revealed the accusers behind the felony charges, Daleiden and his lawyers were summoned to answer contempt of court charges.
Steve Cooley and Associates (SCA), who are defending Daleiden against the criminal charges filed against him in California, released a statement May 24, alleging that the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and Planned Parenthood requested the state investigation of David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt in order to bury the activism of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP).
In 2015, the CMP released a series of damaging videos showing the casual brutality of abortion and accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of aborted children’s body parts.
Attorney Steve Cooley stated that his firm obtained information from Public Records Act requests that prove “the attorney general’s real interest in this case is entirely political, meant to manipulate the law to do the bidding of their benefactors at Planned Parenthood.”
Daleiden’s legal advisers have taken steps to draw attention to a case that has so far lacked much public scrutiny. A media page on the law firm’s website listed all court documents that have been presented in the case, to help with any public or press inquiries. The firm also revealed the names of the 14 people — collectively identified in previous court filings only as “Doe 1” through “Doe 14” — who have accused Daleiden of publishing confidential conversations and posted a private YouTube link to videos of the CMP’s undercover conversations with those individuals.
Executives from StemExpress, the fetal organ procurer, as well as abortionists associated with Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation, were revealed as the complainants.
Gag Order Against New Publications
The actions by SCA, who represent Daleiden in the criminal case, have ricocheted into a civil lawsuit brought by the National Abortion Federation against Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress.
During the civil case, which is ongoing and separate from the criminal charges, U.S. district Judge William Orrick issued an injunction against CMP that barred it from publishing any recordings from NAF conferences or publishing any names of NAF members learned at the conference.
Orrick announced May 25 that he was considering contempt of court charges against Daleiden and his criminal defense attorneys, Steve Cooley and Brentford Ferreira, and ordered them to appear before him because of the publication of the names and videos.
Steve Cooley told the Register that the materials released were “essentially part of the court record, which is public record under California law.”
“We are quite interested in seeing what the basis is for the contempt,” he said.
The names of those accusing Daleiden and Merritt in the criminal suit of recording private conversations had remained confidential until Daleiden’s lawyers published a list of those accusing the pro-life activist of unlawfully recording their confidential conversations.
In a statement, Ferreira said “a publicly accused defendant is entitled to face his accusers in a public trial.”
In addition, a CMP video uploaded to YouTube contained a number of disturbing and frank discussions about abortion from various participants at NAF conventions.
Both the names and videos were ordered taken down by Orrick, and by May 26, the material had mostly disappeared from the internet.
Catherine Short of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, who is representing Daleiden in his civil suit with NAF, told the Register that the possible contempt charges would have no immediate effect on the civil trial. Currently, the suit is at a standstill while the appeal against Orrick’s injunction goes to the Supreme Court, where Daleiden’s attorneys will argue that the injunction is a restriction of his First Amendment rights.
Videos Show Brutality
The newest Center for Medical Progress YouTube video gave the public another insider look at discussions among abortionists.
Panelists and attendees at the NAF convention laughed about an eyeball falling into a lap and sympathized about how sharp a broken skull could be. One abortionist, Dr. Stacy De-Lin, admitted to doing intact dilation and extractions, which are otherwise known as “partial-birth abortions” and are a federal crime. Another, Dr. Ann Schutt-Aine, said she would “pull off a leg or two” in order to prevent a technical partial-birth abortion and stay within the bounds of the law.
Dr. Lisa Harris, medical director of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, told listeners that “it’s a person; it’s killing — let’s just give them all that.”
Further evidence was raised in the video of Planned Parenthood’s alleged complicity in trading fetal body parts. A manager at StemExpress, which is also implicated in allegations of trading the bodies of aborted children, said that facilities were helped out “significantly” by the work her company does.
Deb VanDerhei, national director of the Consortium of Abortion Providers at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, admitted that increasing revenue was a motive for trading in body parts. She also admitted that there was no interest in stopping this practice.
Pro-life advocates stated the CMP videos clearly revealed a culture of criminality within the abortion industry.
Lila Rose, president of Live Action, said in a statement that “federal law prohibits selling body parts, yet the new footage also reveals more haggling by Planned Parenthood executives.”
“The searing injustice of our time is not the selling of those parts, but the fact that a ‘doctor’ can legally tear apart a fully formed baby as long as that child remains in his or her mother's womb,” she said.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, in a statement encouraged the public, especially the media, not to ignore Planned Parenthood’s wrongdoing.
“This trading in human flesh and body parts is indefensible and must stop,” she said.
Investigation’s Ethics Complaints
The Daleiden and Merritt prosecution has been fraught with accusations of collusion.
While the California attorney general’s office in a press release said the right to privacy is “foundational in a free society,” and criminal behavior would not be tolerated, many, including the criminal defense attorneys for Daleiden, doubt the impartiality of the prosecution.
Public records published by Operation Rescue appear to indicate a frequent coordination and friendliness between Planned Parenthood and the attorney general’s office. According to Operation Rescue’s analysis, staff from the two offices collaborated on a bill, A.B. 1671, which would punish any future operations similar to Daleiden’s, and lawyers at the attorney general’s office reached out to their counterparts in Planned Parenthood to offer help with any legislation supported by the abortion provider.
Steve Cooley, Daleiden’s criminal defense lawyer, said that the public record shows “cooperation between Planned Parenthood and the California attorney general’s office at the highest levels.”
Cooley said that the statute being used to prosecute his client has never been used by the attorney general before, because of the high burden of proof needed to show wrongdoing.
Richard Garnett, Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, told the Register that prosecutors have great discretion in bringing a case to court, though “most people would say that those decisions should not be based on personal or partisan factors.
“I would think that a prosecutor should never allow him or herself to become a partisan or ideological tool, especially for one side of a controversial and divisive political debate.”
Register correspondent Nicholas Wolfram Smith writes from Rochester, New York.