David Daleiden, the anti-abortion activist with roots in Davis, and an alleged co-conspirator were charged Tuesday for falsifying their identities and using a fake bioresearch company to covertly record videos of themselves trying to obtain fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood.
The 15 felony charges were brought by Attorney General Xavier Becerra against Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress.
“The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society,” Becerra said in a statement released with the charges. “We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”
Becerra’s investigation into Daleiden began under former Attorney General Kamala Harris, now a U.S. Senator from California.
Never miss a local story.
Last April, Daleiden told reporters that agents with the state’s top law enforcement office seized footage in a search of his apartment, including “all video footage showing Planned Parenthood’s criminal trade in aborted baby parts,” which he maintained was his “First Amendment work product.”
Daleiden was indicted on felony charges last year in Texas for using a phony government ID. He also was involved in several civil lawsuits.
Becerra’s charging documents contend Daleiden and Merritt filmed more than a dozen people in Los Angeles and San Francisco without first receiving their consent.
Becerra alleges that Daleiden in 2013 took documents from StemExpress, a Placerville biotech firm specializing in stem cell procurement for scientific research, using a password from a terminated employee.
The next year, the state contends Daleiden and Merritt posed as employees from the firm BioMax to access a National Abortion Federation conference in San Francisco, where they secretly recorded speakers, vendors and attendees.
They also pretended to work for BioMax later in 2014 and 2015 in Century City, Pasadena, El Dorado and San Francisco, recording their private meetings with various health professionals, according to the charging document.
Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress released a statement calling the charges “bogus” and “fake news” and designed to benefit Planned Parenthood’s “political cronies.”
“They tried the same collusion with corrupt officials in Houston, Texas, and failed: both the charges and the DA were thrown out,” the statement said. “We look forward to showing the entire world what is on our yet-unreleased video tapes of Planned Parenthood’s criminal baby body parts enterprise, in vindication of the First Amendment rights of all.”
Mary Alice Carter, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the organization has done nothing wrong, and the only people who broke the law are those behind the fraudulent tapes.
“The California Attorney General filing criminal charges sends a clear message that you cannot target women and you cannot target health care providers without consequences. We look forward to justice being served,” Carter said.