SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — On top of over $2 million in damages a court ordered he and his anti-abortion cohorts to pay last year for secretly recording abortion providers, David Daleiden and his associates were hit with another $13.6 million bill for Planned Parenthood’s legal costs this week.
In November 2019, jurors found Daleiden, fellow activist Sandra Merritt, his anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress, and two other collaborators violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and conspired to violate state laws in Maryland, California and Florida against fraud, breach of exhibitor agreements, trespassing and clandestine recording.
Daleiden and Merritt infiltrated abortion industry conferences from 2013 to 2015, posing as exhibitors with a phony human tissue procurement company called BioMax. Using fake IDs to gain access, the pair secretly recorded conversations with abortion providers that were later posted online.
They claimed they were acting as undercover journalists seeking to expose abortion providers profiting from the sale of fetal tissue for medical research, which they hoped would increase public and legislative support for defunding Planned Parenthood.
The jury awarded Planned Parenthood $870,000 in punitive damages. Because that amount was tripled under the federal racketeering law, the award combined with compensatory damages totaled more than $2 million.
Daleiden and his allies have challenged that verdict, and an appeal remains pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with written briefs due early next year.
Reached by phone Wednesday, an attorney for Daleiden and his associates said he thinks the verdict will be overturned on appeal and that his clients will not pay a cent in legal fees to the nation’s largest abortion provider.
“We think there’s no basis for Planned Parenthood to be awarded any fees,” attorney Paul Jonna of the firm LiMandri & Jonna LLP said. “We think there are a number of very serious issues on appeal that will result in reversal, and that there will be ultimately no fees paid to Planned Parenthood.”
Planned Parenthood had sought $14.7 million in fees and costs, which Orrick reduced by about $1 million. He found the organization was not entitled to reimbursement for most hours worked by its in-house counsel or for $37,500 in personal security costs for trial witnesses.
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, which represented Planned Parenthood pro bono, said some of the money will be used to reimburse its client for out-of-pocket costs. The remainder will be donated to the Arnold & Porter foundation, which provides scholarships to minority law students, funds fellowships for recent law school grads at nonprofits and awards grants to other charities.
“The court characterized the litigation, which spanned more than four years, as ‘hotly contested,’ in which counsel represented the parties ‘with tenacity and skill,’” the law firm said in an emailed statement. “The court concluded that Planned Parenthood had won ‘a significant verdict’ that supported the fee award.”
In April, Orrick permanently barred Daleiden and his associates from entering another Planned Parenthood conference.
Planned Parenthood had sought a broader order forbidding Daleiden and his cohort from entering a Planned Parenthood office, health center or conference, or attempting to enter under disguise, as well as preventing them from making any more secret recordings of Planned Parenthood staff. It also sought to extend the order to anyone else who might act in concert with the defendants.
Daleiden and his co-defendants argued that such an order would obstruct future journalistic efforts, but Orrick disagreed, noting that “simply claiming the mantel of a journalist does not give someone a license to trespass, illegally record, or otherwise commit violations of generally applicable laws.”
Daleiden and Merritt also face criminal charges in San Francisco County Superior Court for the undercover sting operation that sought to show Planned Parenthood changed abortion procedures to harvest more valuable tissue samples and profit from the sale of fetal tissue, which is illegal.
At least three congressional committees and law enforcement officials in 13 states launched investigations into Planned Parenthood after Daleiden’s group released their first undercover video on July 14, 2015. Neither Planned Parenthood nor its employees have ever been charged with a crime related to those allegations.
This past February, Daleiden and Merritt pleaded not guilty to nine counts of criminal eavesdropping and invasion of privacy stemming from their undercover “Human Capital” project.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Daleiden’s criminal defense lawyer, Brentford Ferreira of Steve Cooley & Associates, said he plans to file an appeal to get one of the nine counts against his client — for making a fake driver’s license — dismissed from the case as time-barred. A status conference in the case is scheduled for mid-January but no trial date has been set, he added.
Daleiden sued the California Attorney General’s Office this past May, claiming the state is selectively prosecuting him because of his undercover journalism and anti-abortion views.
The abortion foe followed that with a federal defamation suit against Planned Parenthood in September, claiming the organization defamed him by calling his published undercover videos fake.