State attorney general seizes videos behind Planned Parenthood sting
Agents from state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’ office searched the apartment of David Daleiden, the antiabortion activist whose controversial hidden camera videos last summer accused Planned Parenthood doctors of selling fetal tissue.
The Tuesday afternoon search was announced by Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress, which posted a protest on its Facebook page.
The organization said Harris’ officers seized video files from Daleiden’s apartment as well as personal information. In the post, Daleiden said his “First Amendment work product” was taken, a reference to his claim that he and his work are protected as an “undercover journalist.”
Daleiden characterized Tuesday’s search as “an attack on citizen journalism.”
“This is no surprise -- Planned Parenthood’s bought-and-paid-for AG has steadfastly refused to enforce the laws against the baby body parts traffickers in our state, or even investigate them,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general said the office cannot comment on the ongoing case.
A federal judge has rejected Daleiden’s journalistic claims, noting that the activist and his team used fraudulent tactics, including false identities, and selectively edited the material they captured on tiny cameras disguised as shirt buttons and hidden in water bottles, despite state laws prohibiting secret recording.
“His actions are not without consequences,” Vicki Saporta, the CEO of the National Abortion Federation, said in a prepared statement. The group was one of the targets of Daleiden’s undercover taping.
The federation contends that incidents of violence and harassment at abortion clinics have risen sharply since Daleiden began releasing his videos in July.
“The only one that engaged in criminal activity in this scheme was Daleiden,” Saporta said.
There are political stakes on both sides of the issue.
Last summer, Harris said her office would open an investigation into whether Daleiden and his agents violated state laws when they secretly recorded private meetings and closed-door conferences.
Harris, who is running for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, recently faced increasing criticism for taking no public action. That pressure coincided with Planned Parenthood’s own civil lawsuit in federal court accusing Daleiden of fraud and invasion of privacy.
A congressional committee headed by Republicans is conducting a select investigation into the fetal tissue market, demanding that universities turn over records of researchers using it.
Two dozen states have closed their own investigations in Daleiden’s allegations, with officials saying they found no evidence that Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers illegally profited from the sale of fetal tissue.
A grand jury in Houston, however, indicted Daleiden and his partner, Sandra Merritt, on accusations they used falsified driver’s licenses to gain entry to a Texas clinic. Daleiden is also accused of attempting to buy fetal tissue.
Lawyers for the two have said they intend to fight the charges.
For more California news, follow me at @paigestjohn on Twitter.
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