David Daleiden, the anti-choice activist behind the campaign charging that Planned Parenthood profits from the sale of fetal tissue, surrendered to authorities in Harris County on Thursday, one week after a grand jury indicted him on felony and misdemeanor charges related to that campaign.
Daleiden immediately posted a $3,000 bond and was released. Sandra Merritt, an anti-choice activist and Daleiden’s associate, turned herself in to authorities on Wednesday. She also posted a bond and was released.
Daleiden and Merritt were indicted on felony charges of tampering with a governmental record related to their use of fake identification cards to gain admission to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston. The pair could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Daleiden was also charged with a misdemeanor count related to the purchase or sale of human organs.
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The anti-choice activists’ attorneys negotiated a deal with the authorities for their voluntary surrender after they were indicted January 25 and warrants were issued for their arrest, according to CBS News.
Daleiden intends to plead not guilty and to reject a proposed plea deal that would keep him out of prison, according to CBS News. His local counsel, Terry Yates, plans to head to trial if he is unable to quash the indictment.
“David will not be taking [a plea deal],” Peter Breen, special counsel with the Thomas More Society, told reporters outside the Harris County courthouse, according to the Washington Post. “What we want is an apology, and that’s where we’re at right now. He is innocent of the charges.”
The charges stem from Daleiden’s “Human Capital” project, a 30-month long sting operation during which Daleiden created a fake tissue procurement company called BioMax, and, along with Merritt, gained entrance to the Houston clinic under false pretenses using fake identities. Daleiden offered clinic staff $1,600 to purchase fetal tissue. Staff at the clinic rejected his offer, according to Dawn Laguens, executive vice president and chief experience officer of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
The sting operation resulted in multiple Republican-led state and federal investigations, none of which have found evidence to support Daleiden’s claims that Planned Parenthood is profiting from the sale of fetal tissue or “baby parts.”
A Harris County grand jury was tasked with investigating the charges levied by Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress against Planned Parenthood. The investigation found that Planned Parenthood had not engaged in any wrongdoing with respect to its fetal tissue donation program. In a legal twist, the grand jury indicted the two anti-choice activists who covertly recorded videos of the health-care provider and its employees.
The indictment of Daleiden and Merritt has rallied anti-choice advocates to their cause. A petition asking the Harris County District Attorney’s office and the grand jury to drop the charges has garnered more than 115,000 signatures.
Daleiden and his advocates insist that he is an investigative journalist whose First Amendment rights have been infringed upon.
Planned Parenthood officials have balked at the suggestion.
“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,” said Eric Ferrero, vice president at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, according to the Washington Post. “It’s hard to imagine anyone calling that ‘journalism.’”