SACRAMENTO (CN) — California’s attorney general on Tuesday issued a warrant for the arrest of anti-abortion activist David Daleiden and charged him with 15 felony counts for secretly recording 14 people affiliated with Planned Parenthood and conspiring to invade their privacy.
Daleiden is the founder of the Center for Medical Progress, who with colleague Susan Merritt disguised himself as a representative of the medical tissue company BioMax to infiltrate National Abortion Federation conferences from 2014 to 2015 in San Francisco, Los Angeles and El Dorado. Daleiden admitted he’d created phony ID documents after stealing an email password to a real medical company and download documents from it, according to an affidavit attached to the criminal complaint.
Merritt also is charged with all 15 counts.
Daleiden and Merritt were criminally charged in Texas with offering to sell fetal tissue and tampering with government records, but those charges were dismissed in July 2016.
In an affidavit attached to the new criminal complaint, Special Agent Brian Cardwell with the California Department of Justice says 2,300 video files were taken from Daleiden’s house on Aug. 29, 2016.
Cardwell’s statement outlined the genesis of Daleiden’s phony biomedical firm, saying Daleiden admitted using an email password given to him by fired StemExpress employee Holly O’Donnell to get access to its internal emails and download confidential documents.
“That stolen confidential data was subsequently published online and appears to be the source for manufactured promotional materials proffered by Daleiden in the name of BioMax Procurement Services,” Cardwell said.
Daleiden and Merritt used those materials, along with phony business cards and driver’s licenses, to pose as exhibitors Robert Sarkis and Susan Tennenbaum. They surreptitiously recorded conference speakers and attendees, and set up supposedly private meetings at restaurants to record conversations with doctors and clinicians. Excerpts of some of these videos were posted online.
Cardwell said there are 14 victims of Daleiden’s and Merritt’s conduct.
Daleiden called the charges “fake news,” in a statement issued through his anti-abortion group, attributing them to “bogus charges from Planned Parenthood’s political cronies.”
In 2015, one person told the Los Angeles Police Department that she realized she had been recorded because she was receiving death threats by email, and believed it was because parts of the video had been posted on the Center for Medical Progress’ website. Until that time, she had no idea that a video had been taken, and like the other victims Cardwell interviewed, she did not consent to be recorded.
“The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society. We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
The surreptitious recordings were made from April 6 through 8, 2014 in San Francisco County; on July 25, 2014 and Feb. 6, 2015, in Los Angeles County; on May 22, 2015, in El Dorado County; and the conspiracy ran from Oct. 9, 2013 to July 22, 2015, according to the criminal complaint.
According to California Penal Code, a conviction on a single count of eavesdropping on or recording confidential communications carries a fine of up to $2,500, a year in either county jail or state prison, or both.