Abortion Foe Tries|to Quash Indictments

     HOUSTON (CN) – The anti-abortion activist indicted by a Texas grand jury on charges of using fake ID to enter a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston and film an undercover video filed motions to quash the indictments Thursday.
     David Daleiden, 27, is director of the Center for Medical Progress, the nonprofit that claims a series of its undercover videos show Planned Parenthood officials offering to sell body parts from aborted babies. The videos were heavily edited before being released to the public.
     The footage led Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, an outspoken Christian conservative, to ask Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson in August 2015 to investigate Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Houston.
     But the grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing, and on Jan. 25 indicted Daleiden and Center for Medical Progress employee Sandra Merritt, who helped Daleiden shoot the videos.
     The grand jury indicted Daleiden on two counts: tampering with a government record, a second-degree felony, and a misdemeanor related to his alleged offer to purchase human organs from Planned Parenthood.
     The tampering charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and the misdemeanor up to one year.Merritt was charged with tampering with government records. The charges stem from the fake California driver’s licenses they allegedly presented to Planned Parenthood officials to gain access to the Houston clinic.
     Daleiden and Merritt pleaded not guilty, maintaining they are “citizen journalists” intent on exposing Planned Parenthood’s crimes.
     Daleiden’s organization is also involved in a federal lawsuit.
     The National Abortion Federation sued the Center for Medical Progress in San Francisco Federal Court in July, accusing it of infiltrating the group’s annual meetings to film discussions on the alleged sale of aborted fetal tissue.
     Hours after that lawsuit suit was filed, U.S. District Judge William Orrick, issued a temporary restraining order to stop the anti-abortion group from releasing the recordings.
     Jared Woodfill, former chairman of the Harris County (Houston) Republican Party, is defending Daleiden and Merritt against the charges, along with Peter Breen and Thomas Brejcha of the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based nonprofit law firm that says on its website that it is committed to “defending laws that protect human life from conception to natural death.”
     In the motions to quash, they claim that prosecutors violated Daleiden’s due process rights by leaking the grand jury proceedings to Planned Parenthood attorney Josh Schaffer.
     “In the days after the indictments were announced, Planned Parenthood held an invitation-only press conference,” the motion to quash the felony indictment states. “At that press conference, Josh Schaffer, counsel for Planned Parenthood, confirmed that he ‘explicitly pushed prosecutors’ to charge Mr. Daleiden and Sandra Merritt.”
     Daleiden’s attorneys claim in the motion to quash the misdemeanor indictment that Schaffer told the media he maintained a “dialogue” with Harris County prosecutors throughout the grand jury proceedings.
     “Schaffer further stated that prosecutors confided in him that the grand jury’s focus had later ‘shifted’ to Daleiden; that the grand jury never took an up-or-down vote on a bill for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, the entity whose crimes they were charged to investigate, and that prosecutors did not call a single witness from Planned Parenthood before the grand jury,” the motion on the felony states.
     The motion also claims the Harris County DA’s office drafted a “hold over” order and presented it to a Texas state judge for approval on Dec. 16 after the grand jury ended its term without issuing any charges against Planned Parenthood.
     “However, in that order, the prosecutor failed to specifically state or articulate any specific individual or case that the grand jury would be holding over to investigate,” the motion on the felony states.
     It claims that the indictments are invalid under Texas law because they were not issued during the grand jury’s original term, and that the grand jury exceeded its authority by indicting Daleiden pursuant to the “vague and ambiguous ‘hold-over’ order.”
     Despite his legal troubles, Daleiden has found a measure of success in his activism.
     The numerous Planned Parenthood sting videos he’s produced have led legislatures of several states to launch investigations into the women’s health care provider and vote to defund its operations.
     Daleiden founded the Center for Medical Progress and began producing the videos in 2013.
     In July 2013, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed Texas House Bill 2 into law.
     The law tightened regulations on clinics. It requires that abortions be done in a hospital-style surgery center, and that doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.
     Since the law was passed, the number of abortion clinics in Texas has declined from 42 to 19.
     The bill spawned a lawsuit, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, which worked its way up the Supreme Court, which heard arguments in March and is expected to issue a decision in late June.
     If the Supreme Court upholds the law, the number of abortion clinics would drop to nine or 10 in the nation’s second most-populous state, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
     Daleiden’s legal troubles may be increasing. He said in a Facebook post that California Department of Justice agents raided his house on April 5 and seized video footage, allegedly involving sale and purchase of fetal tissue.
     A spokesman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris declined comment on that operation.

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