HOUSTON (CN) - Attorneys for an anti-abortion activist who turned himself in Thursday to face charges for using a fake ID to enter a Planned Parenthood clinic vowed to reject a plea offer.
David Daleiden, 27, posted a $3,000 bond Thursday morning and made a brief appearance before a Harris County judge. He traveled from his home state of California to turn himself in and is going back home.
Daleiden is director of the Center for Medical Progress, the nonprofit behind a series of undercover videos that allegedly showed Planned Parenthood officials offering to sell body parts from aborted babies. The videos were heavily edited before being released to the public.
Dozens of supporters holding signs proclaiming "I Stand with David" gathered outside the Harris County Criminal Courthouse in downtown Houston on Thursday morning for a news conference.
Daleiden stepped out from behind a group of anti-abortion advocates huddled behind the podium to cheers and applause.
With his faux hawk holding firm in the brisk wind, the spindly Daleiden seemed flattered, almost embarrassed, by the attention.
He said that by prosecuting him the Harris County District Attorney's office is "sending a message to the entire country that the State of Texas right now is open for business in baby body parts."
Daleiden closed his two-minute speech with a statement that jived with the revered standing he seems to have among anti-abortion advocates.
"I firmly believe that if we stay the course, if we stay together, we will bring about the day when there's no longer a price tag put on human life," he said.
Young black men wearing Air Jordan sneakers and an old lady lugging an oxygen tank were among Daleiden's advocates at the news conference that had the feel of a Christian revival.
Nicole Abreo, a 43-year-old Catholic, brought five of her nine kids and urged them to unfurl two banners that read "PP Sells Baby Body Parts," as the paper whipped in the biting wind.
The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition of Washington, D.C., called Daleiden an investigative journalist.
Mahoney condemned Harris County DA Devon Anderson for pursuing charges against Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, 62, an employee of the Center for Medical Progress who helped Daleiden make the video.
"First of all, it's the first time we can find anywhere where journalists have been indicted for doing their work by a grand jury," Mahoney said, his voice crackling with indignation. "This was not someone faking a license to have a pina colada during spring break or open up some corrupt business. This led to the most major expose of Planned Parenthood in history."
Mahoney held up a thick book he said contained signatures of 110,000 people who are petitioning Anderson to drop the charges against Daleiden and Merritt and said he would give it to DA after the news conference.
A Houston Chronicle reporter asked Daleiden's attorney Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society in Chicago, "When did David become a journalist?"
Daleiden laughed at the question and flashed a toothy self-confident smile, standing on the courthouse steps behind Breen.
"So which news organization is he working for?" the reporter pressed.
Breen said Daleiden works for the nonprofit he formed to expose Planned Parenthood's alleged sale of baby parts.
Asked if Daleiden would be taking the deferred adjudication plea deal that Anderson offered, under which his charges would be dropped if he followed its terms, Breen replied: "No. What we want is an apology and we believe we have very strong legal grounds to quash this."
Breen called the charges "legally and factually baseless."
"If we're going to be prosecuting the whistleblowers, if we are going to be prosecuting undercover journalists, we are sending ourselves down a very, very dark path," he said. "None of us want to live in a country where journalists can be thrown in jail for decades, merely for doing their jobs."
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 also was charged with tampering with government records. The charges stem from the fake California driver's licenses Daleiden and Merritt allegedly presented to Planned Parenthood officials to gain access to its Houston clinic.
Merritt turned herself in Tuesday and posted a $2,000 bond. Her attorney Dan Cogdell also blasted the indictment.
"She's a falsely accused woman. The indictment is wrong-headed. I don't care if you are pro-life. I don't care if you are pro-choice. I don't care if you're a pro bowler. This case is dumber than a bucket of hair. It needs to be dismissed," Cogdell told Houston's Fox News affiliate.
As Daleiden's supporters noted Thursday, 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.
Planned Parenthood recently told Congress that Daleiden was involved in secretly recording its staff and patients at least 65 times in the past eight years, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Anderson convened a grand jury in August 2015 at the urging of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott after Daleiden's footage went viral.
The jury cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing on Jan. 25 and charged Daleiden and Merritt instead.
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