Undercover journalist and anti-abortion activist David Daleiden was arraigned Friday in the San Francisco Superior Court on 10 felony counts for his videotape exposés of the abortion industry’s trafficking of aborted baby body parts. Daleiden pled not guilty to all 10 counts.
Daleiden and his colleague at the Center for Medical Progress, Sandra Merritt, were originally charged with 15 criminal charges for recording conversations with abortionists that occurred in public places, such as restaurants and event spaces. Prosecutors claimed the recordings violated privacy laws and were covered under whistleblower statutes. In September, preliminary hearings were held to determine whether there was probable cause to charge Daleiden and Merritt, and in December, a judge dropped six of the charges. An additional count was added regarding novelty IDs.
Witnesses at the preliminary trial included Planned Parenthood employees and former abortionists, who gave sworn testimony about the selling of whole fetuses, beating fetal hearts, and Planned Parenthood’s deficient ethical and medical standards.
The charges, which include counts of illegal videotaping and conspiracy to illegally videotape, were originally brought by former California Attorney General Kamala Harris and her successor, Xavier Becerra, who both have personal ties with Planned Parenthood. Email records show Harris’ office corresponded with Planned Parenthood officials, orchestrating public responses, filing police reports, and even drafting legislation targeting Daleiden. Harris has received tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions from Planned Parenthood-affiliated entities.
As an undercover journalist, California shield laws should have protected Daleiden from warrants to seize his videos or recording equipment, yet that’s exactly what Harris’ California justice department did.
“It’s blackletter California law that you are not supposed to get a search warrant to seize the unpublished materials of a journalist, whether citizen journalist or professional journalist,” Daleiden told Tucker Carlson in September. “But that’s what Kamala Harris did … to protect [Planned Parenthood] from further scrutiny from the crimes of selling aborted baby body parts.”
The prosecution of Daleiden and Merritt could set a detrimental precedent for undercover journalism. In the same year Daleiden released his alarming videos speaking to employees of Planned Parenthood and tissue procurement company StemExpress, animal rights activists in California used similar tactics of undercover recording on farms and in slaughterhouses to expose the mistreatment of chickens, yet they faced no legal consequences from the state.
Daleiden’s attorney, Thomas More Society Vice President and senior counsel Peter Breen, said his client, “is being charged as a criminal for using the same investigative reporting techniques regularly exercised by other journalists. These industry practices are often lauded and rewarded, but here in California, Mr. Daleiden is being charged as a criminal and threatened with years in prison for shining his investigative light on the dark secrets of the abortion industry.”