That backfired. The multi-state investigation into Planned Parenthood prompted by David Daleiden’s undercover video campaign has led to its first criminal indictment, not for the women’s health organization but for Daleiden himself.
The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) founder and his colleague Sandra Merritt were both issued an indictment by a Houston grand jury on Monday for Tampering with a Governmental Record, local ABC affiliate KTRK reports. Daleiden has also been issued an additional indictment for Prohibition of the Purchase and Sale of Human Organs, likely based on his many filmed attempts to negotiate the sale of human fetal tissue.
Under Texas law, an offender violates the Prohibition of the Purchase and Sale of Human Organs if “he knowingly or intentionally offers to buy, offers to sell, acquires, receives, sells, or transfers any human organ for valuable consideration.”
“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood, Gulf Coast (PPGC),” Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said in a press release. “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”
According to the press release, PPGC was “cleared” of any law-breaking after the grand jury spent over two months reviewing the allegations that Planned Parenthood illegally sold donated fetal tissue for profit. Daleiden and Merritt weren’t so lucky. Tampering with a Governmental Record is a second-degree felony and Daleiden’s additional indictment for soliciting human organs is a Class A misdemeanor.
Daleiden’s allegations were first publicized in July 2015 when he released the first of a long series of secretly-filmed videos in which he and his colleagues, posing as representatives from a biomedical research company and using fake identification, unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Planned Parenthood representatives to violate federal law prohibiting the sale of human fetal tissue “for valuable consideration.”
One of the group’s most widely-viewed videos was filmed at a Planned Parenthood center in Texas. In the fifth CMP release, Daleiden and Meritt pose as buyers and approach the PPGC Director of Research about purchasing fetal tissue, offering compensation that is implied to go beyond or “higher” than what is legally permissible. Under false pretenses, Daleiden also enters a Texas Planned Parenthood clinic’s pathological lab and examines donated fetal tissue himself.
PPGC has since released images of the IDs that Daleiden and Merritt allegedly used in Texas: two fake California driver’s licenses bearing the names “Robert Daoud Sarkis” and “Susan Tennenbaum.” The pair used these names in their interactions with PPGC employees.
In Texas, someone can be charged with tampering with a governmental record if he or she “makes, presents, or uses any record, document, or thing with knowledge of its falsity and with intent that it be taken as a genuine governmental record.”
Daleiden’s allegations have sparked several federal-level attempts to strip Planned Parenthood of its funding, a grueling congressional hearing for its president, Cecile Richards, and at least a dozen state-level investigations, none of which have found evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Planned Parenthood has since ceased accepting legally-permitted reimbursement for fetal tissue donation.
The criminal indictments against Daleiden come on the heels of Planned Parenthood’s own civil lawsuit against the anti-abortion activist, which it announced on Jan. 14. Planned Parenthood alleges that Daleiden and the CMP engaged in illegal conspiracy, violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, illegally recorded Planned Parenthood representatives without consent, violated confidentiality agreements, and committed fraud to gain access to conferences.
The indictment is notable for being the first criminal charge to arise out of the months-long furor around Planned Parenthood, and for being issued in Texas, where state Attorney General Ken Paxton led a particularly vociferous investigation into the women’s health organization.