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Texas Has Next Move in Abortion Foe’s Case

HOUSTON (CN) — Texas prosecutors have two weeks to respond to David Daleiden's motion to dismiss an indictment stemming from covert videos he shot at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston, a judge ruled Friday.

Flanked by his five attorneys, Daleiden appeared briefly Friday morning in two courtrooms in the Harris County Criminal Courthouse in downtown Houston and signed papers to reset hearings on his felony and misdemeanor charges to May 25. Daleiden filed motions to quash or dismiss the charges on April 14.

"We spoke to the judge about our motions and he asked what is the state's status on that. They have not filed a response so he's giving them two weeks to respond," Daleiden's attorney Terry Yates told reporters Friday after he met with Harris County Judge Brock Thomas, who is handling the felony case.

Daleiden's 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 produce the videos.

The grand jury indicted Daleiden on two counts: tampering with a government record, a second-degree felony, and a misdemeanor for his alleged offer to purchase human organs from Planned Parenthood. Merritt was also charged with felony tampering.

The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and stems from the fake California driver's licenses they allegedly presented to Planned Parenthood officials to gain access to the Houston clinic. Daleiden faces up to one year in prison on the misdemeanor charge.

Daleiden and Merritt pleaded not guilty, maintaining they are "citizen journalists" intent on exposing Planned Parenthood's crimes.

In the quash motions, Daleiden's attorneys claim that prosecutors violated his due process rights by leaking the grand jury's proceedings to Planned Parenthood attorney Josh Schaffer.

Daleiden, 27, is director of the Center for Medical Progress, the nonprofit that claims 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 videos led 11 states to launch investigations into Planned Parenthood, none of which have proven the women's health care provider sold aborted fetal tissue.

Despite the lack of evidence, Texas legislators indicated Thursday during a House State Affairs Committee hearing in Austin that they will introduce legislation to ban fetal tissue sales when the Legislature reconvenes in January 2017, ABC News reported. The Legislature meets for 140-day sessions every other year.

Merritt also appeared briefly before Judge Thomas on Friday morning, but she did not interact with Daleiden and she has a separate legal team. Thomas reset the hearing on her felony charge to May 25, the same day as Daleiden's.

Merritt's lawyers appear content to let Daleiden's attorneys lead the fight to dismiss the felony charges, as they didn't file a quash motion for her.

For all his legal troubles, Daleiden has found a measure of success in his activism.

The numerous videos he's produced led the U.S. Senate and legislatures of several states to vote to defund Planned Parenthood's operations in 2015.

The fallout from Daleiden's videos is still reverberating on Capitol Hill. A committee of Republican lawmakers that convened in 2015 to investigate the videos met last week, and Republicans presented more than 30 charts, graphs, contracts and alleged screen grabs from medical procurement company StemExpress that they said showed the California firm "made a lot of money" by selling fetal tissue.

Democrats on the committee complained that the charts were "made out of whole cloth" and that Republicans did not provide sources for the data.

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