In January 2016, the Harris County, Texas, District Attorney’s office announced the indictment against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt after a grand jury convened to investigate a Houston Planned Parenthood clinic’s illegal sale of aborted baby parts, which CMP exposed in an undercover video.

The grand jury apparently concluded that Planned Parenthood in Houston broke no laws. Instead, it indicted Daleiden and Merritt for Tampering with a Governmental Record. The grand jury additionally indicted Daleiden for Prohibition of the Purchase and Sale of Human Organs.

The indictment asserts that Daleiden impermissibly used a California government-issued ID with someone else’s name to access Planned Parenthood facilities and get members of Planned Parenthood to speak with them. 

But the statute under which they were indicted allows for exceptions if the fake government ID is not intended for a criminal purpose, such as getting access to secret government files or stealing Social Security checks. Subsection (f) of Section 37.10 of the Texas Penal Code states: “It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(1), (a)(2), or (a)(5) that the false entry or false information could have no effect on the government’s purpose for requiring the governmental record.”

As the case moved forward, court filings by the Harris County District Attorney showed that the DA’s office had colluded with Planned Parenthood in prosecuting Daleiden by illegally sharing evidence. The filings also revealed that the DA’s office worked with Planned Parenthood to undermine the Texas Attorney General’s independent investigation of the abortion provider. For example, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast attorney Josh Schaffer admitted in a sworn declaration that the DA’s office shared materials and information with Planned Parenthood, even after the Texas Attorney General’s office had forbidden them from doing so. The declaration was included as part of the DA office’s response to David Daleiden’s motion to quash the indictment against him, alleging prosecutorial misconduct.

Under oath, Schaffer admitted that he and Assistant District Attorney Sunni Mitchell tried to do an end-run around the Texas Attorney General’s directive to not share raw video footage with Planned Parenthood. In 2013, Mitchell was responsible for a Grand Jury that refused to indict Houston’s late-term abortionist Douglas Karpen despite photographs and eyewitness testimony that implicated Karpen in illegal late-term abortions and the homicide of born-alive infants, similar to Philadelphia’s notoriously convicted Kermit Gosnell.

In July 2016, Judge Brock Thomas of the 338th District Court in Harris County, Texas, tossed the case after the District Attorney moved to dismiss the indictment instead of facing Motions to Quash filed by David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt.

FCDF assisted in coordinating David and Sandra’s criminal defense in Texas.

“This order vindicated not only David Daleiden but also the judiciary. This is a warning to Planned Parenthood—when you piece together a legal case from nothing, it will eventually be rejected as it should be.”

Charles LiMandri

In response to the dismissal, the Center for Medical Progress issued the following statement:

The dismissal of the bogus, politically motivated charges against CMP project lead David Daleiden and investigator Sandra Merritt is a resounding vindication of the First Amendment rights of all citizen journalists, and also a clear warning to any of Planned Parenthood’s political cronies who would attack whistleblowers to protect Planned Parenthood from scrutiny. Planned Parenthood tried to collude with public officials to manipulate the legal process to their own benefit, and they failed.

Center for Medical Progress statement