SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - An anti-abortion news blogger who posted leaked videos that had been barred from disclosure by court order no longer has to reveal the source of that leak, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
The videos, recorded during the National Abortion Federation's annual meeting in April 2014, became the focus of a lawsuit last July when the federation claimed the Center for Medical Progress posed as a fake biomedical company to infiltrate and secretly record its meetings in violation of signed confidentiality agreements.
Blogger Charles Johnson published the leaked videos after the center turned over hundreds of hours of secret audio and video recordings to Congress in compliance with a subpoena issued by the Republican-controlled House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Johnson, who posted the videos in October 2015, says the recordings came from a source on Capitol Hill and that the California Reporter's Shield law protects him from having to reveal his source.
The federation's lawyers questioned Johnson about the source of the leaked videos in November 2015 after Orrick denied Johnson's motion to quash a deposition subpoena.
After the deposition, the federation asked the judge to order Johnson to turn over emails that would reveal the source of the leak. Johnson answered with a new motion to quash the subpoena.
The judge then asked the center's members and founder David Daleiden to respond under penalty of perjury whether they had any knowledge of the person who leaked those videos to Johnson.
Daleiden and his associates submitted their responses in four court-sealed declarations last month.
"Everyone has denied knowledge of the leak, under pain of penalty of perjury," Orrick said in his Feb. 16 ruling. "Absent further evidence that the leak of the federation materials came from a party or counsel before me, at this time I will take no further action."
Orrick granted Johnson's motion to quash the subpoena without prejudice, adding he reserves the right to revisit the issue if new evidence comes to light on the source of the leak.
The judge added in a footnote at the end of his ruling: "I note that Mr. Johnson has indicated that his source was likely a congressional staffer. I expect that the committee in the House of Representatives that subpoenaed the records is doing what it believes is necessary to insure the security of the TRO materials."
The federation has also filed a motion to hold Daleiden and the center in contempt of court for turning over 504 hours of secret audio and video recordings to Congress. The federation claims the center violated the court's restraining order by turning over records that were not specifically requested by the congressional subpoena.
A hearing was held on that motion on Dec. 18, but the judge has not yet issued his ruling.
As part its Human Capital Project, the center released a series of videos last year purporting to show that Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal tissue for profit. The casual manner in which one Planned Parenthood employee discussed transferring fetal tissue over lunch caused a public relations crisis for Planned Parenthood.
However, a study commissioned by Planned Parenthood found four of the videos were deceptively edited to imply wrongdoing, and no videos showed any abortion providers selling fetal tissue for profit, as alleged.
Last month, a Texas grand jury that was convened to consider criminal charges against Planned Parenthood instead indicted Daleiden on a felony county of tampering with a government record and a misdemeanor for offering to buy human organs.
Last week, Orrick granted the federation's request for a preliminary injunction to continue blocking disclosure of the center's surreptitious recordings after he reviewed the material and found no evidence that abortion providers agreed to sell fetal tissue for profit as the center claimed.