A Houston grand jury that had originally been investigating allegations of criminal misconduct by Planned Parenthood has — in a surprise move — instead indicted two people involved in making videos that provoked those allegations.
David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were both indicted on felony charges of tampering with a governmental record. Daleiden was also charged with attempting to purchase and sell human organs, a misdemeanor.
Originally, the grand jury was investigating whether Planned Parenthood was involved in the buying and selling of human organs after calls for investigations from state officials. The charges stem from a series of controversial “sting” videos that were produced by Daleiden’s anti-abortion group, The Center for Medical Progress.
Daleiden wrote in a 25 January 2016 opinion piece in USA Today that his group has been more forthcoming than any news network about the investigation:
The truth will continue to come out through the congressional probe, through the ongoing state investigations and through the frivolous lawsuit Planned Parenthood now brings in retaliation for its exposure.
The Center had released footage of a Houston clinic that appeared to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the costs of preserving and transporting fetal tissue for scientific research.
The national organization of Planned Parenthood told Congress that Daleiden and Merritt had been using fake government IDs to gain access to staff and patients, secretly recording and deceptively editing them over a period of at least eight years.
“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said in a statement:
“As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”
Daleiden and Merritt face up to 20 years in prison if they are convicted of tampering with governmental records.
On 26 July 2016, prosecutors dropped the last of Daleiden’s and Merritt’s charges.
In early August 2016, a group of researchers and employees associated with the University of Washington’s Birth Defects Research Center sued to prevent their records from being released to the Center for Medical Progress, saying they feared backlash and violence.