More than four years ago, former California attorney general Kamala Harris launched an investigation into the work of citizen journalists and abortion activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, who discovered Planned Parenthood’s trafficking of aborted baby body parts. This Wednesday concluded the two weeks of preliminary hearings in San Francisco courtrooms, which revealed the extent to which Planned Parenthood has aggressively fought to deny allegations, cover up evidence, and use their financial influence over politicians like Harris to prosecute Daleiden and Merritt for their work.
The purpose of the preliminary hearings was for the district attorney’s office to show the judge there is enough evidence that Daleiden and Merritt committed crimes of illegal recording, and whether the charges should proceed to a jury trial. Not only was the district attorney’s office unable to produce evidence of probable cause, however, it instead became increasingly clear that the charges were not brought forth based on a real case but as part of a political prosecution on behalf of Planned Parenthood.
Cross examination of witnesses, abortionists, and investigators revealed not just admissions of the violent crimes Daleiden set out to expose with his undercover videos in question, but that this is a textbook example of corporate donors and corrupt politicians ignoring civil liberties and using their power to prey upon political opponents.
When the state of California began investigating Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress after the release of his videos, it did not just happen to fall under Kamala Harris’ tenure as California attorney general. It was Harris’ office that launched the investigation and ordered the raid on Daledien’s home. And it was not just Harris’ office that was involved, but Harris herself.
Harris personally met with six Planned Parenthood executives in March 2016, at the attorney general’s Los Angeles office. An email outlining action items from the meeting shows that they discussed both Planned Parenthood’s political agenda in the state of California and her investigation into Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress. Two of the six executives in that meeting were used as witnesses in Harris’ criminal investigation.
Two weeks after that Los Angeles meeting, Harris ordered a search warrant specifically seeking Daleiden’s unreleased videos and documents, which should have been protected by the California shield law protecting citizen journalists’ unpublished materials. Harris has received tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions from Planned Parenthood-affiliated entities.
On the witness stand this week, Daleiden’s lawyers cross-examined the lead investigator from Harris’ criminal investigation, a California Department of Justice agent. He testified that he never fully watched the videos in question or the undercover videos he obtained via search warrant. Instead, he fast forwarded through the videos, not stopping to watch conversations that are allegedly criminally recorded, but only to identify faces of people who could be used to testify against Daleiden. He said he was instructed to do so by the attorney general’s office.
The DOJ investigator also admitted that after identifying these alleged victims, he did not ask them questions related to the circumstances of the recording, such as whether they were in a private or public setting, but simply took their word at face value. When he was asked whether he evaluated the elements of the witness statements in light of the elements that make a recording illegal in California, such as the definition of confidentiality, he said “No, I did not.” In a criminal investigation as to whether videos were recorded illegally, it seems that might be pertinent information.
During this line of questioning, the prosecutor objected, shouting that there is no definition of confidentiality under the California video recording law. In fact, a subsection of the California recording law does define confidential conversations. Indeed, that is the question the entire two-week hearing was set out to determine: whether there is probable cause that Daleiden’s recordings violated that definition.
“It just shows you that this is a complete political prosecution,” Daleiden told The Federalist. “There was no real investigation. It was a completely predetermined outcome ordered up to serve Planned Parenthood’s political narrative and the California attorney general’s office, beginning with Kamala Harris, who just used their law enforcement powers at the service of their political donors at Planned Parenthood.”
California video recording law does not prohibit anybody from recording conversations in a public area that anybody can oversee. The law also explicitly permits recording, even a private conversation, if it is being done in order to gather evidence of a violent crime.
Daleiden and Merritt currently face 13 counts of illegal videotaping, and one count of conspiracy to illegally videotape. Now the judge must decide whether he thinks, for any of these 13 conversations recorded, if there is any probable cause that it was a confidential or private conversation, or that they did not record with the intention of obtaining evidence of a violent crime.
Daleiden said he feels confident in his defense and that his and Merritt’s innocence was evident to anyone who was sitting in the courtroom.
“The attorney general had no evidence whatsoever that these were private conversations that nobody could overhear, and no evidence whatsoever that I had a different purpose other than gathering evidence of violent crime and reporting it to the public and reporting to law enforcement,” Daleiden said.
Should the charges not be dropped and the case go on to a jury trial, Daleiden said he is willing to fight as long as he needs to. “These videos are my masterpiece. This is my life’s work,” he said. “I’m absolutely willing to take it as far as it has to go to make sure that the First Amendment civil rights of, my civil rights, but also the person in the civil rights of all Americans are protected and not able to be preyed upon by people like Kamala Harris.”
The judge has asked for final arguments to be submitted via brief by the end of next week, and a final ruling is expected by mid-October.