Bob Levey / AP
The anti-abortion activists who went undercover to create inflammatory, edited videos of Planned Parenthood have been charged with 15 crimes.
David Robert Daleiden and Sandra Susan Merritt are facing 15 felony counts of recording a confidential communication, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced on Tuesday. California law requires that all people involved in a recorded conversation consent to the recording.
"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. “We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”
Daleiden in 2015 released the videos through his group, the Center for Medical Progress, to accuse Planned Parenthood of illegally profiting off the sale of fetal tissue. Multiple investigations found those allegations to be untrue, but it kicked off a national debate surrounding abortion, almost leading to the shutdown of the US government. When a gunman later that year attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, he said he was doing it so there'd be "no more baby body parts."
Daleiden and Merritt were previously charged in Texas, but the case was dropped after a grand jury missed a deadline.
In an email to BuzzFeed News, Daleiden said the real criminals are Planned Parenthood.
"These bogus charges from Planned Parenthood's political cronies are fake news," he said.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood said that more than a dozen investigations have shown the organization did nothing wrong, while the people behind the videos broke the law.
"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," said Mary Alice Carter of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "We look forward to justice being served."
According to California authorities, Daleiden and at least two others created fake California IDs to pose as representatives of a fictional fetal tissue procurement company. Between July 2014 and September 2015, Daleiden and Merritt met with healthcare providers while wearing concealed recording devices, authorities said. The videos created from those recordings were then posted online, and several of the healthcare providers began receiving death threats, authorities said.
Before filing the charges, investigators reviewed more than 2,300 video clips taken from Daleiden's home in Huntington Beach, California. Eight victims of confidential recording were identified in San Francisco, three in Los Angeles, and three in El Dorado County.
Daleiden added he still had more video from Planned Parenthood that has yet to be released — which, if it was recorded without consent, would also be against California law.
"I 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," he said.