February 5, 2016 — On Thursday, the director of the Center for Medical Progress, an antiabortion-rights group that produced misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood, turned himself in to authorities in Texas, where he faces one felony and one misdemeanor charge, the Washington Post reports (Somashekhar, Washington Post, 2/4).
Last summer, CMP began releasing a series of misleading videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donation. Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. Further, a report by Fusion GPS, a research and corporate intelligence firm, found that the videos were manipulated.
Following the release of the videos, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) called for the Harris County district attorney to launch a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. The Harris County grand jury tasked with investigating Planned Parenthood cleared the organization of any wrongdoing and insteadindicted CMP Director David Daleiden and employee Sandra Merritt.
Both Daleiden and Merritt were indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a government record. In addition, Daleiden was indicted on a misdemeanor charge related to buying fetal tissue. The charge of tampering with a governmental record carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while the misdemeanor charge carries a maximum punishment of one year in jail.
Merritt turned herself into Texas authorities on Wednesday, according to her lawyers. She was released after posting $2,000 bond (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/4).
Daleiden was released Thursday after posting $3,000 bail (Byrnes, The Hill, 2/4). He has a court date scheduled for March.
Daleiden and Merritt have both been offered probation, the Post reports. Under the offer, Daleiden and Merritt could avoid imprisonment and a criminal record (Washington Post, 2/4). Merritt rejected the offer on Wednesday (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/4). On Thursday, attorneys for Daleiden said he also rejected the offer. According to the Post, Daleiden has characterized himself as an investigative journalist.
Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, criticized Daleiden's claims about acting as an investigative journalist. "We don't know of any journalists who have engaged in wire fraud and mail fraud, lied to multiple government agencies, tampered with government documents, and broken laws in at least four states -- only to lie about what they found," Ferrero said (Washington Post, 2/4).